Automotive Industry Digest

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Car dealers mostly delight customers – but buyers are still not happy with salespeople

EXPECTATIONS among car buyers are almost always satisfied by dealers, but customers remain less happy with the quality of dealer staff, new research has revealed.

The finding comes from a unique deep dive into the experiences of car buyers just revealed by Autovia, Britain’s leading publisher of automotive advice and information.

Every aspect of the buying experience is examined in Autovia’s ‘Driver Power’ research – which is drawn from the reports of up to 60,000 participants a year – and dealer staff appear to be the weakest link in an otherwise almost universally satisfying process.

Dealer efforts to overcome the challenges of the pandemic have been especially successful, with the quality of virtual tours to demonstrate a vehicle and contactless handover of the car consistently beating expectations.

Investment in the quality and comfort of showrooms has also paid off, with customers typically rating their dealer’s premises as better than expected.

But, among the thousands of customers who bought a car from a traditional dealer over the past two years, criticisms of staff accounted for three out of four areas in which expectations were not met.

Despite the overall strong performance of dealers in overall customer satisfaction, they are failing to attain top marks in the four areas to which buyers attach most importance.

Customers remain wary of trusting sales staff and are more likely to find fault with transparency, honesty and communications than almost any other aspect of the purchase experience.

The other area in which dealer performance falls below customer demands is vehicle condition on delivery or collection.

Driver Power’s Shopper Survey invites car buyers to rank the most important aspects of the buying process and then report on whether or not the dealer meets those expectations.

A surprise finding was that, despite the reputation of finance being a confusing area for many people, customers rate dealer staff knowledge of finance options and their ability to tailor finance products to their specific needs lowest of all in terms of importance.

Despite dealers apparently failing to meet customers’ highest priority demands, a majority of buyers also told Driver Power that they will go back to the same dealer for their next car.

Driver Power’s Shopper Survey measures expectations versus dealer performance by asking car buyers to rank 15 elements of the purchase process in order of importance. They are then asked whether their dealer exceeded, met or under-performed in those areas. A mark of one means that customers consider a feature of the buying journey unimportant and a mark of seven means that it is vital.

Steve Fowler, Editor-in-Chief of Autovia, said: “Dealers will be concerned to see some aspects of their work failing to completely delight customers.

“But it’s not all bad news for dealers, who have had the most challenging period in memory with lockdown closures and unprecedented supply constraints. Our analysis reveals only a small gap between the customer’s experience and expectations in each case where dealers apparently fall short.

“So perhaps a customer verdict of doing well, but could do better, is only to be expected.”

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Automotive Industry Digest

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