In the early 1980s, a new measurement tool called the Customer Satisfaction Index was introduced into the retail automobile industry.
A CSI survey is the evaluation form sent to new car buyers from manufacturers and third-party firms to gauge how satisfied customers are with their dealers, their products and services.
Some third-party surveys have gained a solid reputation over the years. For instance, surveys conducted by J.D. Power and Associates provide useful insights into consumer perceptions, vehicle safety and customer service.
According to J.D. Power
, “Those automakers whose dealers provide the highest levels of satisfaction during the warranty period retain a greater share of future service visits at the dealerships, even after the warranty period.”
About 10 years ago, a different type of customer feedback tool emerged that provides consumers, dealers and automakers with essential information about their businesses: dealer review/rating websites.
Dealer review/rating websites have become hugely influential in the car-buying process; studies have demonstrated that higher scores translate into satisfied customers and improved reputations for dealers and automakers.
Google, Yelp, Facebook and Mobials are among the most popular public review/rating sites, where customers can leave feedback about their dealership experiences.
These public review/rating websites provide a layer of openness and transparency for dealerships that wasn’t available before, and car buyers pay close attention to them.
A 2013 study in the U.S. said 70 per cent of car buyers indicated that online dealership reviews influenced where they purchased a vehicle. Based on current online trends, I suspect that that figure is well above 70 per cent today.
All dealers would like to receive perfect scores from their customers, and many do. But perfect scores all the time can also raise suspicions in customers’ minds. No company is perfect all the time.
If you counted all of the interactions that a dealership conducts with customers every day, it could number in the hundreds, if not the thousands. Dealers would like every one of those interactions to go smoothly, but in reality, mistakes happen.
No dealership wants to receive a negative review, or have it broadcast for the world to see on a public forum; but negative reviews can be a blessing, too; they occasionally highlight an area within the dealership that needs to be addressed.
Facebook is a platform that can be very instructive for dealers. Many dealerships will engage with customers online (in a respectful and friendly manner) if that customer leaves a compliment or message of complaint.
Engaging with a customer online demonstrates a company’s willingness to acknowledge and address a problem. That type of open communication is often viewed in a positive light by prospective customers who are privy to that exchange.
Still, dealer review/rating sites are only one source among many in the car-buying process.
In 2016, Google released a study (Luth Research, LLC) that tracked the car-buying journey of a 32-year-old woman, whose online searches included manufacturer websites, dealer websites, review websites, Google, and YouTube.
In total, this woman’s research included “over 900 digital interactions where she intentionally sought out information related to an auto lease or purchase.”
When consumers are shopping for a new vehicle in 2017, it’s rarely one source of information that leads to a decision; it’s usually an aggregation of data gathered over time.
I recommend that your next vehicle purchase includes visiting dealer review/rating websites, which can be helpful in determining what level of service you can expect from a particular dealership.
This column represents the views and values of the TADA. Write to firstname.lastname@example.org
or go to tada.ca. Larry Lantz is president of the Trillium Automobile Dealers Association and is a new-car dealer in Hanover, Ont.