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Embracing Tech Results in Higher Customer Satisfaction, J.D. Power Finds

November 12, 2015

WESTLAKE VILLAGE, Calif. — Dealerships that use technology like tablets and computer displays during the sales process can substantially improve customer satisfaction among new-vehicle buyers, according to the J.D. Power 2015 U.S. Sales Satisfaction Index (SSI) Study.

Released on Thursday, the study measures satisfaction with the sales experience among new-vehicle buyers and rejecters — those who shop a dealership and purchase elsewhere. Buyer satisfaction is based on four factors: working out the deal (17%); salesperson (13%); delivery process (11%); and facility (10%). Rejecter satisfaction is based on five factors: salesperson (21%); fairness of price (8%); experience negotiating (8%); facility (7%); and variety of inventory (7%). Satisfaction is calculated on a 1,000-point scale.

In the study’s 29th year, overall sales satisfaction improved to 688 in 2015, up slightly from 686 in 2014. It concluded that dealerships that integrate technology tools into their sales process deliver a superior customer experience, while dealerships that fail to invest in consumer-facing technologies risk being trumped by competitors.

According to the study, among both non-premium and premium buyers, use of tablets by sales personnel to perform such tasks as record customer vehicle needs, demonstrate vehicle features and display pricing information yields higher satisfaction with technology usage than when a tablet is not used (8.12 vs. 7.02 and 8.63 vs. 7.52, respectively, on a 10-point scale). Notably, handwritten price quotes have a negative impact on buyer satisfaction with technology usage, with a -0.55 point gap in satisfaction between non-premium buyers when this method is used and when it is not and a -0.45 gap between premium buyers.

As for F&I products, satisfaction was higher among customers who were offered these options. Among non-premium owners, satisfaction was 46 points higher when a dealer offered them a pre-paid maintenance contract vs. when they do not (788 vs. 742, respectively). And among premium buyers, the gap is 26 points (827 vs. 801). Moreover, when F&I product and pricing/payment options are presented on a computer or tablet screen, satisfaction is higher than when any other method is used, including printed materials, verbal quotes/descriptions and handwritten figures.

“With retail vehicle sales in the United States in 2015 forecast to reach 14.2 million units and this positive momentum expected to carry into 2016, dealers face challenges in properly servicing a high volume of new-vehicle buyers who are increasingly tech savvy,” said Chris Sutton, vice president of the automotive retail practice at J.D. Power. “Dealerships should understand that customers want and trust technology and that it can enhance efficiencies. Dealers that disregard it may risk being left behind in three to five years. Customers are experiencing interesting uses of technology in many of their other retail transactions—and now expect this in auto.”

The study showed that Porsche ranked highest in sales satisfaction among luxury brands with a score of 752, improving by 14 points from 2014. For a sixth consecutive year, MINI ranks highest among mass market brands with a score of 762, a 35-point increase from 2014.

The 2015 U.S. Sales Satisfaction Index (SSI) Study is based on responses from 27,831 buyers who purchased or leased their new vehicle in April or May 2015. For more, click here.


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