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2016 U.S. Sales Satisfaction Index Study: Product Specialists Help New-Vehicle Owners Understand Technology, Enhance Ownership Experience, Increase Future Demand

2016 U.S. Sales Satisfaction Index Study: Product Specialists Help New-Vehicle Owners Understand Technology, Enhance Ownership Experience, Increase Future Demand

By Joseph Dobrian, November 11, 2016

Product specialists appear to be in higher demand from buyers of both mass market and luxury vehicles, according to the J.D. Power 2016 U.S. Sales Satisfaction Index (SSI) Study.SM The study reveals that 24% of owners of luxury vehicles and 16% of owners of mass market vehicles in 2016 worked with both a salesperson and a product specialist when buying or leasing their new car, up from 19% and 15%, respectively, just 2 years ago.

Product specialists help buyers/owners to understand and use the latest technologies that a vehicle might contain, such as the navigation system, Bluetooth, and other communications systems. According to the study, vehicle owners who work with both a salesperson and product specialist are overall more satisfied with the sales experience than those who work only with a salesperson (836 vs. 829, respectively, on a 1,000-point scale).

“Owners can be challenged with the complexity of today’s vehicles,” said Chris Sutton, vice president of the automotive retail practice at J.D. Power. “More dealerships are employing product specialists—and more brands, especially the luxury brands, are requiring that the dealers have them—to help the customer have a more thorough ownership experience with their new car or truck. Having a product specialist show the technology to the owner can really ensure the customer gets the most benefit out of their vehicle.”

Sutton added that if owners learn at the time of purchase about all the technologies within their vehicle and how to use them, they’ll be more likely to use them—and want them in their next vehicle.

Two other J.D. Power studies—the 2016 U.S. Tech Experience Index (TXI) Study and the 2016 U.S. Initial Quality Study (IQS)—share similar findings regarding the importance of assisting owners with the technology in their new vehicle.

According to the TXI Study, overall satisfaction is higher among owners who learn how to operate the technologies from their dealer than among those who learn how to operate the technologies from another source or from prior experience. Satisfaction drops by 98 points when owners deem a feature difficult to use.

“Whether it’s taking a few minutes with repeat buyers to refresh their knowledge of the technology or a few hours with first-time buyers, it’s a small investment with long-term benefits,” said Sutton.

Sales Satisfaction Brand Rankings
Buick ranks highest in sales satisfaction among mass market brands, with a score of 809. Mini, which had ranked highest from 2010 through 2015, ranks second (797) and Chevrolet ranks third (789). GMC ranks fourth (786), giving General Motors three of the four top spots among mass market brands.

Porsche ranks highest in sales satisfaction among luxury brands for a second consecutive year, with a score of 824. Infiniti ranks second (815); Mercedes-Benz third (809); and BMW and Cadillac tie for fourth (807).

The U.S. SSI Study, now in its 30th year, measures satisfaction with the sales experience among new-vehicle buyers and rejecters—those who shop a dealership and purchase elsewhere. It bases buyer satisfaction on four measures: working out the deal (15%); salesperson (15%); delivery process (15%); and facility (15%). Rejecter satisfaction is based on five measures: salesperson (10%); fairness of price (4%); experience negotiating (4%); facility (3%); and variety of inventory (3%).

The study identifies 10 dealership processes that have the greatest effect on sales satisfaction. The main takeaway is that not pressuring the customer at any point in the process is the greatest overall driver of satisfaction with the sales process.

Consumer Tips
Based on the study, J.D. Power offers the following consumer tips:
  • When shopping for a new vehicle, pre-shop the technologies. Be aware of what each automaker offers in terms of a sound system, navigation, communications options, and other equipment.
  • Make a list of technological features that you’re looking for in a new car, and prioritize them.
  • Be prepared to learn. Have a list of questions ready to present to the dealer and/or the product specialist.
  • Know where each technological feature is, in terms of development. If it’s a brand-new feature, it might still have a few bugs.
  • Ensure that you know how all the technology works before you commit to a purchase.

About the Study
The 2016 U.S. Sales Satisfaction Index (SSI) Study is based on responses from 28,979 buyers who purchased or leased their new vehicle in April or May 2016. The study analyzes the new-vehicle purchase experience and measures customer satisfaction with the selling dealer, plus satisfaction with brands and dealerships that were shopped but ultimately rejected in favor of the selling brand and dealership. The study was fielded from July through September 2016.

Additional Research:

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