Want To Improve Vehicle Sales? Use Digital Communications Tools


Recent studies conducted by J.D. Power looking at consumer satisfaction and vehicle sales are finding one common thread: customers prefer to be contacted via digital communications tools such as text message, but it happens less often than desired.

That trend is once again evident in the recently released J.D. Power 2018 U.S. Sales Satisfaction Index (SSI) Study.

“These aren’t apples to apples comparisons by any means, but the scores are clear indicators of where shoppers and buyers are going, especially as the consumer base gains a larger mix of younger customers,” said Chris Sutton, vice-president of the automotive retail practice at J.D. Power. “Automotive dealerships are slowly moving toward more frequent digital communication, but as customers come to expect this opportunity for engagement, dealers need to pick up the pace for incorporating texting and emailing into the day-to-day sales process. For younger customers, this is how they engage.”

Overall satisfaction in several studies is generally higher among customers who communicate via text message. In the 2018 U.S. SSI Study, overall buyer satisfaction is 19 points higher among customers who texted with their selling dealer (839) than among those who did not (820). Other J.D. Power studies show increases in satisfaction when customers communicate via digital channels/text message vs. traditional phone calls, such as the J.D. Power 2018 U.S. Customer Service Index (CSI) Study (+29 points).

Following are some of the key findings of the 2018 study:

Implementation of cross-channel communication is beneficial: Face-to-face communication is still the most common method for customers to connect with their selling dealer: 89 per cent of the time in the luxury segment and 90% of the time in the mass market segment. However, satisfaction is higher when buyers email, call or text with their dealer personnel, indicating that using additional communication channels helps to increase customer satisfaction and improve understanding and engagement. Among additional channels, text messaging is used least often (21 per cent by luxury dealers and 15 per cent by mass market dealers), but satisfaction is highest among buyers who text with the dealer.

When dealers text, customer satisfaction increases: Dealers using text messages are getting ahead of most of their competitors and are creating more satisfied customers. Luxury dealers use email and text messaging more frequently than mass-market dealers (25 per cent and 21 per cent of the time vs. 17 per cent and 15 per cent of the time, respectively), so mass market dealers have an opportunity to increase engagement through these channels.

Use pre-visit communication effectively: A significant number of buyers make first contact with their dealership through a variety of channels before visiting the dealership in person. These early interactions can have a noticeable effect on the buying experience. Overall, only eight per cent of buyers communicate with their dealer via text message before visiting the dealership. Gen Y and Gen X buyers (11 per cent and 10 per cent, respectively) are more likely to text before visiting than Boomers and Pre-Boomers (six per cent and three per cent, respectively). Overall buyer satisfaction is higher among buyers who text before visiting (850) than industry average (823), further stressing the importance of text messaging communication. Among buyers who communicate with a dealer before visiting, it is critical that pre-visit information be used effectively during the in-dealer experience. Overall satisfaction among buyers who say their dealer is “very effective” in using the information provided pre-visit is 875, compared with just 715 among those who say their dealer is only “somewhat effective.”

Proactive follow-up after vehicle delivery improves satisfaction: Key Performance Indicators are dealership processes that have the greatest effect on the sales experience and overall satisfaction scores. An area in which dealers can improve is after the delivery process is completed. The study finds dealerships only contact customers post-sale 79 per cent of the time to ensure that everything with the sales process was satisfactory with this important, large-ticket purchase. When contact is made, satisfaction improves by 38 points.