DEAL­ERS VOICE

The Hamilton Spectator - - WHEELS -

The ben­e­fits of re­view sites when shop­ping for a ve­hi­cle

In the early 1980s, a new mea­sure­ment tool called the Cus­tomer Sat­is­fac­tion In­dex (CSI) 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 shows 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, the 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 now, 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 pres­i­dent@tada.ca or go to tada.ca. Larry Lantz is pres­i­dent of the Trillium Au­to­mo­bile Deal­ers As­so­ci­a­tion and is a new-car dealer. in Hanover, Ont.

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