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Survey Says Mercedes Dealerships Treat Customers Best


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Survey Says Mercedes Dealerships Treat Customers Best

By Steve Finlay

WardsAuto.com, Jul 12, 2010 9:15 AM

Mercedes-Benz dealerships rank highest and Mitsubishi stores lowest in a new auto-retailing survey that used people posing as car shoppers to gauge and compare customer treatment.

Domestic brands improved the most, with Ford, Lincoln and Chevrolet dealerships scoring for the first time above the industry average in the fourth-annual Prospect Satisfaction Index by Pied Piper Management Co. LLC, an auto-retailing consultancy.

Meanwhile, the stereotypical pushy car salesman appears headed for extinction, survey findings seem to indicate.

More than 3,600 hired mystery shoppers went into dealerships nationwide and recorded how the sales staffers treated them. Pied Piper converted those results into by-brand metric measurements.

Overall, auto industry performance improved notably, with 25 of 34 auto brands scoring higher this year, compared to 2009. Luxury brands continue to lead in customer treatment. But non-premium brands show significant gains.

For example, when comparing the 2010 Ford shopping experience with that of 2007’s survey index, the latest one finds Ford dealership sales personnel.

52% more likely to discuss vehicle features unique from the competition.

29% more likely to introduce themselves.

65% more likely to mention the availability of different financing options.

Meanwhile, the stereotypical car-shopping experience of facing an overbearing salesperson happened less often (6% of the time) than the other extreme of encountering an inattentive, unhelpful salesperson (18% of the time).

The Internet largely is responsible for the decline of the aggressive salesman, says Pied Piper CEO Fran O’Hagan.

“The Internet has shifted the balance of power to customers who now know a lot about products and prices because of their online research,” he tells Ward’s.

“Smart sales people have figured out that there’s still a lot for them to do that involves being helpful, but not leading customers down a road determined by the salesperson.

“Successful brands and dealerships act as helpful enablers for today’s shoppers. At the most successful dealerships, the stereotype of the old-fashioned car salesperson no longer exists.”

On the other hand, sales people guilty of not interacting enough with customers tend to size up prospects to determine if they are “buy-today” types.

“Salespersons doing that tend to ignore shoppers who aren’t ready to buy,” O’Hagan says. “But that causes a lot of missed opportunities, because so many customers don’t buy on the first dealership visit.”

In nine of 10 cases, selling behavior that results in more closed deals “also makes customers the happiest,” he says. “It’s a win-win.”

Other survey findings:

Both Volvo and BMW sales people mentioned brand maintenance program and associated costs 80% of the time or more, while shoppers looking for a Scion, Mitsubishi or Dodge heard about it less than one-third of the time.

Lexus and Porsche sales staffers reviewed vehicle features and controls 95% of the time before leaving on a test drive, but BMW salespeople reviewed those only 74% of the time.

At Land Rover, Smart or Mini dealerships, sales people nearly always handled the entire visit themselves and rarely introduced shoppers to dealership management. But shoppers met managers 40% of the time and more as part of an effort to close the sale at Suzuki, Volkswagen, Nissan, Toyota and Infiniti dealerships.

Staffers selling Nissan, Mazda, Infiniti, Mercedes, Toyota and VW were most likely to follow up with shoppers within 48 hours after the initial visit. Buick, Mitsubishi, Chevrolet and Acura sales people followed up with shoppers the least.

Six brands scored lower this year compared with how they did on Pied Piper’s 2009 PSI. Among them are last-place Mitsubishi and second-to-last Suzuki.

Those low rankings correlate to Mitsubishi Motors North America Inc. and American Suzuki Motor Corp. struggling for sales in the U.S., O’Hagan says.

“If you look at brands that do poorly in the PSI, they also do poorly in dealership throughput,” he says, referring to vehicle sales per store.

“Dealerships with poor throughputs have a tough time retaining talented sales people, and the ones that stay tend not to have their hearts in it.”

link:

http://wardsauto.com/home/dealerships_treat_customers_100712/

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Mercedes dealers ranked most customer-friendly; Ford, Chevy gain

Diana T. Kurylko

Automotive News -- July 12, 2010 - 1:22 pm ET

UPDATED: 7/12/10 3:40 p.m. ET

A study measuring how dealerships treat customers rated Mercedes-Benz highest but said Detroit's brands have showed the most improvement.

Ford, Lincoln and Chevrolet scored above the average for the first time in the four years that Piped Piper Management Co. has conducted its study. Lexus was No. 2 and Mitsubishi placed last in the survey.

Pied Piper, of Monterey, Calif., sent 3,658 mystery shoppers into dealerships to develop its Prospect Satisfaction Index. The shoppers ranged from 21 to 65.

In the latest report, 25 of the 34 brands surveyed had better scores than a year earlier. Luxury brands continued to outperform mass-market brands, but BMW scored below Cadillac and Lincoln and tied with a host of other brands, including Chevrolet, Ford, Toyota and Volkswagen.

“Today's car shoppers are armed with far more vehicle and pricing information than ever before,” said Pied Piper CEO Fran O'Hagan. “Successful brands and dealerships have responded by acting as helpful enablers for today's shoppers. At the most successful dealerships, the stereotype of the old-fashioned car salesperson no longer exists.”

Relatively soft consumer demand for new cars, along with tougher standards from many lenders, has put more pressure on dealer personnel to sell and provide new-car financing options for many consumers.

A study measuring how dealerships treat customers rated Mercedes-Benz highest but said Detroit's brands have showed the most improvement.

Ford, Lincoln and Chevrolet scored above the average for the first time in the four years that Piped Piper Management Co. has conducted its study. Lexus was No. 2 and Mitsubishi placed last in the survey.

Pied Piper, of Monterey, Calif., sent 3,658 mystery shoppers into dealerships to develop its Prospect Satisfaction Index. The shoppers ranged from 21 to 65.

In the latest report, 25 of the 34 brands surveyed had better scores than a year earlier. Luxury brands continued to outperform mass-market brands, but BMW scored below Cadillac and Lincoln and tied with a host of other brands, including Chevrolet, Ford, Toyota and Volkswagen.

“Today's car shoppers are armed with far more vehicle and pricing information than ever before,” said Pied Piper CEO Fran O'Hagan. “Successful brands and dealerships have responded by acting as helpful enablers for today's shoppers. At the most successful dealerships, the stereotype of the old-fashioned car salesperson no longer exists.”

Relatively soft consumer demand for new cars, along with tougher standards from many lenders, has put more pressure on dealer personnel to successfully sell and provide new-car financing options for many consumers.

“Customers have come to expect the type of treatment that they get at Mercedes, BMW and Lexus in all their shopping experience," said Mark Cannon, vice president of communications at AutoNation Inc., the nation's largest holding company for new car dealers. "They want someone who is knowledgeable and can help them with the process.”

When Ford launched the Taurus, AutoNation sent a sales trainer to every dealership and trained sales people on the product.

"I don't ever remember that being the priority five or 10 years ago,” said Cannon.

Old stereotypes are dying, as well.

The study found that showroom visitors are likely to encounter an overbearing salesperson just 6 percent of the time. In contrast, 18 percent of the time, shoppers encountered a salesperson who was not helpful enough and did not devote enough time and attention.

In an example, Pied Piper said Ford dealership sales personnel scored better than the competition in three areas:

• More likely to discuss Ford's unique features.

• More likely to introduce themselves.

• More likely to discuss available financing options.

“Despite the widespread and continual improvement in how cars are sold, there is still plenty of room for improvement, although not necessarily in the expected areas,” the study said.

About 18 percent of the time, salespeople did not pay enough attention to the shopper. Only 57 percent offered a brochure, underlining the decision “by some brands and dealerships to limit or discontinue offering brochures,” the study said.

The study also found:

• 95 percent of Lexus and Porsche sales personnel reviewed a vehicle's features and controls before a test drive, compared with 74 percent at BMW.

• Land Rover, Smart and Mini salespeople rarely introduced shoppers to dealership personnel.

• Suzuki, Volkswagen, Nissan, Toyota and Infiniti dealership employees used introductions to dealership management 40 percent of the time to help clinch a deal.

• Nissan, Mazda, Infiniti, Mercedes-Benz, Toyota and Volkswagen dealerships are most likely to initiate follow-up contact within 48 hours after an initial visit.

• Buick, Mitsubishi, Chevrolet and Acura dealerships were the least likely to follow up within 48 hours after a shopper's first visit.

• At BMW and Volvo stores, 80 percent of the time, personnel told shoppers about their free scheduled maintenance programs.

For example, the study found that showroom visitors are likely to encounter an overbearing salesperson just 6 percent of the time. In contrast, 18 percent of the time, shoppers encountered a salesperson who was not helpful enough and did not devote enough time and attention.

In an example, Pied Piper said Ford dealership sales personnel scored better than the competition in three areas:

• More likely to discuss Ford's unique features.

• More likely to introduce themselves.

• More likely to discuss available financing options.

“Despite the widespread and continual improvement in how cars are sold, there is still plenty of room for improvement, although not necessarily in the expected areas,” the study said.

About 18 percent of the time, salespeople did not pay enough attention to the shopper. Only 57 percent offered a brochure, underlining the decision “by some brands and dealerships to limit or discontinue offering brochures,” the study said.

The study also found:

• 95 percent of Lexus and Porsche sales personnel reviewed a vehicle's features and controls before a test drive, compared with 74 percent at BMW.

• Land Rover, Smart and Mini salespeople rarely introduced shoppers to dealership personnel.

• Suzuki, Volkswagen, Nissan, Toyota and Infiniti dealership employees used introductions to dealership management 40 percent of the time to help clinch a deal.

• Nissan, Mazda, Infiniti, Mercedes-Benz, Toyota and Volkswagen dealerships are most likely to initiate follow-up contact within 48 hours after an initial visit.

• Buick, Mitsubishi, Chevrolet and Acura dealerships were the least likely to follow up within 48 hours after a shopper's first visit.

• At BMW and Volvo stores, 80 percent of the time, personnel told shoppers about their free scheduled maintenance programs.

Read more: http://www.autonews.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20100712/RETAIL07/100719981/1422#ixzz0tW7sq4UX

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