Tag Archive | "customer satisfaction"

Cadillac to Upgrade Customer Experience at 700 Dealerships


WASHINGTON D.C. — Cadillac will be implementing what it’s calling a luxury focused, boutique experience at 700 of its 900 dealer stores. These locations will support the company’s 200 flagship, stand-alone dealerships, according to Cadillac.

The dealership upgrades will be aimed at improving customer satisfaction performance and dealer compensation. Outlining the plan at the Washington D.C. Auto Show, Cadillac President Johan de Nysschen said Cadillac customers will be at the center of the brand experience.

“Our recently announced $12 billion investment in product must be accompanied by corresponding upgrades to the customer experience,” said de Nysschen. “For all dealers, including multi-brand outlets, we should strive to create a premium showroom atmosphere.”

The boutique concept would feature exclusive Cadillac consumer touch points, highly trained sales and service staff and luxury amenities. Technology will also play a big role in the boutique experience with de Nysschen teasing virtual showroom systems that could allow shoppers to configure multiple models, colors, and interior choices on displays or, potentially, holograms.

To ensure efficient investment from its dealers, Cadillac will develop new standards of compensation with a better alignment of local sales and market potential for each dealer, according to Cadillac.

“A strong financially healthy dealer organization is an essential element of Cadillac’s expansion plans,” said de Nysschen. “The stronger our dealers are, the better our service quality will be.”

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Lincoln, VW Captives Rank Highest in Customer Satisfaction, JD Power Reports


WESTLAKE VILLAGE, Calif. — Auto finance sources cannot focus their efforts on only one or two areas of the financing process and expect to have satisfied customers; they need to excel in all areas throughout the life of the loan or lease. That was the conclusion of J.D. Power and Associates’ 2014 U.S. Consumer Financing Satisfaction Study.

This year’s study, which looks at auto loans originated in the indirect and direct-to-consumer channels, includes used-vehicle financing. The firm also expanded the period in which customer satisfaction with a finance source is measured from one year to four years. Key factors studied included on-boarding process, billing and payment process, website, and phone contact. The study was also conducted in two vehicle segments: luxury and mass market. Satisfaction is calculated on a 1,000-point scale.

“Satisfying auto financing customers is not contingent on excelling in one area; it’s a continuum across the entire process, with the stage set during the on-boarding process — or the initial discussion with customers — and continuing through the billing and payment process,” said Mike Buckingham, senior director of the automotive finance practice at J.D. Power. “The execution of finance process best practices is more important than the innovation of new tools to complete transactions. All lenders use mostly the same technology, but the ones that execute better across all areas are the ones with the most satisfied customers.”

Buckingham noted that technology does play a key role during the billing and payment process, which is the factor with the most impact on overall satisfaction. Many customers seek not only self-service tools to set up an automatic payment system, they also want tools to confirm that their payments were received and processed and to check the balance of their account, with many preferring to conduct these activities using their computer, tablet or smartphone.

“Lenders need to make it easy for customers to access their account anytime anywhere,” said Buckingham. “That means providing a website and apps that are reliable and that make the most critical elements of the billing process easily identifiable.”

The study also found that overall satisfaction in both the luxury and mass market segments is significantly higher for loans on new vehicles (844) than on used vehicles (817). That difference is driven largely by significantly higher satisfaction in the billing and payment process and website factors among customers with a new-vehicle loan origination (846 and 840, respectively) than among those with a used-vehicle financing origination (819 and 817, respectively).

The loan and lease experience differs by segment, with overall satisfaction in the luxury segment significantly higher for leases (847) than for loans (840). The opposite is true in the mass-market segment, where satisfaction is significantly higher for loans (815) than for leases (807).

Ensuring customer satisfaction is critical for finance providers, as more than 90% of highly satisfied customers (overall satisfaction scores of more than 800 points) indicate they “definitely will” use their current lender in the future. Further, more than 50% of customers indicate that they selected their provider based on inputs other than dealer recommendations.

Avoidance of billing and payment errors is the most influential key performance indicator impacting satisfaction. Incorrect payment amounts listed on statements, misapplied payments, or incorrect/not updated personal account information leave customers with a perception that their finance provider is disorganized.

For the second consecutive year, Lincoln Automotive Financial Services (867) ranked highest in the luxury segment and performed highest in the billing and payment process and website factors. Lexus Financial Services (859) ranked second and Audi Financial Services (854) ranked third.

Volkswagen Credit ranked highest in the mass market segment with a score of 836. It also had the highest scores in billing and payment process (tied with Ford Credit) and website. Ford Credit ranked second with a score of 835 and Honda Financial Services ranked third with 829.

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Customers Less Satisfied With Automakers, Survey Finds


When it comes to making their customers happy, the world’s automakers have hit a bit of a rough patch, reported NBC News.

For the second-straight year, satisfaction with the auto industry is down, according to a new American Customer Satisfaction Index report released Tuesday. The ACSI score for cars and light trucks is now 82 out of 100, a loss of 1 point, or 1.2 percent, from last year.

“We’re still pretty high on the overall experience, nothing to alarm us here, but in terms of overall satisfaction, the edge has been taken off a little bit this year and last,” said David VanAmburg, ACSI director.

The decline is pervasive: Scores fell for 16 of the 21 nameplates measured in the survey. And the ACSI score for domestic automakers now sits at a five-year low.

Only two brands — Chevrolet and Buick — improved their scores, up 4 and 1 percent, respectively. And while foreign manufacturers continue to hold the satisfaction advantage — six of the top seven ACSI cars are imports — the gap between imports and domestic vehicles narrowed. That’s because satisfaction for Asian and European cars fell by more than it did for American brands.

Another noteworthy finding: Numerous luxury brands, including Lexus, Cadillac and BMW, did poorly in this year’s survey. Even top-rated Mercedes-Benz (86) dropped 2 percent. Honda’s Acura line had the most dramatic decline — 7 percent for a score of 77 — landing it at the very bottom of the list.

“That didn’t used to be the case, and it suggests that consumers now expect more for their money when they pay a premium price,” said Claes Fornell, ACSI chairman and founder.

The new survey also found that recalls have a significant impact on an owner’s happiness. Those who received a recall notice in the past year rated their vehicle 6 percent lower than those who did not.

“It speaks to the issue of reliability,” VanAmburg said. “It makes us wonder what else might go wrong down the road. If there was this defect, is there going to be another one and another one?”

There’s nothing in this new report that indicates the global auto industry is headed off a cliff — it’s still the sixth-highest rated of 43 industries ACSI measures. But no business can afford to disappoint its customers, especially for such an expensive purchase.

This is a wake-up call for auto manufacturers to keep their eye on consumer tastes and preferences, VanAmburg told NBC News.

“It’s very easy to get stale quickly in this industry,” he said. “You must constantly engineer and fine-tune these autos to meet the latest customer wants and needs. Also, maintain the highest level of quality while you’re doing this. Any perception that shortcuts are being taken or that there’s a lack of care on the quality side takes a toll on the likelihood that you will go back to that same manufacturer the next time you buy an auto.”

The full report is available for free download on the American Customer Satisfaction Index website.

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Maritz: Car Shopping a Lonely Journey, Dealers Missing Opportunities


St. Louis — According to a new study by Maritz Research, the automotive industry is missing an opportunity to build long-term customer relationships, with one in five customers never hearing from their dealer immediately after their purchase. The study also found that 75 percent of in-market customers were never contacted by dealers who already know them.

“It’s clear that dealers who focus on a single sale miss the bigger picture of the customer journey,” said Chris Travell, vice president of strategic consulting for the Automotive Research Group, Maritz Research. “People will buy numerous vehicles in their lifetime, so staying in touch with them throughout the ownership of their current vehicle — not just after making the sale — will put a dealer in the right place at the right time to assist customers with their next purchase.”

The Automotive Customer Journey Study polled more than 4,200 car buyers on what they think, feel, want and need when it comes to purchasing a new vehicle, as well as what they need to hear as owners throughout their journey.

The following are the study’s key findings:

Dealers aren’t thinking beyond the sale: After dealerships closed the deal on a new vehicle, one in five people said they were not contacted right after the purchase. “We never heard from the dealer after the sale; no service offers, no purchase follow-ups, nothing,” said one respondent. “Everyone always calls right after you buy a new vehicle when there should not be any problems. No one ever calls 12 to 36 months later asking if everything is alright.”

More customers are in the market than you’d think: One year after purchasing a new vehicle, 40 percent of customers are already thinking about their next purchase, even if it is a few years away. “A purchase anniversary follow-up … would have been a big plus. Maybe we are ready for a new [car] and perhaps a call would help us decide,” said one consumer.

Dealers should communicate more, as long as it’s relevant: One in five vehicle owners received too little communication. The study also found the longer someone went without contact, the more dissatisfied they became and the less likely they were to buy again from the same dealership. “Too little contact may mean the dealer doesn’t care about [my] satisfaction … more personalized customer service would help promote loyalty for the product and dealership.”

Dealers need to use the information they have: Seventy-five percent of customers were never contacted by their dealer or manufacturer when they were actively looking or thinking of buying a new vehicle, despite the dealer knowing when the lease was up or the finance term was over. “I would like someone to contact me closer to the end of my lease to discuss options for a new lease and prices,” one respondent said.

Communication changes over time: Customers expect to hear from the brand and dealership throughout the ownership of their vehicle. The desired communication changes over time, whether they’ve owned the vehicle six months or six years. “I wanted them to contact me, just to see if I had any complaints, problems or input,” a respondent said.

More and more, prospective buyers go online to research potential purchases and read reviews of others’ experiences. Some avoid dealerships altogether. Because of this, the customer is more prepared than ever and expects the relationship with a dealer to provide them value.

The good news is consumers want a stronger relationship with their selling dealer, with 62 percent of those not contacted after their vehicle purchase indicating that they would have liked to receive some form of communication.

“This increase in communication doesn’t mean more direct mail,” Travell noted. “Customers want information that’s helpful to them depending on where they are in their ownership lifecycle. It’s about the right type of communication at the appropriate time.”

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Fidelis Uses PPM to Drive Loyalty for Dealers and Agents


You have no doubt heard the phrase, “The customer is always right.” In the F&I world, you try to help the customer understand what they need to secure their new- or used-car purchase. When the customer knows the conversation is about them and what they want, they should be more willing to buy what you’re selling.

With 18 years of experience in the automotive industry, Ryan Williams, executive vice president of sales for Fidelis Systems, says he knows what it takes to make customers happy: Dealers and agents working together to develop a superior experience throughout the ownership cycle.

To that end, Williams and the Fidelis team have come up with the Fidelis Customer Loyalty Maintenance Program (CLMP), a strategy that supplies customer retention and loyalty for car dealers through a prepaid maintenance (PPM) program.

Bringing Them Back

First and foremost, every package is customized specifically for each dealer. Any products the dealer wants to offer can be put combined to create a unique program. The title of this program also can be customized for the dealership, but a majority of dealers call it the “Advantage Program.”

When a customer purchases a car, they are automatically signed up for the complimentary one-year Advantage Program and receive a dealer-branded membership card in the mail shortly after they purchase their vehicle.

Fidelis has a turnkey, multichannel marketing platform to stay in touch with customers. Each car buyer is contacted up to eight times in the first year via automatic emails and direct mail. These messages serve as service reminders and notification that their contract is about to expire — with an opportunity to renew.

Williams says that Fidelis’ track record proves that, the more customers come back to the dealership, the better the retention rate. “Leading sources state that there is a greater than 70 percent likelihood that a customer will buy their next car at the place where they service their current car.”

Fidelis’ software was designed to integrate with each dealer’s DMS and extract information for reports that track service income. “We know that 35 percent of customers will leave some of that contract unused and we give 100 percent of those forfeiture, or “spoilage,” dollars to the dealer,” Williams explains. In other words, the dealer can maximize income whether or not the customer comes back.

Benefits for Agents

Williams says the system was designed to serve as a retention tool for agencies as well., “We’ve been doing this for five and a half years and 94 percent of our dealerships are still with the same agency,” he says.

He adds that positive feedback has told him that CLMP opens agents up to more business because it reaches beyond the F&I office. Every department needs to be on board, he adds, because the program affects each staffer.

Additional tools for agents include online and in-person training. After Williams’ team does an initial, onsite training session, he says, “The best training is going into an account the agents have and doing a presentation with them.”

This program also has a wide range of eligibility. Any new- or used-car operation that has a service department is eligible for the program. According to Williams, dealers who use the program are running a 65 percent retention rate, a huge improvement over the 11 to 18 percent average reported by leading market researchers.

“For dealers, the most important and most appealing part of doing something on your own, is that you can build it yourself, price it yourself, control all the money and brand the dealership,” Williams says. “With this program, you get all four things in a turnkey system that delivers amazing results.”

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Sinking Buyer Satisfaction May Hinder Big 3 Rebound


Lower customer satisfaction with domestic cars and trucks could hurt the comeback of Detroit automakers, according to the analyst behind the American Customer Satisfaction Index released today.

Overall, the industry’s score improved 1.2 percent to 83 out of 100, according to the index’s annual auto comparison. The index is based on customer evaluations.

Detroit automakers lost ground a year after the Lincoln and Buick brands surged to the top in the 2010 index with the help of incentives, reported The Detroit News.

Ironically, Japanese automakers now relying on incentives in the wake of recalls are improving their scores.

“Japanese automakers are determined to recapture recent losses in market share,” said Claes Fornell, professor of business administration at the University of Michigan. He created the ASCI in 1994. Fornell took the index private in 2009.

“It used to be Detroit that was forced to use buyer incentives to compensate for its weaker customer satisfaction. Now, with the Japanese using discounts in addition to their strong customer satisfaction, Detroit will probably have no choice but to respond in kind,” Fornell said.

In the index, Toyota and Lexus ranked as top nameplates along with Cadillac. Four of the six nameplates that declined were domestic: Lincoln, Buick, GMC and Chrysler. Among Japanese and Korean brands, all but Mazda improved.

Ford Motor Co. ranked highest among domestic carmakers, scoring an 85; General Motors Co. followed with an 84. Both companies slipped 1 percent from a year ago.

Chrysler Group LLC is below the industry average with a score of 78. Dodge, Jeep, Chrysler and Mazda are at the bottom of the index.

The Big Three had closed the gap in the last two years but a rebound by Asian brands is erasing that, said David VanAmburg, ASCI managing director in Ann Arbor.

With incentives, Asian automakers “are beating Detroit at its own game,” he said.

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