The findings from the J.D. Power 2018 U.S. Sales Satisfaction Index Study indicate that car dealerships need to be contacting customers via digital channels – especially text messaging. According to the study, this leads to improved satisfaction in many different ways, but most dealers aren't doing it enough.

The 2018 U.S. Sales Satisfaction Index Study from J.D. Power

Dealerships Can Increase Customer Satisfaction by Texting CustomersThe 2018 U.S. Sales Satisfaction Index (SSI) Study, which is in its 32nd year, measures consumer satisfaction with the new vehicle purchase experience. This year, overall satisfaction checked in at 823 on J.D. Power's 1,000-point scale, but it was higher for customers who texted with their selling dealer.

According to the study, satisfaction increased to 839 when buyers exchanged text messages with their dealer, compared to 820 among those who didn't. J.D. Power noted that they found similar findings in other studies. In both the latest U.S. Customer Service Index and U.S. Electric Utility Residential Customer Satisfaction studies, vehicle leads were more satisfied when they communicated via digital channels like email and text messaging compared to traditional phone calls.

The 2018 U.S. SSI Study is based on the responses of 25,748 consumers who bought or leased a new vehicle in April or May of 2018. It was fielded from July to September of 2018 and measures buyer satisfaction based on six factors that are weighted differently:

  • Dealer Personnel: 28%
  • Delivery Process: 21%
  • Working Out the Deal: 18%
  • Paperwork Completion: 16%
  • Dealership Facility: 13%
  • Dealership Website: 4%

How Digital Communication Leads to Higher Satisfaction

J.D. Power's study showed that car dealerships need to be communicating with their customers through digital channels, especially text messaging. Not only does this lead to increased satisfaction, it gives your store a leg up on the competition because it's not happening enough.

Here's some data from the 2018 U.S. SSI Study that shows how valuable digitally communicating with your customers can be:

  • Start Texting to Gain an Advantage: Of all communication channels, text messaging is among the least used, with just 21 percent of luxury dealers and 15 percent of mass market dealerships utilizing it. While face-to-face communication is the most common method, the study shows satisfaction is higher when dealers text, email, or call customers.
  • Emailing and Texting Underutilized: Mass market dealers use email 17 percent and text messaging only 15 percent of the time when engaging buyers. Luxury dealers aren't much better at 25 and 21 percent, respectively. The opportunity is there to increase satisfaction and get ahead of the competition by implementing more of these communication methods in your store's sales processes.
  • Text Customers Before They Visit: Overall satisfaction rises to 850, well above the 823 overall level, among buyers who text with the dealer before visiting. While buyers make first contact through a variety of channels before visiting in person, only eight percent of buyers are doing so via text message. This is a clear void that dealers can work to fill. Furthermore, satisfaction skyrockets to 875 when dealers are able to effectively implement pre-visit information as part of the in-dealer experience.

Luxury and Mass Market Brand Rankings

The study also ranks consumer satisfaction with both mass market and luxury automakers and their dealerships. Mini came out on top among the 18 mass market nameplates that were included in the study, while Porsche ranked highest of the 14 luxury brands examined. Here's a look at the top five in each:

Luxury Brands:

  • 1. Porsche: 828
  • 2. Infiniti: 824
  • 3. Lexus: 823
  • 4. Mercedes-Benz: 815
  • 5. Cadillac: 814
  • 5. Lincoln: 814

Mass Market Brands:

  • 1. Mini: 798
  • 2. GMC: 797
  • 3. Buick: 792
  • 3. Chevrolet: 792
  • 5. Ford: 788

The average satisfaction score was 804 for luxury brands and 771 for mass market nameplates. Porsche increased their satisfaction score by 10 points over last year, while Mini took first despite a five-point decline from last year. Mini ranked first among mass market brands for five straight years from 2010 to 2015, and was able to reclaim the crown after finishing second in both 2016 and 2017.

The Bottom Line

The J.D. Power 2018 U.S. Sales Satisfaction Index Study provides insights dealers can use to improve their sales processes. This year, the results clearly show that your store can gain an advantage and increase satisfaction by texting consumers more. This will continue to be more important as younger buyers continue to join the consumer base.

Another way your store can gain an advantage is working with Auto Credit Express. We're a top provider of subprime, new, and used car leads, as well as many other dealer products and services. Learn more about how we can help by calling us at 888-535-2277 or filling out our contact form online.