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J.D. Power: Three ways to improve car-buying experience

October 24, 2012|By Jerry Hirsch
(David Paul Morris, Bloomberg )

Auto research firm J.D. Power and Associates talks to thousands of car buyers every year and has discovered three simple steps car dealers can take to vastly improve customer service.

In a survey of luxury-car buyers, J.D. Power found that when a dealership presents price information to a consumer in a computer printed format rather than scribbles on a hand-written offer sheet, a measure of satisfaction with the buying process jumps 45 points on a 1,000-point scale.

Dealers should learn to move off their “legacy formats for presenting price information,” said Mike Battaglia, director of auto retail for J.D. Power.

Auto dealers also need to learn that the fewer people involved in a transaction the better.  The practice of having a salesperson present the initial information about the vehicle and then employing successive “closers” move in to finish the deal ticks people off.

“When there is only one person involved in a transaction, satisfaction improves by 39 points on a 1,000-point scale,” Battaglia said. “Each additional person makes the consumer less and less happy.”

Finally, time spent completing the deal and taking delivery of the vehicle also is a critical factor in how pleased consumers are with the auto-purchasing experience.

“The longer I spend at a dealership buying a car the less satisfied I become.  The difference between buying a car in two hours or less versus five hours, which is not uncommon, is 78 points on a 1,000-point scale,” Battaglia said.

The average length of time a buyer spends at the dealership increased by 11 minutes in 2011, to an average of 4.3 hours in 2011 from 4.1 hours in the previous year, according to J.D. Power’s research.

The firm found that overall sales satisfaction averaged 648 on the 1,000-point scale in 2011. That was a 13-point increase from the previous year, but dealers could make much bigger gains and please consumers if they adopted practices that provided consumers with clarity as well as streamlined and shortened the time the buying process consumes, Battaglia said.


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