Make or Break Customer Satisfaction


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I have to give a talk next week at the ESOMAR automotive conference in Wolfsburg. The trick with these things is that you want to try and present something new, useful, and hopefully reasonably entertaining so they don’t boo you off the stage. Let’s see what happens.

The talk will focus on a new technique that we developed that looks at how various factors in the sales and service experience are so important, that if you don’t do them well, the customer will severely punish you, even if everything else is exemplary.

For example, if a customer buys a car at a good price from a salesperson who was extremely helpful and professional, and from a dealership that has a good reputation for treating customers well, and yet when the customer comes to pick up the car it has a dent in it – that one thing outweighs everything else. The result? Extreme customer dissatisfaction. It may seem intuitive but we figured out a way to quantify it.

The research nerds out there will recognize this as a non-compensatory effect. The rest of us refer to it as Make or Break Customer Satisfaction.

The top three areas we found to drive satisfaction on the sales side in the case study we did were :

  1. Professionalism and courtesy toward the customer
  2. Ease of agreement in making the deal
  3. Disclosure of charges and fees

For service it was:

  1. Thoroughness of work performed
  2. Correct diagnosis of problem
  3. Time to complete the service

The results represent a challenge for dealers. Even though these were the top three for sales and service, in five of the six (Professionalism and courtesy for sales being the exception) you don’t get a lot of lift in your customer satisfaction score by doing them well.

You get some but the greater learning is that if you don’t do them well, the customer tends to punish the dealer severely. In other words the downside of not doing them well is considerably larger than the upside.

Therein lies the rub.

What are the implications for manufacturers and dealers? All of the component parts of the sales and service experience need to be analyzed on a brand-specific basis to understand what drives customer satisfaction and perhaps more important, dissatisfaction. This gives dealers a road map they can follow to ensure all of their sales and service people are aligned for what the customer values.

The areas of dissatisfaction need to be determined to establish hot alert criteria so that when these areas are flagged as part of a manufacturer’s customer experience program, the dealers will know to act immediately.

There’s more to next week’s presentation but hopefully this gives you a sense of what will happen. I left out the part about the dancing bears and the ponies. That will have to wait.

Until next week.


PS If you’re bored this weekend, The Economist had a good piece in the April 20th to 26th edition on the future of the car. It’s called ‘Clean, safe, and it drives itself‘. After reading the ‘Look, no hands‘ article you actually get a sense that this stuff may actually happen within our lifetime.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Chris Travell
Chris Travell is VP, Strategic Consulting for the Automotive Group of Maritz Research. He is responsible for working with Maritz' Insight Teams to further the understanding and application of the firm's automotive research. He has appeared on numerous television programs and is often quoted in Automotive News, Time, USA Today, Edmunds, Detroit Free Press, The Globe and Mail and various other publications in regard to issues related to the North American automotive industry. He is the principal contributor to The Ride Blog, Maritz Research's automotive blog.


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