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J.D. Power: How dealers are making customers happier these days

May 13, 2011
Customers are increasingly satisfied and happy after visiting a dealership and buying a car, according to a recent survey by J.D. Power and Associates.
Lexus ranks highest in customer satisfaction with dealer service among luxury brands for a second consecutive year, followed by Jaguar, Cadillac and Acura. Among “mass market” brands, MINI topped the list. Others in the top 5 are GMC, Buick, Chevrolet and Kia.
There is no mistaking an overall trend of happier car buyers and owners, said Jon Osborn, J.D. Power’s research director. Adjusting for changes in the way Power actually computed the survey results from 2007 to 2011, each year has been better than the previous one, he said. “Over time, dealers are providing much higher levels of customer satisfaction than they have in the past.”
How are they doing it? Coffee bars. Free wireless Internet service. Online booking of appointments. Increasing the number of service bays and establishing longer hours to accommodate customers; some service departments staying open into the evening and on Saturdays. When it comes to selling the car in the first place? More communication online where the customer is more comfortable.
The goal is simple for dealers: They don’t want a customer who just had his car serviced to worry whether the repair was done correctly. And dealers want the customer’s experience to be comfortable, convenient, even upscale.
J.D. Power examined consumers’ attitudes about their purchasing negotiations, their salespersons, the delivery processes, and the dealership facilities.
With their dealerships on a better financial footing, Detroit-brand dealers have more money to invest in nicer stores, and they can reward their salespeople for keeping customers happy rather than churning sales and service bills to keep up. Lounges with plush sofas and cappuccino bars are sometimes part of the recipe.