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Resolving problems a ‘moment of truth’

November 22, 2010
Most loyal customers are those who complain, then have complaints resolved: Maritz study

Auto buyers who complain about their vehicle quality or dealership experience and are happy with the way the dealership handles their complaints are more than 1.5 times as likely to be loyal to the dealership when purchasing their next vehicle than non-complainers, according to a new study by Maritz Automotive Research Group.


The Maritz study found that the majority of people who complained to their dealership about their vehicle or dealership experience were not satisfied with the way their complaint was resolved.


However, when customers’ complaints were resolved well, 60 percent returned to the dealership when replacing their vehicle.


That compares to about 38 percent of non-complainers, and only 30 percent of people who complained and were unsatisfied with the complaint resolution, who returned to the dealership to purchase or lease a replacement vehicle.


When looking to repurchase or lease the same make/brand of vehicle, regardless of the dealership, a similar relationship between complaint resolution and loyalty was found, said Maritz’s David Ensing


"The ability of the dealership to satisfactorily resolve customers’ complaints represents a key moment of truth for the consumer and a large opportunity for dealers. Dealerships are the face of the auto manufacturer.


"Dealerships and vehicle manufacturers need to work together to quickly and painlessly handle legitimate customer complaints. It turns out that, if handled well, complainers can be the most loyal customers."


The five-year tracking study, "Customer Complaints: An Opportunity to Increase or Decrease Customer Loyalty," analyzes 3,104 new-vehicle buyers and lessees who responded to Maritz’ 1998 New Vehicle Customer Survey and who were surveyed again in 2003.