Product Specialist Role in Sales Process Grows as Vehicle Technology and Complexity Increase
Mercedes-Benz Ranks Highest among Luxury Brands;
WESTLAKE VILLAGE, Calif.: 13 November 2014 - In today's marketplace, vehicles are
more frequently equipped with advanced technology features which may be perceived by
consumers as too complex to operate. To address that issue, dedicated product specialists
are playing an increasingly larger role in the sales process at dealerships, according to the
J.D. Power 2014 U.S. Sales Satisfaction Index (SSI) StudySM released today.
The study, now in its 28th year, measures satisfaction with the sales experience among
new-vehicle buyers and rejecters-those who shop a dealership and purchase elsewhere.
Buyer satisfaction is based on four factors (in order of importance): working out the deal
(17%); salesperson (13%); delivery process (11%); and facility (10%). Rejecter satisfaction
is based on five factors (in order of importance): salesperson (21%); fairness of price (8%);
experience negotiating (8%); variety of inventory (7%); and facility (7%). Satisfaction is
calculated on a 1,000-point scale. Overall sales satisfaction improves by 13 points year
over year to 686 in 2014 from 673 in 2013.
Increasingly, dealers are employing product specialists to enhance the new-vehicle sales
process by demonstrating vehicle features and technological innovations. They may also
conduct second or follow-up sessions with buyers to reinforce feature understanding.
Industry-wide, 15 percent of customers indicate they worked with both a salesperson
and a separate product specialist when shopping for their vehicle. This percentage is
slightly higher among buyers of premium vehicles (19%) than among those purchasing
non-premium vehicles (15%). Regardless of segment, overall sales satisfaction is slightly
higher among buyers who work with a product specialist than among those who work only
with a salesperson (856 vs. 853, respectively, for premium; 809 vs. 806, respectively, for
"With such tech-heavy vehicles today, introducing product specialists into the sales process
helps improve the delivery process and customer understanding of how to operate key
features," said Chris Sutton, vice president of the automotive retail practice at J.D. Power.
"Dealerships need to be mindful when dividing a customer's time between a salesperson,
product specialist, and the finance and insurance representative. That's a lot of customer
touch points. Adding more time to the sales process usually has a negative effect on sales
satisfaction; thus, dealers need to ensure an integrated approach that respects a customer's
Mercedes-Benz ranks highest in sales satisfaction among luxury brands, with a score of
761, and also improves the most (+33 points) from 2013.
For a fifth consecutive year, MINI ranks highest among mass market brands, with a score
of 727, a 9-point increase from 2013. Among mass market brands, Buick improves the
most (+32 points) year over year and ranks ninth in 2014, moving up from 13th in 2013.
The 2014 U.S. Sales Satisfaction Index (SSI) Study is based on responses from 29,805
buyers who purchased or leased their new vehicle in April or May 2014. The study is a
comprehensive analysis of the new-vehicle purchase experience and measures customer
satisfaction with the selling dealer (satisfaction among buyers). The study also measures
satisfaction with brands and dealerships that were shopped but ultimately rejected in favor
of the selling brand and dealership (satisfaction among rejecters), and was fielded between
July and September 2014.
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