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Dealers risk losing referrals from online customers, warns JudgeService

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Dealers risk losing out on referrals from new customers who have discovered them online, according to consumer behaviour research from JudgeService.

The customer review platform polled the views of 30,217 car buyers who had made a purchase within the last 12 months and identified the top 10 reasons customers chose the dealer they purchased from and how likely they were to become promoters of the business.

The research started in January during lockdown and ran through to May, following the reopening of showrooms.

The research found that customers most likely to become promoters were those who had previously enjoyed a good experience at the dealership they bought from, followed by those recommended by family and friends as well as customers who had their last car serviced by the dealer.

Those least likely to become promoters of the business were customers who found the dealership through a Google search or from a classified website.

Customers choosing businesses because they were their nearest main dealer were also less likely to become advocates.

Neil Addley, managing director of JudgeService, said: “While we would expect returning customers and referrals to become advocates for the dealers they are buying from, it’s revealing that new customers, especially those who found the business online, are much less likely to become promoters.

“With the high marketing costs associated with winning new customers, the findings highlight just how important it is to build relationships with them, not just for the repeat business, but to reap the benefit of them becoming promoters. This mindset needs to be built into sales processes, coaching and training.

“The old adage that ‘people don’t just buy cars, they buy people’ resonates more than ever following the lockdowns; relationships with new customers need to be nurtured whether it’s face to face in the showroom or via the Zoom and Teams meetings which will have become an important part of the transacting process.”

The COVID-19 pandemic and series of lockdown restrictions on car showrooms have “changed customer behaviour for good”, according to online retailer Carzam.

The research also identified the biggest grievance among buyers was the failure of dealers to contact them after purchase.

“There’s a basic rule in car retailing that buyers should be contacted within the first three days of a purchase and then after three weeks; this ensures any issues are rectified.

“Our research shows this has a positive impact on the customer’s promoter score and can switch them from becoming detractors into advocates it’s an easy win that many dealers are missing out on,” said Addley.

JudgeService's top 10 sources of business for driving satisfied customers

Q: On this occasion what made you visit the dealer your bought from?

  1. I had a good experience in the past  
  2. I was recommended by friends and family   
  3. I had my last car serviced there        
  4. I saw a TV advert for them    
  5. I drive past every day
  6. I saw them on social media   
  7. I heard their radio advert       
  8. They are my local main dealer          
  9. I found them on Google         
  10. I found them on a classified website
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