MONTEREY, California–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Cadillac ranked highest in a recent measure of how effectively premium brands and dealerships helped both website and in-person car buyers. In the 2022 Pied Piper Prospect Satisfaction Index® (psi®) Premium Auto Study published today, Infiniti and Mercedes-Benz ranked second and third out of 25 brands measured.
The study also measured new electric vehicle brands and found that their omnichannel shopping experiences lagged significantly behind the industry average for premium brands.
Using Pied Piper’s PSI process, which links mystery shopping measurement to customer helpfulness and sales best practices, the 2022 PSI Premium Auto Study measured customer shopping experience, starting with response to customer inquiries on the website and continuing when customers visited the retailers in person.
“Almost all customers now start with online car shopping. But most buyers still prefer to experience and evaluate a vehicle in person, if given the chance,” said Pied Piper CEO Fran O’Hagan. “Some customers know exactly what they want, but most still have questions or want to take a test drive. Brands that are most useful to both types of shoppers are likely to appeal to all customers in the long run.”
The measurement of responsiveness to customer inquiries on the website was based on 22 best practices, while the effectiveness of in-person shopping was based on more than 50 best practices. Overall PSI rankings by brand were calculated using a 1,000-point scale, with 40% of the total score based on responsiveness to customer queries on the website and 60% based on the effectiveness of the personalized experience.
The 25 premium brands were evaluated between July 2021 and June 2022, using 1,657 measures of response to customer inquiries on the website and 1,096 measures of personal selling experience. Keep in mind that inventory – or lack thereof – plays no part in the equation. Pied Piper PSI personal scoring does not penalize a dealership that does not have a suitable vehicle at the dealership – measurements that cannot be made are recorded as “N/A”.
This year’s study was the first to measure several new brands of electric vehicles – Lucid, Polestar and Rivian. These brands, including Tesla, primarily interact with customers online and have relatively few retail locations. Lucid and Tesla own and control all of their retail locations, while Rivian has a direct-to-consumer delivery model with no showrooms to date. Polestar follows the traditional franchised independent dealer approach.
Lucid, Rivian and Tesla also handle most online customer interaction centrally rather than through individual retail locations. This centralized ownership and control means the brands can structure the sales process steps to be followed by their employees, both online and in person. The study measured whether the customer sales experience for these brands was well-defined and consistent from customer to customer and location to location. The short answer: these new EV brands leave a lot of room for improvement in customer handling.
“With an online focus and few retail locations, these new EV brands have a great opportunity to excel in phone, chat and email interactions with their customers to make up for the lack of a personalized customer experience,” said O’Hagan. . “However, we have found that when their customers ask for help or have questions, they are usually met by brand representatives who only answer simple, scripted questions without being proactively helpful. It is a missed opportunity that currently does not make up for the missing retail experience.”
As for the only established EV brand, as Tesla’s volume has grown, the shopping experience hasn’t grown with it. Comparing Pied Piper personal surveys completed in 2019, 2021 and 2022 where Tesla was once above average, or even leading the industry in multiple categories, it has now dropped below average in most cases, including the overall personal score . In fact, Tesla’s personal score in 2019 would have put it at the top of the 2022 pack, but their sales methodology has changed more to taking orders than helping customers.
“Tesla is doing poorly today compared to helping website customers,” O’Hagan said. “Tesla’s model today seems to be, ‘If you want what we’re selling and don’t need help, it’s easy to order.'”
Also for the first time, the PSI study measured seven expensive, “exotic” car brands: Aston Martin, Bentley, Ferrari, Lamborghini, Maserati, McLaren and Rolls-Royce. These brands pride themselves on personal service as part of their vehicles’ elite status, but the Pied Piper study showed that each brand has a different definition of the term.
“There’s quite a bit of variability in the performance of the exotic brands,” O’Hagan said. “Ferrari dealers, for example, would rank highly, sixth out of 25 brands, for their customers’ personalized experience, but they rank near the bottom for answering customer questions on the website. Maserati dealers, on the other hand, excel in website response, but follow most of the industry for their customers’ dealership experience.”
Pied Piper PSI® Studies have been published annually since 2007. The 2022 Pied Piper PSI Premium Auto Study (US) was conducted between July 2021 and June 2022 and was based on 1,657 measures of response to customer inquiries on the website and 1,096 measures of the in-person sales experience. Since Rivian had no dealer locations, Rivian’s “in-person” measurement was instead conducted by customers contacting the brand by phone, to give the brand a chance to interact in a manner similar to what would otherwise have happened in person at a store location.
About the Pied Piper Prospect Satisfaction Index® (psi®)
Since 2007, automakers and their retailers have relied on Pied Piper’s fact-based Prospect Satisfaction Index® or PSI® to measure and report how effectively retailers are helping their customers become buyers. Complete Pied Piper PSI industry study results are provided to vehicle manufacturers and national dealer groups. Manufacturers, national dealer groups, and individual dealers are also ordering ongoing PSI evaluations — in person, over the Internet, or over the phone — as tools to measure and improve their dealers’ omnichannel sales effectiveness.
Examples of other recent PSI studies include the 2022 Internet Lead Effectiveness® US Auto Industry Study (Nissan’s Infiniti brand ranked first), and the 2022 Internet Lead Effectiveness® US Motorcycle/UTV Industry Study (Harley-Davidson ranked first). For more information on the Prospect Satisfaction Index and fact-based PSI process, visit www.piedpiperpsi.com.
Founded in 2003, Pied Piper Management Company, LLC is a privately held company based in Monterey, California that helps brands improve their retailers’ omnichannel sales performance.