Cadillac scores high, startups score low in helping customers

How effective and customer-friendly are the sales processes of start-up luxury brands for electric vehicles compared to those of traditional premium brands?

Not so good, according to a mystery shopping survey from auto consultancy Pied Piper.

This year’s annual Prospect Satisfaction Index focuses exclusively on luxury brands, including EV manufacturers such as Tesla and new kids on the electric avenue: Lucid and Rivian, which primarily interact with customers online. Pied Piper calls them “New Way.”

In the company’s survey of 25 brands, Cadillac ranks highest in how effectively premium brands and their dealers have helped both online and in-person car buyers. Infiniti and Mercedes-Benz are second and third respectively, followed by Acura, Volvo and Lexus. (See full card list below.)

At the bottom of the list are Rivian (No. 25), Polestar (an EV subsidiary of Volvo) (No. 24) and Lucid (No. 23). Tesla is number 21 in the standings.

Digital automotive retailing has come a long way. It gained traction especially during the COVID pandemic. But it’s not yet time to completely replace in-store shopping, says Fran O’Hagan, CEO of Pied Piper (pictured, lower left) says Wards.

That puts automakers like Rivan, which has no physical stores, and Lucid, which has only a few, at a disadvantage because of their reliance on online retail, he says.

O’Hagan adds: “Virtually all customers today start shopping for their cars online. But most buyers also still prefer to experience and evaluate a vehicle in person, if given the chance.

“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.”

Building a vehicle is one thing; it’s another to sell it. Doing the latter well requires knowledgeable representatives, both online and in person.

Pied Piper’s mystery shopping found that Rivian and Lucid’s sales reps had no sales skills and were seemingly working from a script.

“We visited all the Lucid locations and I personally visited the one in San Jose, CA,” says O’Hagan. “The seller knew something about the product, but could never sell a Mercedes-Benz or Lexus.”

Why not? “The person had no experience engaging with a customer to sell a car.”

A Lucid executive previously told Wards that the showroom staff’s main goal right now is to “educate” customers.

O’Hagan doesn’t believe in that. “That’s quite an arrogant statement,” he says. “Sales people who are brilliant have customers who love them for giving it their all. They also sell a lot of cars.”

Lucid, Rivian and Tesla handle most online customer interaction centrally rather than through individual retail locations. This factory direct control means the brands structure the steps for employees to follow, both online and in person, says O’Hagan.

He added: “With an online focus and few retail locations, these new EV brands have a great opportunity to excel with phone, chat and email interactions with their customers, to overcome the lack of a personalized customer experience. to compensate.

“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.”

The Pied Piper survey measured response to customer inquiries on websites based on 22 best practices, such as how quickly a brand representative responded to customer inquiries online.

The measurement of in-store effectiveness was based on more than 50 best practice behaviors. These include:

  • Did the seller ask if the customer had previously visited the make or dealer’s website and found a vehicle that interested them?
  • Did the seller mention features or benefits that set the vehicle apart from competitors?
  • Did the seller ask how the vehicle would be used or how it would fit into the family?

The survey found that General Motors Cadillac dealership personnel excelled at building customer relationships. About 70% of Cadillac sales did. The industry average is 64%,

“Building rapport isn’t that hard, but lazy people don’t do it,” says O’Hagan. “It says something as simple as, ‘Hey, I see you’re wearing a New York Yankee hat,’ or ‘I like the pickup truck you pulled up in.’ Good salespeople do that before they start a pitch.”pied piper 2022 chart

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