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While overall customer satisfaction with the new vehicle sales process in Malaysia improves in 2013, the gap in satisfaction between local and foreign brands has widened, according to the J.D. Power Asia Pacific 2013 Malaysia Sales Satisfaction Index (SSI) Study that was recently released.

Now in its 11th year, SSI examines seven factors that contribute to overall customer satisfaction with the new vehicle purchase experience. In order of importance, they are delivery process, sales initiation, salesperson, paperwork, delivery timing, dealer facility and deal. Performance is reported as an index score based on a 1,000-point scale, in which a higher overall score indicates greater satisfaction.

Overall sales satisfaction in Malaysia averages 798 in 2013, an increase of 17 points from 2012. Overall satisfaction improves among all factors when compared with 2012, with dealer facility (+25) and delivery process (+20) showing the largest improvements.

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While overall sales satisfaction has improved in 2013, the gap in sales satisfaction between local and imported brands has widened to 30 points from 11 in 2012. Contributing to the gap are lower scores in the sales initiation and salesperson factors. “Salesperson-centric qualities, such as fulfillment of commitments, focusing attention on the customer, and thoroughness of following up on customer requests, are key areas for improvement,” said Rajaswaran Tharmalingam, Malaysia country head at JD Power Asia Pacific.

The study identifies 19 sales standards that enhance the overall customer sales experience. When shown the list of 19 sales standards and asked to identify which ones their salesperson followed, 72% of new vehicle buyers in 2013 say their SA followed at least 14 standards, an increase from 70% in 2012.

Improvements in overall sales satisfaction are also attributed to external factors, such as the stabilisation in the supply chain for popular models. “Natural disasters such as the Japan tsunami and Thailand floods in 2011 caused inventory shortages in 2012, which affected deliveries and customer satisfaction,” said Tharmalingam, who also noted that Bank Negara guidelines that made it more difficult to obtain loans in 2012 have eased somewhat this year, making credit more easily available.

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“Continuous product training for the sales team helps ensure they achieve a meaningful discussion with product-savvy new-vehicle buyers. Exceeding buyer expectations creates a notably positive experience. Following up with buyers after the sale goes a long way to improving satisfaction,” he added. Presently, only 67% of buyers are contacted after delivery to ensure they are satisfied.

Among the 12 brands included in the 2013 study, Toyota ranks highest with a score of 826. Toyota improves across all factors, with the largest year-over-year improvements in salesperson, deal, paperwork and dealer facility. Nissan ranks second with 823 points, followed by Suzuki (821), Mazda (813) and Ford (812). Suzuki is the most-improved brand with a 61-point increase from 2012.

The 2013 Malaysia SSI Study is based on responses from 2,622 new-vehicle buyers who purchased their vehicle between August 2012 and April 2013. The study was fielded between February and June 2013. J.D. Power released the 2013 Malaysia Customer Service Index (CSI) Study in August, which you can read about here.