‘Mystery Shopper’ Survey Exposes EV Manufacturers’ Dirty Secret – Lowest Ratings in Customer Service

Since electric vehicles are an emerging technology, potential customers need excellent customer service for answers to questions about issues they never encountered with traditional, gas-powered cars. A year-long study, conducted by the Pied Piper research firm, however, found that customer satisfaction ranked low among “mystery shoppers” looking to buy electric cars at EV manufacturers. Open from July 2021 to June 2022, the survey concluded that four electric-car companies out of 25 premium auto brands ranked among the lowest in “customer helpfulness and sales best practices.” Those EV startups were Tesla, Lucid, Polestar and Rivian. The EV brands consistently scored lower in “responsiveness and steps toward closing a sale,” Car and Driver reported, compared to third-party dealerships that sell electric cars along with gas-powered vehicles. The Prospect Satisfaction Index study had been around since 2007 and is highly respected among carmakers and dealerships. The study took into consideration over 1,000 measurements of the in-person sales experience and 1,650 measurements of responsiveness to customer inquiries, according to Car and Driver. “Our business is helping [automakers] improve their sales by calculating sales best practices and then measuring and reporting dealer by dealer whether those best practices are followed,” Pied Piper CEO Fran O’Hagan told the auto industry trade publication. Though Tesla is considered the highest-quality EV startup, it too suffered in the past year in customer responsiveness. In a chart published with the Car and Driver report, percentages of customers answering questions positively about matters like whether Tesla sales staff asked buyer-friendly questions, such as how the vehicle would “fit into the customer’s household,” or discussed wider questions, such as the availability of charging networks, generally fell between 2019 and 2022. In 2019, 97 percent of customers said their desired vehicle was present at the dealership, according to the chart. That number fell to 34 percent in 2022. O’Hagan concluded that Tesla is now more concerned with fulfilling orders than helping customers make informed decisions. “Tesla’s model today appears to be, ‘If you want what we sell, and require no assistance, it’s easy to order,'” O’Hagan said. Because most auto owners have not driven an electric car before, there are many questions about charging, mileage and battery life that need to be answered to turn first-time customers into loyal buyers. Brand reps, however, have not risen to the challenge, according to this survey. Polestar, Rivian and Tesla responded to customer web inquiries within a 30-minute period less than 10 percent of the time, Car and Driver reported. The highest-ranked premium auto brands — Cadillac, Infiniti, Mercedez-Benz, etc. — did so more than 50 percent of the time. Customer communication as a whole was not good, according to the report. “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,” O’Hagan said. “However, we found that when their customers reach out for help or with questions, they are usually met with brand reps who answer only simple, scripted questions without being proactively helpful.” This survey suggests that while EV manufacturers have a long way to go before making serious inroads in the American auto market, customer service might need to be their first priority. This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.

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