Dealers Can Take a Peek Into Customers’ Mindsets

Cars.com Experience Report guides brands, stores to entice customers.

Alysha Webb, Contributor

December 15, 2023

3 Min Read
experience
Report analyzes 13 million consumer reviews.Getty Images

Dealers that want to boost their reputations among consumers have a new tool to use.

The Experience Report from Cars.com analyzes 13 million consumer reviews of their dealership experience from the past 24 months and assigns overall scores.

Differentiating on consumer experience is one of the most powerful dimensions a dealer can embrace, Jamie Oldershaw, Cars Commerce vice president of reputation, tells Wards. Cars Commerce is the parent company of Cars.com.

Besides the overall report, the Experience Report asks specifically about six other aspects of the car-buying experience. Those categories are:

  • Pricing transparency

  • Trade-in Experience

  • Transaction Speed

  • Finance Experience

  • Review Responsiveness

  • Vehicle Inquiry Responsiveness

Besides analyzing reviews on the Cars.com site, the report includes metrics such as review response rates and lead response quality focusing on financing, trade-in and price transparency from across review platforms in Cars.com, DealerRater, Google and Facebook. Cars.com also owns DealerRater.

To ensure the reviews are from the actual car buyer, Cars.com has built a “broad contact moderation process” that, among other things, taps directly into a dealership’s DMS, only solicits customers of record from the DMS and only allows one review per experience, Oldershaw says.

The report does not assign different weights to the various categories in terms of overall satisfaction with a dealership experience. But some areas stand out as representing excellent opportunities for dealers to improve their customer experience, says Oldershaw.

Mazda and Subaru came out tops in the mass market category while Acura, Lexus and Volvo earned top scores in the luxury category in the most recent Experience Report.

Pricing transparency is crucial because affordability and price are primary concerns, influencing 53% of shoppers, the report found. Mini, Mitsubishi and Porsche ranked tops in their respective categories there.

The area Oldershaw singles out for dealers to focus on, however, is inquiry response. Across all brands, only 60% of customers are satisfied with the dealerships’ inquiry response and only three-quarters of leads are responded to, he says.

“That is the top of the funnel,” says Oldershaw.  “If you don’t have the process to actively respond and squeeze all the juice out of that lemon, it is going to be very hard for you to maintain a profitable business.”

Individual Dealers’ Monthly Report

The Experience Report can also be a tool for individual dealers on the Cars.com platform to improve their customer experience because they can receive a monthly report, says Oldershaw.

Indeed, they are the report’s most frequent users, he says, as it allows them to track their performance over time.

“On a volume level, local retailers use (the Experience Report) the most,” says Oldershaw. “They want to look at this data and figure out what changes they can make today that impact the consumer who walks in the door tomorrow.”

To best utilize the monthly report information, Oldershaw recommends that dealerships talk about the findings with the dealership staff. “Circulate (the findings),” he says. “Don’t just look at them and say ‘Gosh, we have a problem.’ Take action.”

He emphasizes that building a good reputation starts online with that initial inquiry.

“You have to create loyalty from the very beginning,” he says. “Everything else will follow from there.”

About the Author(s)

Alysha Webb

Contributor

Based in Los Angeles, Alysha Webb has written about myriad aspects of the automotive industry for more than than two decades, including automotive retail, manufacturing, suppliers, and electric vehicles. She began her automotive journalism career in China and wrote reports for Wards Intelligence on China's electric vehicle future and China's autonomous vehicle future. 

Subscribe to a WardsAuto newsletter today!
Get the latest automotive news delivered daily or weekly. With 5 newsletters to choose from, each curated by our Editors, you can decide what matters to you most.

You May Also Like