Why complaining car buyers are the most loyal

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By: Wise Marketer Staff |

Posted on August 4, 2004

Car buyers who complain about their vehicle quality or dealership experience and are happy with the way the dealership handles their complaints are more than one and a half times as likely to be loyal to the dealership than non-complainers when buying their next vehicle, according to a long-term study by Maritz Automotive Research Group.

The five-year tracking study, entitled 'Customer Complaints: An Opportunity to Increase or Decrease Customer Loyalty', analyses the opinions and loyalty of over 3,100 new vehicle buyers and lessees who responded to the 1998 New Vehicle Customer Survey, and who were surveyed again in 2003.

Loyal complainers
The Maritz study found that the majority of people who complained to their dealership about their vehicle or dealership experience were not satisfied with the way their complaint was resolved. However, when customers' complaints were resolved effectively, 60% returned to the dealership when replacing their vehicle, compared to a much lower 38% of non-complainers, and only 30% of people who complained and were unsatisfied with the complaint resolution.

Brands affected
A similar relationship between complaint resolution and loyalty was found when examining the purchase or leasing of the same make and brand of vehicle (regardless of the dealership used).

"The ability of the dealership to resolve customers' complaints satisfactorily represents a key moment of truth for the consumer, and a big opportunity for dealers," said David Ensing Ph.D., author of the study and director of Maritz Automotive Research Group.

"Dealerships are the face of the auto manufacturer. Both need to work together to quickly and painlessly handle legitimate customer complaints. It turns out that, if handled well, complainers can be the most loyal customers," concluded Ensing.

Online report
The complete loyalty study has been made available through the company's Research Report newsletter which can be found on its web site. Maritz has conducted the US New Vehicle Customer Study (www.maritznvcs.com), from which this latest loyalty data was extracted, since 1969. The study examines such topics as vehicle choice, purchase decisions, internet usage, shopping experience, financing and insurance, initial quality, vehicle usage, feature satisfaction, loyalty, and aftermarket accessories.

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