A Lonely Customer Journey for Car Buyers

75 percent of customers who are in the market for a new car never hear from dealers

ST. LOUIS--()--When you drive away from the dealership after buying a new vehicle, do you expect to hear from your dealer? According to a new study by Maritz Research, the automotive industry is missing an opportunity to build long-term customer relationships. The customer journey has become a lonely and quiet one, with one in five customers never hearing from their dealer immediately after their purchase and 75 percent who are in the market for a new vehicle saying they weren’t contacted by dealers who already know them.

“It’s clear that dealers who focus on a single sale miss the bigger picture of the customer journey,” said Chris Travell, vice president of strategic consulting for the Automotive Research Group at Maritz Research. “People will buy numerous vehicles in their lifetime, so staying in touch with them throughout the ownership of their current vehicle – not just after making the sale – will put a dealer in the right place at the right time to assist customers with their next purchase.”

The Automotive Customer Journey Study asked more than 4,200 car buyers what they think, feel, want, and need when it comes to purchasing a new vehicle, and what they need to hear as owners throughout their journey. The study found that:

  • Dealers aren’t thinking beyond the sale: After dealerships closed the deal on a new vehicle, one in five people say they were not contacted right after the purchase. “We never heard from the dealer after the sale; no service offers, no purchase follow-ups, nothing.” “Everyone always calls right after you buy a new vehicle when there should not be any problems. No one ever calls 12-36 months later asking if everything is alright.”
  • More customers are in the market than you’d think: One year after purchasing a new vehicle, 40 percent of customers are already thinking about their next purchase, even if it is a few years away. “A purchase anniversary follow-up … would have been a big plus. Maybe we are ready for a new [car] and perhaps a call would help us decide.”
  • Dealers should communicate more, as long as it’s relevant: One in five vehicle owners received too little communication. The study also found the longer someone went without contact, the more dissatisfied they became and the less likely they were to buy again from the same dealership. “Too little contact may mean the dealer doesn’t care about [my] satisfaction…more personalized customer service would help promote loyalty for the product and dealership.”
  • Dealers need to use the information they have: Seventy-five percent of customers were never contacted by their dealer or manufacturer when they were actively looking or thinking of buying a new vehicle, despite the dealer knowing when the lease was up or the finance term was over. “I would like someone to contact me closer to the end of my lease to discuss options for a new lease and prices.”
  • Communication changes over time: Customers expect to hear from the brand and dealership throughout the ownership of their vehicle. The desired communication changes over time, whether they’ve owned the vehicle six months or six years. “I wanted them to contact me, just to see if I had any complaints, problems or input.”

Vehicle purchases are not taken lightly. More and more, prospective buyers go online to research potential purchases and read reviews of others’ experiences. Some avoid dealerships altogether. Because of this, the customer is more prepared than ever and expects the relationship with dealer to provide them value.

And customers want this stronger relationship. The study found 62 percent of those not contacted after their vehicle purchase would have liked to receive some form of communication, noting it would have been a powerful statement about how the company views its relationships with customers. “This increase in communication doesn’t mean more direct mail,” points out Travell. “Customers want information that’s helpful to them depending on where they are in their ownership lifecycle. It’s about the right type of communication at the appropriate time.”

To help turn a lonely customer journey into one with more support and contact, Maritz Research has developed a new solution – Maritz Connect™ – that leverages existing customer relationship management (CRM) data and helps bridge the gap between customers’ attitudes and behaviors. Slated for release before the end of 2013, Maritz Connect will enable companies to understand what their customers want, need, think and feel in order to have an ongoing, two-way conversation. Maritz Connect will provide a more personalized approach so that brands and companies can engage with individual customers about their specific needs.

For more information about the Automotive Customer Journey Study, including customer stories, visit www.maritzresearch.com/autojourney.


The Automotive Customer Journey Study was conducted by Maritz Research in October 2013. More than 4,200 individuals who had purchased a vehicle in the past seven years were surveyed about their satisfaction levels with the communication they received from the dealership and manufacturer after their vehicle purchase and throughout the lifetime of their ownership. For study findings, visit www.maritzresearch.com/autojourney.

About Maritz Research

As one of the world’s largest marketing research firms, Maritz Research, a unit of Maritz, helps many of today’s most successful companies improve performance through a deep understanding of their customers, employees and channel partners. Founded in 1973, it offers a range of strategic and tactical solutions concentrating primarily in the automotive, financial services, hospitality, technology, telecommunications, restaurant, and retail industries. The company has achieved ISO 20252 registration, the international symbol of quality. It is a member of CASRO, ESOMAR and MRA. Check out the Maritz Research blog at www.MaritzResearch.com/SoundCheckBlog. For more information, visit www.MaritzResearch.com or call 877-4MARITZ.


Maritz Research
Kathy Randall, 636-827-6771

Release Summary

A new study by Maritz Research sheds light on customers' desire for dealerships to build long-term customer relationships, which could turn into being top of mind when actively looking for a new car.


Maritz Research
Kathy Randall, 636-827-6771