Customer satisfaction with the new-vehicle shopping process is increasing in Malaysia, providing a positive counterpoint in an auto industry weakened by a sluggish economy, vehicle price hikes and GST implementation, according to the J.D. Power 2016 Malaysia Sales Satisfaction Index (SSI) Study.

Facing declining sales volume, the automotive industry has been focused on driving improvements in the sales experience in an effort to woo customers who are currently hesitant to make big-ticket purchases. The overall sales satisfaction score of 789 (on a 1,000-point scale) in 2016 is a significant improvement of 37 points from last year.

Newly launched models, those launched from August 2015 to May 2016, contribute to the rise in satisfaction compared with existing models (804 vs. 787, respectively). Additionally, new-model buyers have a more satisfying shopping experience, as the incidence of salespeople offering a test drive (73%), demonstrating features during test drives (54%) and contacting customers to ensure everything was satisfactory (66%) are higher, compared with existing-model buyers.

The study finds fewer incidences of problems experienced by customers during the shopping process. Nine in 10 (92%) customers indicate having a problem-free experience, an 11 percentage point improvement from last year. Furthermore, salespeople are more focused on providing comprehensive explanations on features and benefits (94%) and thorough explanations during delivery (95%). “The tremendous effort in providing customers with an issue-free sales experience will pay off on building long-term customer relationships,” said Rajaswaran Tharmalingam, country head of Malaysia at J.D. Power. “When the market picks up, their efforts will be rewarded with an increase in sales volume and customer loyalty.”

Now in its 14th year, the study examines sales satisfaction in the mass market segment across six factors that contribute to overall customer satisfaction with the new-vehicle purchase experience (in order of importance): salesperson (19%); dealer facility (19%); delivery timing (17%); deal (16%); delivery process (16%); and sales initiation (13%). Sales satisfaction is calculated on a 1,000-point scale.

The study for this year denotes that in pursuit of narrowing the gap between domestic and International brands; the overall satisfaction with domestic brands has increased by 783 points from 736 and the gap between International and domestic brands has narrowed from 34 to 11 points, between 2016 and 2015. The other factor is average delivery, which has shortened from 21.8 to 17 days, while loyalty and advocacy factor shows a 46 percent hike, up from 20 percent previously.

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In most recent Sales Satisfaction Index (SSI) for the year, Mitsubishi tops the board with 5-star ratings on Overall satisfaction, Sales Initiation, Dealership facility, Deal, Salesperson, Delivery timing and Delivery Process. Mazda is a close second on the SSI listing, followed by Toyota, Honda, Perodua and Proton.