New Delhi: New vehicle buyers accompanied by their family members or friends in India are the most difficult to please and most first-time customers rarely shop alone, according to a study by market research firm JD Power Asia Pacific.
According to the India Sales Satisfaction Index (SSI) study by the firm, buyers who bring family members or friends along during the shopping process are particularly difficult to please in the delivery process, salesperson and delivery timing areas.
"This remains true even though dealerships perform more standard services for accompanied buyers, on average, compared with unaccompanied buyers," the study said.
To make matters worse for the vehicle dealers, buyers of new vehicles in India rarely shop alone at dealerships, with nine out of 10 accompanied by a family member or friend during the purchase experience.
"These buyers are considerably more difficult to satisfy during the sales experience than are unaccompanied buyers," it said, adding they were also more critical of the sales experience than returning buyers.
According to the study, among new vehicle buyers that shop while accompanied by family members, satisfaction with the sales experience at the dealership averaged 823 on a 1,000-point scale.
 In contrast, among buyers that did their shopping accompanied by friends, satisfaction averaged 807.
"In contrast, satisfaction averages 835 among buyers who visit the dealer alone," it said, adding that new vehicle buyers that shop while accompanied by family or friends had a greater propensity to shop across brands and dealerships.
Explaining the reasons, JD Power Asia Pacific, Singapore, Executive Director Mohit Arora said: "For many new vehicle buyers in India, family members are trusted advisors throughout the purchase process."
The need for a trusted advisor is heightened when customers are buying their first new vehicle, he added.
"Dealerships need to create greater engagement for vehicle buyers, as well as their accompanying family members and friends, as they are key influences on not only which model to purchase, but also the buyer's overall satisfaction with the purchase process," Arora said.
The study had examined seven factors that contribute to overall satisfaction with the new-vehicle buyer sales experience (listed in order of importance): delivery process, delivery timing, salesperson, sales initiation, dealer facility, paperwork and deal.
According to the study, the auto industry registered an improvement in September, 2010-April, 2011, vis-a-vis the corresponding year-ago period in terms of all seven factors, with the largest gains occurring in the area of delivery timing, despite the fact that customer-reported delivery times have increased to an average of eight days in 2011 from five days in 2010.

Among the 11 brands that were ranked by the JD Power Asia Pacific study, Skoda was at the top with an overall score of 839, scoring particularly well in six of the seven factors: salesperson, paperwork, dealer facility, delivery process, delivery timing and sales initiation.
Following Skoda in the rankings were Maruti Suzuki (834) and Honda (828).
"While performing below the industry average, Tata Motors improves more than any other brand from 2010," the study said.
Overall sales satisfaction has increased by 19 points from 2010 to an average of 822 in 2011, with nine of the 11-ranked brands demonstrating year-over-year improvements.
The 2011 India Sales Satisfaction Index Study is based on responses from 6,840 new vehicle owners that purchased their vehicles between September, 2010, and April, 2011, and includes evaluations of more than 80 models. The study was fielded from March to July, 2011.