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It’s that time of the year again and as in 2013, MINI finished first of J.D. Power’s US Sales Satisfaction Index Study (SSIS), in front of Buick and Chevrolet, with a score of 727, a 9-point increase from 2013. What does that mean and how does the SSIS work? Read on to find out.

J.D. Power describres the study as being “a comprehensive analysis of the new vehicle purchase experience from the customer perspective. It measures the ability of dealerships to manage the sales process, from product presentation and price negotiation to the finance and insurance process and final delivery. The study provides insights into customer needs
and expectations and provides recommendations for improving the sales process.”.

Although this extract of their lovely pamphlet is explicit, it doesn’t cover in detail how J.D. Power’s methodology works. However, their press release is full of interesting tidbits. Note that it doesn’t change the fact that we’ve never been fans of J.D. Power at Motoring File, and that is regardless of the results for MINI USA. In any case, let’s dig into the outcome of the 2014 study.

This year’s SSIS is based on responses from 29,905 new-vehicle buyers and rejecters – those who shop a dealership and purchase elsewhere – from April to May 2014. To measure satisfaction J.D. Power uses a variety of weighted factors, including: working out the deal, salesperson, delivery process, facility, fairness of price, experience negotiating, and variety of inventory. Based on these attributes, here are the key findings of the study:

  • When a customer works with both a salesperson and a product specialist, satisfaction with thoroughness of feature explanation improves to 8.1 (on a 10-point scale) from 7.9.
  • Working with both a salesperson and product specialist is becoming more commonplace among new-vehicle buyers. Additionally, when assisted by a salesperson and product specialist working together vs. only a salesperson, a higher percentage of customers indicate dealer staff connected their phone to Bluetooth (79% vs. 76%, respectively); explained how to operate the navigation system (84% vs. 82%, respectively); and explained the communications system (88% vs. 86%, respectively).
  • The most important key performance indicator (KPI) in the sales process is the salespersonā€™s ability to completely understand the customerā€™s needs. This KPI is met 86 percent of the time and, when met, can positively impact overall satisfaction by up to 104 points.
  • The use of a computer/tablet in communicating price/payment helps drive satisfaction for working out the deal (784 vs. 770 in 2013). Satisfaction among customers who are shown pricing/payment on a computer screen/tablet is higher (827) than among those who receive this information in printed form (805), by verbal quotes (774), or as handwritten figures (764).
  • Computer/tablet use by dealer personnel while presenting price/payment options has increased to 22 percent from 18 percent in 2013.

My take on these insights in somehow mixed. Motoring Advisors using mobile computing devices to share pricing/payment information is a good sign; it’s a step towards more transparency. On the other hand, it doesn’t matter to me if a salesperson has an encyclopedic knowledge about MINI, because eventually, I will know more than they do. And that’s fine. I also wouldn’t want to be dealing with 10 different people during the sales process. If I could talk, negotiate and sign all the paperwork with one individual, it would be perfect. It’s a win-win situation for all parties involved; you speed up sales and increase volumes while improving the customer experience by avoiding shaddy negotating tactics between reps and their managers. Actually, some stealerships dealerships have already implemented this method.

With that in mind, here is overall ranking; MINI is doing great and is far above the Mass Market Brand average.

Given what MINI USA execs have in store for us next year, I see the brand remaining unchallenged in 2015. But let’s hear it from our readers. How was the buying experience for your most recent MINI? What could have made it better?