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June 25, 2024

Analyzing the Customer Experience: What Makes Dealerships Stand Out?

Discover key findings and drivers of customer satisfaction from the Automotive Experience Leaders Report

At Widewail, we understand the power of customer feedback and the insights it can provide. That's why we've taken a deep dive into review data. 

With AI topic-sentiment analysis, we’ve developed the Automotive Experience Leaders Report, a qualitative study focused on 15 topics frequently mentioned in customer reviews. 

Using 1,100,000 Google Reviews from 17,000 dealerships, we analyzed review performance across 32 brands to identify what customers are actually saying about their experiences and how those insights correlate to positive and negative ratings. 

Our objective with this report is to go beyond typical reputation metrics (review volume, star rating, response rate, and negative percentage) to uncover what aspects of the sales and service processes resonate with customers and what makes a dealership stand out. 

With this knowledge, we aim to empower dealerships with actionable insights that drive good decision-making and business success.

Automotive Customer Satisfaction

The Highlights 

Automotive Experience Leaders acknowledges brands that excel in maximizing positive and minimizing negative experiences.

Our analysis reveals three key contributors to automotive customer satisfaction:

  • Staff interactions drive and shape positive sales experiences
  • Efficient service, clear communication, and fair pricing can make all the difference when it comes to service satisfaction
  • Consistency is key to delivering exceptional experiences across both sales and service

Overall, the study serves as a roadmap for automotive brands looking to elevate the customer experience, stand out in a competitive market, and improve their online reputations. 

Topic Ranking Methodology

Automotive Experience Leaders offers a granular, content-driven perspective to look exclusively at the sentiment associated with mentions of key topics found in customer reviews. To determine these topic rankings, we: 

  1. Separated reviews into categories: positive and negative
  2. Calculated the ratio of positive topic mentions relative to positive reviews to obtain a relative frequency (likewise for negative topics and reviews) 
  3. Ranked brands by how often topics were mentioned positively or negatively

Brands with the most positive mentions for a topic ranked highest, while those with the most negative mentions ranked lowest. For example, a brand with the highest frequency of positive mentions for ‘friendliness’ would secure the #1 ranking for that topic, while a brand with the highest frequency of negative mentions for a topic like ‘communication’ would rank last for that topic.

The topics measured in Automotive Experience Leaders are:


  • Sales department (positive and negative mentions) 
  • Staff (positive mentions) 
  • Helpfulness (positive mentions) 
  • Friendliness (positive mentions) 
  • Knowledge (positive mentions) 
  • Professionalism (positive mentions)


  • Service department (positive and negative mentions) 
  • Repair (positive mentions) 
  • Communication (positive mentions) 
  • Wait times (positive mentions) 
  • Communication (negative mentions) 
  • Repair (negative mentions) 
  • Price (negative mentions)

Automotive Reputation

Reputation Score Methodology

In addition to topic rankings, Automotive Experience Leaders provides an overall reputation score for each brand. These scores reflect the quality of the overall customer experience. 

To calculate these scores, we focused on sales-related topics, particularly staff interactions, as these are the primary drivers of positive reviews. 

We calculated the probability of reviews mentioning these topics positively and negatively. The difference between these probabilities gave us the expected value of a customer's sales department experience.

Next, we followed the same process for the service experience, focusing on service-related topics. 

Finally, we averaged the scores for sales and service to obtain a single metric or reputation score, reflecting the overall customer experience based on the topics highlighted in customer reviews.

Top Sales Performers

Now that we've outlined the report parameters, let’s get into the results. 

We identified the top 32 brands offering the best sales experience and their overall reputation scores. For sales, the top 5 are:

  1. Volvo: 97%
  2. Porsche: 94%
  3. Subaru: 93.7%
  4. Jaguar: 93.5%
  5. Mazda: 92%

Each brand outperforms in positive and negative mentions of the sales department, as well as positive mentions of staff, helpfulness, friendliness, knowledge, and professionalism. 

From this list, it’s clear that Volvo is doing the most to maximize the voice of the happy customer during the sales experience. Their reviews feature consistent positive mentions of staff members and an overall appreciation of outstanding customer service. 

Dealers looking to improve their sales processes should prioritize staff training focused on product knowledge and effective communication. A well-informed, enthusiastic team can transform the car-buying experience from routine to memorable. By ensuring staff members are equipped to provide expert guidance and convey genuine excitement, dealerships can create positive, lasting impressions that align with the thrill of purchasing a new vehicle.

Top Service Performers

The top 32 brands offering the best service experience differ from sales, identifying which brands need to improve and which outperform across the board. For service, the top 5 are: 

  1. Lexus: 91%
  2. Volvo: 90%
  3. Porsche: 88.6%
  4. Subaru: 88%
  5. Acura: 87% 

Each brand excels in nine key measured topics. Positive mentions of repair, communication, and wait times, and negative mentions of communication, repair, and price. Positive and negative mentions of the service department are also taken into account. 

Lexus and Volvo stand out as the top performers for the service department. Their service reviews mention well-communicated expectations, accurate estimates, and short wait times. 

Dealers looking to enhance their service experiences should focus on meeting customer expectations and providing clear, detailed communication about repairs. By dedicating time and effort to ensuring service operations run smoothly and to plan, dealerships can build trust, enhance customer satisfaction, and foster long-term loyalty.

The Automotive Experience Leaders report highlights what matters most to customers during sales and service experiences.

By focusing on the key topics identified in the report, you take a customer-centric approach to your reputation management strategy, which in turn will: 

  • Improve customer satisfaction
  • Enhance your online reputation
  • Help your dealership stand out in a competitive market

To see how your brand ranks among the rest, see the full Automotive Experience Leaders report. 

2023 voice of the customer report, analyzing customer review data in automotive


Tag(s): Automotive

Emily Keenan

Originally from Scarborough, Maine, I moved to Vermont after graduating from St. Lawrence University, where I received my BA in English and Spanish. I have always been interested in writing and communication, which is what initially drew me to the Review Response Specialist position at Widewail. In my spare time, I can be found reading, playing electric guitar, or strolling/biking around one of Burlington’s many scenic trails. I always welcome the opportunity to talk about my work, and invite anyone with questions or comments to reach out or connect with me on LinkedIn.

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