Scores have a correlation with sales numbers, Pied Piper CEO Fran O’Hagan told Automotive News. Dealerships that score over 80 sell about 50 percent more units for the same quantity of customers coming through the website than stores that score below 40.

Ford was a standout among mass-market brands for its 10-point improvement this year, with a score of 58. The brand doubled the number of dealers that scored over 80, a feat considering Ford’s expansive network, O’Hagan added. This is likely the result of an effort to improve problems highlighted by previous scores, he said.

The same improvement efforts were seen with Polestar, which saw a dramatic increase of 49 points, O’Hagan said. The other greatest score increases were Rivian, Mini, Volkswagen, Jaguar and Hyundai.

Lexus, Mazda, Kia, Lucid, Dodge and Mercedes-Benz were the only brands to fail to improve. To see no change in score, O’Hagan said, “suggests that (the brands) are not really doing anything differently.”

If a brand or dealership is not evaluating its effectiveness at web responses, then “the only one who is measuring it is their customers,” O’Hagan said.

In an analysis of performance variation by brand, EV brands Tesla and Rivian struggled. On average, their dealerships answered a website customer’s question within 30 minutes less than 30 percent of the time. Tesla and Rivian stores on average responded by phone less than 35 percent of the time and by text message less than 10 percent of the time.

Overall, Rivian scored 48 and Tesla scored 38, putting both at the bottom in the study. These gaps in customer service will become glaring as the EV market gets more competitive, O’Hagan believes. “The brands that are effective at making their case are the brands that are going to be the most successful,” he said.

The analysis again shows rising popularity in text message responses. Inquiries received a text response 61 percent of the time, up from 46 percent last year. Phone calls remain a key method for some brands, with Subaru and Acura stores on average responding to website inquiries by phone over 70 percent of the time.

Variety and adaptiveness in response, however, remain defining factors between stores.

“The top-performing dealerships reach out to a customer using multiple paths, then when the customer responds, they follow up using the same path used by the customer,” O’Hagan said.

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