A Tale of Two Cars: Customer Service Matters

Our family recently decided that I needed to trade in our two cars. One car was mine, the other was my wife’s; both were getting high in miles.

I purchased two different types of cars from two separate dealerships. Though I purchased a good car from each dealer, my experiences could not have been more different. One dealership has earned my future business, the other has not. And while I don’t intend to blast the second dealer on social media, they will not receive any positive referrals from me.

Both dealerships offered a good selection and fair pricing, but they varied wildly on the level of customer service. The first dealership, House Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram of Red Wing, Minnesota made the experience pleasant, quick, and professional. At House, I worked with one salesperson. After I vetted and selected the car online, we took care of all the paperwork upfront, and the car was detailed, ready, and waiting for me when I arrived. I was having some accessories installed, and they even offered to deliver the car to my house once the work was completed. It was a great experience.

Meanwhile, the second dealership missed almost every opportunity to provide good service. I made an appointment after selecting a car online, but when I arrived my salesperson wasn’t there, and no one was informed that I was coming in. They handed me to the next available salesperson who said, “What car are we talking about here?” Then, I waited while he found the car on the lot. I waited while we did paperwork. I waited for a centralized financing group to complete the financing. Finally, I waited some more for the car to be detailed. It took over 3 hours, and this was after the car had been selected and pricing was agreed upon.

At the end of this lengthy visit, the salesperson asked me to give him all tens on his survey–not because he really cared about my experience, but because it affects his compensation. I don’t want the hassle of getting a follow-up call, so I probably will rate him all tens despite my lackluster experience. That’s not the point.

The point is that these contrasting interactions reinforced a couple of business basics that we’ve all heard before, but might forget from time to time.

1) Service and experience matter. Yes, the product needs to be good, and it needs to be priced appropriately, but how customers feel will have a driving impact on loyalty, reputation, and repeat business.

2) Honest, constructive feedback is a gift. A customer that is willing to take the time to share openly and honestly is putting in more time, effort, and emotional commitment than the person that “checks the boxes.”

If your company is struggling to grow, perhaps it’s time to walk a mile in the shoes of the customer and take the extra effort to solicit real feedback. Too often, companies default to the easy, superficial answers for stagnant growth. Responses like, “our pricing is too high,” or “we need feature x-y-z in order to be competitive” may be accurate, but might not tell the whole story. They may just be the check-the-box answer of a customer that doesn’t want to put in the effort to explain the real reasons that they aren’t sending more business your way.

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