Avoid painful toe stubs

I was reminded recently of just how high the bar is for service when it comes to consumer expectations for their interactions with car dealerships.

Now, this editor’s note won’t be very popular with some of our readers, because it’s focusing on a couple of bad experiences. I do realize that every day across the country our car dealers are delivering outstanding experiences. But there are still too many of what I would describe as painful toe stubs.

A close friend of mine was lining up a test drive at a dealership I had personally recommended. I had nothing but great experiences there.

I even talked to the dealership’s leadership to let them know this particular client was very knowledgeable about the auto industry, and would make a great new customer if they could convert them to their brand. That’s because they turned their car over every couple of years, and it was always returned pristine and with absurdly low mileage.

But I also said they were executives and were used to really high levels of customer service. Well, you can guess the outcome.

Between people not responding to emails in a timely manner, or not being clear about the expected test drive times, the whole thing imploded and my friend sought a new dealership before they had even visited this one. It’s too bad, because I know the dealership is exceptionally well run and their leader excels in personalized service.

Yet all it really takes is a small gap between expectations and deliverables and the business is lost. And it’s not just one sale, but a recurring stream of sales, possibly for a decade or more, and all the related service and F&I revenue.

A family member also told me they had responded to a prompt in an advertising campaign, and reached out to take advantage of the offer. They had been loyal to the same vehicle brand (even the same model) for more than a decade and wanted to trade theirs in for a new model. But they were told the offer didn’t apply to them, and that was that.

Disgruntled and disappointed, they are now searching for another vehicle from another brand.

Now, you could argue that some of my friends and family are perhaps less patient and more fickle than most consumers, but I’m not so sure about that. They just really wanted to be well treated and given a personalized and respectful experience. When they didn’t get it, they also didn’t hesitate to move on. They have experiences in other areas of their lives that they now measure their car experiences against.

Now, of course we write about these types of issues in Canadian auto dealer all the time. So the terrain is nothing new. But when the experiences are relayed first hand from people you trust and respect, it really hits home.

So what can our readers do about this? Well, they can consider this famous quote:

“A reputation for a thousand years may depend upon the conduct of a single moment.”

Then they can remind their employees that a reputation changing moment could happen at any time.

About Todd Phillips

Todd Phillips is the editorial director of Universus Media Group Inc. and the editor of Canadian auto dealer magazine. Todd can be reached at tphillips@universusmedia.com.

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