Life Lessons Series: Six of One Dozen of the Other- "This Cannot be Happening..."
I decided to take a pause from my blogs in December to smell the roses and celebrate the holiday season with friends and family. There were so many great memories made, smiles and laughter shared this year. It made me realize yet again how very fortunate I am to have such an amazing “tribe” of people that surround me. Life quite literally took my breath away to have had such a wonderful 2021 holiday season after such a rough couple of years. It brought home that it is worth every effort to find the good parts of life and celebrate them. I could list quite literally dozens of new heartfelt memories that were made this year.
What always amazes me though is that despite having been trained to look for exceptional customer service, I still fixate on the bad service. I go back to what I learned in MAGIC® (Make A Great Impression on your Customer by Communico) training. An attitude of indifference is deadly for businesses. Customers tell 3 to 5 others when they have a good experience. Customers tell 12 to 15 others when they have a bad experience.
Usually bad service amuses me, even in this past holiday season where so much goodness reigned down. Of course when I experience bad service, my thoughts immediately go to how I could help people or businesses to improve. I learned a long time ago that most people – both personally and professionally - are not interested in my advice. I hold fast to a rule that unless someone is paying me for my advice, it is best to remain silent!
Still, there are times I cannot seem to stop myself. The car valet who had a line of cars going back half a mile into the street will forever stand out in my mind. When we finally got into the lot, we saw that his process was to take all the keys for every car and string them on his belt. He had literally no idea which keys went to which car. Definitely explained the wait! I stayed mute other than a quick chuckle with my mom when we saw the inefficient process.
My latest encounter with exceptionally bad service was when I purchased a new car. All went well, up until the last week. Then the experience literally went off the rails and became one for a blog. As with all good things in life, I cannot make this stuff up!
Time is Up…
I leased a car back in 2018. The lease had a three-year term and was up in October of this past year. As with all good car dealerships I started getting cards, letters, calls and emails reminding me that the lease would soon be up in early 2021. When I originally leased the car, I had an exceptionally good experience with the car salesman and decided to go back to him. I shot him an email. Two days later a sales manager responded and told me my beloved car salesman no longer worked for them. He offered to help me personally. The prior experience was so good I decided to work with the same dealership again. After all how bad could it be?
Most of us have read about one of the many fall outs of the pandemic being that cars are in short supply. The sales manager sent me details of several cars that were immediately available. Each had options that I really did not want or need, all of which of course added somewhat exponentially to the price. When I told him the specifics I wanted for the vehicle, he suggested I order a car from the factory. I researched this and found that there was no extra cost for a factory ordered vehicle. The car sales manager also helpfully offered to extend my lease. I decided to factory order a car and placed my request.
From that point forward, no proactive communications were received. I was originally given a delivery date of September. In early October I reached out when I had not heard anything and asked for a status. I was told the car was delayed and now was expected in mid-November. When early December came around and still no car, I reached out again and this time was told mid-January.
The sales manager was very quick to send me a lease extension. I have been reviewing contracts in the scope of my jobs for decades. I always read a contract, often times ad nauseum! It caught my attention that the lease extension changed the terms and removed removing the option for me to buy out the car from the lease. This was always critical to me in the event something unexpected happened to a car. I had also read an article about the skyrocketing prices of used cars. Something seemed “fishy.” I scoured Auto Trader and Craig’s List to see what my car was worth. I found that the buyout value on the lease was substantially less than the car was worth on the open market. Thank you pandemic for that opportunity of found money! I sent an email to the sales manager to be sure the financing deal we discussed would not change if I bought out the lease. He emailed back it would not and I quickly exercised the lease buy out option. I then essentially sat in neutral for another several months.
In late December I received an email from a “car ambassador” at the dealership that my new car had come in. I needed to pick up the car within 72 hours. I was surprised to have been passed off by the sales manager who was going to take care of me personally to this new “car ambassador.” I chalked it up to how many months had passed waiting for the new car to come in. I was extremely taken back to have to act so quickly when the car arrived three weeks early. And for the record, calling this employee a “car ambassador” was definitely a stretch!
I scrambled to put my car up for sale and look at financing options all during a holiday week. Thank heaven I took the time to scramble and do my homework. The “car ambassador” and sales manager sent me several emails with financing options. None of the options came anywhere close to the deal they had made me for my last car or in our discussions earlier in the year. In fact, never in my life have I seen lease options as bad as what they were offering me. They also offered me financing that was literally double the rate that my credit union was offering. Did they think I just fell off a turnip truck?
The “car ambassador” also offered to trade my car in. I had run over to an i-Buyer when I listed my car for sale to know what the appraised offer would be. The “car ambassador’s” offer was 30% less than Carmax. This rarely happens to me…I was speechless!
The Almost Closing
It so happens that all this was taking place right before my birthday and my husband and I had made plans to go away for the weekend. I re-arranged my schedule upon receiving the 72-hour window given to me to pick up my car and agreed to come up to the dealership the day we were leaving for our weekend get-away. As I was getting onto the freeway, I received a text that they now wanted me to come up the following day. I explained I would be out of town and would come up Monday. This fell on deaf ears or eyes since essentially none of my calls were returned and all communication for this capital purchase was via text or email.
The “car ambassador” then suggested I drive up on Thursday and purchase the car…but then take delivery on Monday. Call me crazy but if I am purchasing a car, actually seeing it and taking delivery is a critical detail. When I once again explained I would be out of town and would come up Monday I was initially told ok. I arranged my schedule for a Monday appointment. Thereafter I received half a dozen emails to come up on Saturday, Sunday or Tuesday. A new twist had developed.
The “car ambassador” had been given Monday off. He made it crystal clear that it was not convenient for him to meet me on Monday. So much for his earlier offer to meet first on Thursday and then on Monday. I received several emails about Monday being his day off. I suggested finding someone to step in for him so that I – the customer- could keep my Monday appointment. He finally, and very begrudgingly agreed. He then suggested we meet bright and early at 9a. If he lives ANYWHERE in the LA basin area he has to know that traffic at 9a on a weekday would be brutal! I finally stopped responding so that I could enjoy my birthday weekend get-away.
I arrived at the dealership on Monday at 11a. It continued to be a painful experience. My favorite part was when the sales manager - who I had been in communication with for almost 9 months - walked right by me and never introduced himself. They must sell a lot of cars to feel so comfortable treating customers the way they do! I do have the car and it is beautiful. It was fun to factory order a car. I am thankful I profited from the lease buy out. I am also thankful to have this blog. The dealership sent me a survey to complete last week. I am looking forward to completing their survey. Suffice it to say I will never ever ever go this dealership again nor would I recommend then to my worst enemy. I have made sure to tell more than 12-15 people of my bad experience with this dealership!
There are so many service and process flaws in what I experienced. I think the dealership should start with thinking about the customer experience they provided and what they should do differently.
Remain proactive in communications with customers, particularly in longer term situations.
Take the time to actually listen to your customers. Then work to best accommodate their schedules.
Offer reasonable timing to customers.
As the Tim MrGraw/Lori McKenna song says “don't steal, don't cheat, and don't lie!” Be sure your offerings are competitive or at least reasonable.
Remember it is not all about you, it is about them - aka the Customer!
I think the dealership could benefit from an introduction to Difficult Dan. Difficult Dan is an old favorite customer service training program of mine. I first introduced Dan 20 years ago and he is loved as much today as he was back then. It is a fun and creative way for teams to work together to improve customer service. It builds comradery across teams, improves office morale and offers a fun perspective fostering an attitude of service all from a customer’s point of view. The program is applicable to all staff – from newly hired to highly seasoned employees. For more details on Difficult Dan contact me at Tish@TishDBush.com.
So What is Your Life Lesson….
How do you manage long term sales contracts to remain proactive with your customers?
What is the best way to ensure you are listening to your customers?
How do you ensure your offerings are competitive in the marketplace?
What customer service training programs have you found to be most effective to improve your service delivery? Have you met Difficult Dan?