The Death of Customer Service

January 2020

Let me start this blog by saying that most people are not inspired to write or talk about a positive experience related to “things that consume our financial resources” unless they are exceptional.  That’s human nature.  We think things should be easy, quick and painless.  But in reality, they rarely are unless someone has taken the time to analyze the process or experience and purposefully made it pleasant or at least as painless and efficient as possible.  

In the interest of full disclosure, my degree is in consumer science.  I know how to analyze “customer flow” and understand the absolute importance of customer service.  Having said that, I probably go into retail transactions and experiences with higher expectations than most.  

My most recent experience at a car dealership has inspired me to write this post.  It also inspired me to take my business elsewhere and purchase a car from another brand entirely. 

I hate to have car trouble. I expect to put gas in, turn the key and have lots of things happen, many of which I am not personally aware. At the least, the engine should start. Toward that end, I do my best to keep my vehicle well maintained.  It brings me to the dealership service department on a regular basis.  

The service people expect you to make an appointment, which is totally acceptable.  They need to be sure they are staffed appropriately to meet demand.  Presumably this cuts down on consumer wait time.  But when you can’t get a human being in the service department on the phone,  that becomes a difficult task. If you leave a message and your call is not returned, it is difficult AND annoying. If you show up without an appointment and need something that is not a basic oil change, their first question is “Do you have an appointment?”  This creates a less than optimal situation.  It has happened to me more than one time and at more than one dealership in this city.  

The one piece of advice I can offer is this: if at all possible, stay at the dealership while they do the work.  If you are sitting in their lobby, they are more likely to get your work done and get you on your way. Take your tablet, laptop or a good book and prepare to spend a couple hours.  

The other important thing is to read the paperwork you sign and ask for copies to take when you leave. It may take a few minutes but it is worth it.  For example, I recently had my oil changed and had two tires replaced.  I asked that the front tires be moved to the back with the new ones put on the front.  I also asked that they check my windshield washers because they were not working.  As part of that process they do a “free 19 point inspection.”  Basically it’s a checklist that the service technician uses to check off the things they are supposed to inspect.  This list indicated that my washer fluid was filled, the sprayers were operated and worked satisfactorily, and that my windshield had no damage.  

Leaving the dealership I was as happy as a clam.  As I got on the Mississippi River Bridge, it started to mist rain but nothing happened when I hit the windshield washers.  I also had a very strong suspicion that the rear tires were the same rear tires that were supposed to be replaced by the front ones.  

It was obvious that their inspection was bogus which caused me to doubt everything else they were supposed to do. This is where reading the dealership’s documentation comes into play. Normally, the windshield washers are not a huge deal, but I was about to take the car on a trip to a location that could possibly expect snow.  That makes having a clean windshield very important.  I called the service department, had a conversation about their inspection and my problem, and ended up having to drive back to the dealership to get the washers repaired.  Needless to say, I was not prepared to spend another couple of hours sitting, but it had to be done.

They did not know, but I did tell them afterward, that we were in the market for a new car and that the difficulty I had at their shop in the past along with the current situation had caused me to look elsewhere for my car needs.  

Customer service is important if you are in a sales or service industry.  It creates customer loyalty.  It costs very little and it creates happy customers who will tell their friends about their positive experience.   It’s human nature to tell someone if you have a negative experience. Why not give consumers a positive experience and create marketing opportunities from the friends and family of your current customers? 

People talk.  It’s in our DNA.  Give us something positive to talk about and you’ll see dividends. Give us something negative to talk about and it will spread faster and do more damage to your business reputation than you realize.  In this case, it cost the car dealership a cash sale.  

I love my new car and am happy to say goodbye to the old one.   

Local Honey Nola – Life is short so do things that bring you joy!