(I wrote this article a couple of weeks ago while in the service waiting area of a franchised dealership in Eastern Washington; though in order to fully grasp my points, imagine that I wrote it from your dealership.)
The little things are all that matter.
I’m here to get my wife’s new car serviced. Just a couple of small items we noticed when we bought the car. One was placed on a “We Owe” and one was discovered during the delivery. The salesman was (of course) very gracious about these and committed to having them repaired at the dealership’s expense. (The fact that these are actually under warranty is irrelevant, as his gesture was still genuine.)
As any good dealership would do, they introduced us to our service advisor during the delivery. Our service advisor, whom I’ll call Shelley, was extremely pleasant and also committed to getting those items repaired at no cost. In fact, Shelley added “A.S.A.P.” to her commitment.
So far, we love this place, right?
Fast forward two weeks. Other than a nice “thank you” email from the salesman, we’ve heard nothing from this dealership – including not a word about our repairs. So, I decided to schedule the service appointment myself. I used the store’s online service scheduling form and fully explained what I needed (and what was promised). A couple of days later, I received a confirmation for my appointment.
Oops. It seems that prior to having me drive the 45 minutes to my appointment, no one at the dealership bothered to tell me that the promised items needed for the promised repairs were never ordered. I arrived, checked in, sat down to do some work, and about 90 minutes later Shelley stopped by to tell me that they’ve now ordered the parts and to expect a call for an appointment in the next couple of weeks.
Interestingly, I wasn’t the slightest bit angry at this lack of consideration for their new customer. I was, however, shocked that a luxury car dealer – with margins being squeezed from all sides – wouldn’t have bent over backwards to make every contact with their customers a true VIP experience.
Fast forward to today.
I arrived early for my 7:30 AM appointment and the service drive was completely empty. I pulled in, but no one greeted me. I got out of my car and walked into the service office and was asked by another advisor “Can we help you?”
“Um, yeah, I’m here for a 7:30 appointment with Shelley,” I replied.
“What’s the name?” asked Shelley’s coworker.
“Stauning,” I said.
Shelley’s coworker responded by asking me to sign for the repairs and then he informed me that “… the mechanics get here around eight.”
You’re kidding, right?
At this point I was trying to figure out why Shelley would agree to a 7:30 appointment for me when the people who were going to fix my car weren’t coming in for another half hour. (Actually, I was thinking ‘Why in the hell would this advisor tell me that? If he wanted me to be happy, he shouldn’t have said a word about when the mechanics arrive.’)
Then it dawned on me: This made Shelley’s job easier. If she could get folks like me to come in when it’s convenient for her, then her day would go much smoother. Forget about my needs or wants; dealers need to be efficient first and foremost… only then do they need to worry about us pesky customers. (That was facetious, by the way.)
What happened to a VIP experience?
As margins continue to get squeezed, dealers must offer either the lowest price or the best customer experience. Some of the really smart ones are finding ways to do both.
Ordering the parts the day we bought the car would not have cost this dealer a penny more. In fact, it probably would have saved them a few bucks, since I would have made just one visit instead of two. Additionally, imagine what Shelley and her coworker could have done with the extra time they would have gained by dealing with me only once: perhaps it would have freed them up to do some prospecting or to complete some follow-up calls to recent service customers.
Either of those activities drives real revenue for the store, and one of those would give their regular customers the feeling of a VIP experience.
What should my experience have been?
If the dealership was genuinely interested in providing a true VIP experience, here’s what should have happened:
Nothing in this proposed VIP process costs the dealer a dime.
In fact, this is nearly always the case with providing true VIP experiences. Whether you’re in the service drive or on the sales floor, simply (genuinely) caring about the customer and their experience with you will do more to create a VIP environment than all of the money you could spend on more tangible items.
(By the way, I’m finally in the market to replace my own car – a tired 1999 Saab. Any idea which dealership won’t get my business?)