I was at a graduation party this past Saturday and someone pointed out that I had a bubble on my left front tire. So, first thing Monday morning I called the Mercedes dealership in New Hampshire where I have had the car serviced before. I told the young man I was speaking to about the tire, and mentioned to him that I didn’t need any other service for 5000 miles, but since I was bringing the car in they should take care of the annual service and check the car over to see if everything else was fine. The only problem was that I could not wait for the car; I had to drop and go, so I would need a loaner. Getting a car to use while they work on my vehicle was pretty commonplace, so I didn’t think twice.
The service representative put me on hold to check what work the car would need at the next check up and to see if they had a loaner. He came back and said, “Why don’t you swing by, we’ll take a look at it.” I asked curiously, “Take a look at it? So, you have a loaner?” He said, “Well, your next service is an ‘A service’ and that type of service doesn’t warrant a loaner.” I proceeded to tell him that I couldn’t bring it in today, and he shifted quickly to, “Then when can you bring it in?” Not fully absorbing how bad the customer service was, I told him I could bring it in Friday. He said, “What time can you drop it off?” and that’s when it all began to click. They could care less about me and my needs; they were just concerned about the transaction and scheduling.
I got off the phone shaking my head. How poor was that display of customer happiness? Replacing a tire is rarely just replacing one, it’s typically two, and the low profile tires are pretty expensive – $350-$500. And an ‘A service’, if I remember from the last time, is not cheap either, at least $250, but probably more. The likelihood is that my invoice would be at least $1000, probably more. So, short term, maybe the loss of $1000 in service means nothing to them, but the real blunder here is the loss of my future business and, worse, the loss of my endorsement.
In Winning the Customer, we talk about building relationships and converting your consumers into fans of your company. Reflecting on how I was treated, I have to believe that the training at this dealership was incomplete or the person chatting with me was an employee who just didn’t get it. Either way, it’s a reflection on the dealership, and they can now count on me not needing their services this Friday or anytime in the future. The representative wasn’t thinking about building a relationship; he was merely focused on the need for auto repairs. In the book, we discuss the following fact and the ramifications for not realizing it:
Fundamentally, there is way too much competition in any given industry for you to focus purely on the items you offer. If you’re really honest, most of the items and services your company offers are comparable to, if not exactly the same as, what your competitors are selling.
The service rep was not considering that there are plenty of other dealerships that I can go to for service who will appreciate my business. In fact, I only really needed a tire, and just figured I would do the extra work in advance since I was there anyway. The person I spoke to at the dealership was not trying to cultivate a relationship and build a lifetime of sales with me; he got caught up only with the minutia of fixing my vehicle on their terms. Guess what? That’s not good enough. He needed to listen to my needs and deliver on what was truly important to me. We discuss that in great detail in Winning the Customer, so I hope you will check it out.
In the mean time, don’t stand for any company that is not interested in you, and is only interested in the sale. If they want your business, they need to earn it. They must listen and deliver on what is important to you. In most industries, there are plenty of options and choices. I will be choosing another dealership to assist me in my needs, and definitely will not recommend this group to anyone. I guarantee, the total sum of the business they are going to lose from me would more than warrant a loaner.