My Service Needs Didn’t Warrant Customer Service

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.


You may also like


  1. I hope you’ll let dealership management know. Or at least email them a link to this blog post. So many managers have no clue that their employees are unintentional saboteurs.

    The rep probably thinks he is doing his job just fine… because he’s never been taught that there’s more to his job than scheduling appointments.

    A customer-friendly attitude starts at the top and gets pushed — hard — all the way down.

    1. Lou Imbriano says:

      Hi Tom,

      I didn’t. My message will come from not using them any longer. But you are correct, quite often managers have no clue that their employers are the issue, but they probably should (without having to take a phone call from an unsatisfied customer).

      Thank you for your comment and insight.

      My best,

  2. Sadly, we have all been there when we are talking with someone and they have no idea what we are saying, rather they are trying to put a square peg in a square hole.

    Did you escalate it, asking to talk to the service manager? It could have been the person on the phone was not properly trained to handle it? Then again, if I were in your shoes, I would have probably have just hung up and called another dealer. I pretty much went thru most all of the Volkswagen dealers in the Boston area when I lived out there until I found one who got it!


    1. Lou Imbriano says:

      Hi Mike,

      I’m pretty much “one and done” when it comes to bad customer service, unless there is a very solid track record. There are plenty of dealerships that would like my business, let’s see if this one fights for mine with out me tipping them off. That would really impress me.

      I hope you are well.

      My best,

  3. Lou,
    I don’t really know you, other than by reading your posts and comments on Lisa Petrilli’s blog and Mack Collier’s blog. But anyway…just wanted to chime in here for a minute. I have been a Mercedes Benz owner since Mother’s Day 1998. In the last 13 years we have owned two and leased one. The main reason? Well, customer service is the biggest. And location was the original reason that we shopped for our first C230. You see the Mercedes dealership in Newport Beach, CA was about a mile from our condo and the comparative price of a new 1998 C230 and a 1998 Toyota Camry or Avalon was pretty close. The Toyota dealership was 15 miles and loaners were just not in the equation.Plus, Fletcher Jones Mercedes Dealership was/is all about service.

    For the record: the last A Service I had was $224 and four new low profiles tires were $1211.95!

    But back to service…Fletcher Jones really made you feel at home. For a while, my husband was so impressed he would take out of town visitors to see the dealership. Enterprise Car Rental set up a office at the dealership to handle all of the “loaners”. Never an issue…it was a win-win for Enterprise and MB.

    I now live in Tucson. The Mercedes dealership is OK. They are getting ready to move into a new facility. They try very hard.

    I feel bad for the young man who doesn’t get it. Somehow I think that the dealership owners don’t get it either!

    1. Lou Imbriano says:

      Hi Judy,

      For the most part, I have experienced solid customer service from MB as well, but obviously the consistency from employee to employee and dealership to dealership is a question. I think you are correct when you say the dealership doesn’t get it. If they did, they would have had that young man working with customers.

      Thank you for stopping by and taking the time to comment.

      My best,

  4. Lou, I’m thinking Mercedes should be your client!

    After 15 years of Acura loyalty I made the move to Mercedes about a year ago. Sadly I have found their basic VIP perks and customer service inferior to Acura’s.

    Time to launch a Mercedes Mendz (apology and fixit) Customer Service program?

    Speaking of launch, I’m looking forward to reading “Winning the Customer” – is the date set?

    1. Lou Imbriano says:

      Thank you for your insight and comment Jeanne.

      I have had some great customer service experiences with other MB dealerships, but group obviously is missing the big picture.

      Also, thanks for asking about Winning the Customer. It’s set to hit the shelves on September 16th. We are excited and will share more info through out the summer. I hope you are well.

      My best,

  5. Now THAT is an anti-wow experience! And, yes, apparently he really did not have a clue that what he was doing was not only *not* productive, but extremely counter-productive. I can only imagine how the owner of the dealership would feel if he knew what had transpired. Then again, if he knew, and didn’t care, I’d say there’s a good chance the dealership won’t be around for too much longer. As you implied, there are simply too many others out there who can do the same basic things; you’ve got to earn the business. Can’t wait until your new book is out!!

    1. Lou Imbriano says:

      Thank you Bob.
      We are getting excited for the book as well. Hopefully the book and the concepts with in it will connect with folks, like this dealership, and prompt them to remake how they treat customers.

      Thank you as always for your support.

      My best,

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *