Which Car Dealership Is Your Business Like?

dollar_bill_with_wings_0521-1101-2914-0547_SMUSometimes an old adage bears repeating, including one that appears framed on the walls of so many businesses.

“If you don’t take care of your customer, somebody else will.”

This played out in my life as a consumer and it’s a story that’s important to keep front of mind, especially because the business that has now lost me as a customer, like so many, boasts on its website that “It is our goal to provide you with an excellent purchase and ownership experience.”

The subject here is car repair, one that can get the blood pressure rising. The other evening, an indicator light went on showing a problem with an airbag in my wife’s car. As part of the horse trading that is figuring out which spouse will handle which household projects, I took this one. I immediately called the dealership where we have now leased two vehicles. The service department “scheduler” had trouble answering my questions about bringing the car around my work schedule, which, thankfully doesn’t allow much time to sit in a dealership waiting room. I was told that while they are open Saturdays, they only do this type of work Monday through Friday. When I asked how long it would take if I brought it in at their next appointment, two days away, she dumped me into someone else’s voicemail. When I called back, all I got was voicemail. So I called again, asked for the owner (who claims in advertising that his family treats customers like family). I left a message, saying that the service has not met my expectations, and have yet to hear back.

The next morning, I called a second dealership. I was told it would take several business days to get an appointment. When I asked if I would have to spend hours waiting, I was told they would drive me to Enterprise so I could rent a car, at my own expense. No thank you.

I called a third dealership and the woman who answered the phone listened to my story. She encouraged me to come in the next morning, talk to the “advisors” working and felt optimistic that they could work me in for what is probably relatively minor.

I took her up on that, found someone willing to listen, who offered to squeeze me in but said he couldn’t guarantee that they would be able to look at it that day. Just in case, he arranged for me to have a complimentary loaner car in case it took more time than expected. I drove the loaner to the office where, a few hours later, I got a call that the car was ready, nothing major was wrong and I had until 6 p.m. to return the loaner and get the car. That is an excellent experience.

In this case, dealership one clearly didn’t care about keeping me as a customer. Dealership two didn’t care about gaining me as a customer. Dealership three figured out a way to say “yes.” Should we choose this make of vehicle when the lease is up in less than a year, that is where we will be headed.

The lesson to all of us in business is simple. Be dealership three at every opportunity.