Customer service – for the good times as well as the bad

When there is a downturn in the economy we always hear phrases like ‘Value for money’, “providing a great service”, “customer satisfaction”, ”great deals” etc regularly repeated. What strikes me however is that why should it take a recession to ensure that these phrases become prevalent again? Good customer service and value for money products should be the absolute vision statements to any business charging for goods or services, but for some reason when lots of cars are being sold, the workshops are full and customers are plentiful we in the motor trade very quickly lose sight of these simple tenets.

Over the years any employee working in a car dealership – and virtually every customer – would be able to give an example where the relationship between the two becomes strained to say the least. The good staff and managers understand that whilst cars can go wrong and customers can feel less than satisfied with the service they receive, the vital thing is how those problems are rectified. I have rarely met anyone who, when they didn’t feel confident that a problem had been properly dealt with, would still want to carry on doing business with that company. If they felt that all efforts were not being made to rectify any problems encountered and that they were not being valued as a customer then they vote with their feet.

So why over the years have there been so many unnecessary horror stories between dealers and customers? The simple fact is that although cars are made up of thousands of mechanical moving parts, any of which could malfunction, some customers still seem to think that by buying a brand new car it should never go wrong. On the other hand I have seen countless sales staff and managers who once the customer has left the building can barely remember their names much less have the inclination to actually provide any immediate after-sales care and this is after having spent the preceding days (sometimes weeks) acting like their new best friend!

This has caused buyers to remain suspicious of any sales people and turn very quickly into what the trade call ‘ruckers’ simply because they don’t believe they will get the treatment that they believe their complaint deserves. If any customer spends thousands on a new or used car and it breaks down or starts performing badly or indeed something falls off it, then surely they have the right to expect that the very best back up service is available to them. The staff at the dealership can very quickly lose the confidence of that customer if they don’t immediately deal with the problem or keep communication lines fully open.

Most customers find that the biggest frustration they have when dealing with sales or service staff is ‘they said that they would ring back but I have called several times and no one has returned my call’ if I had a pound for every time I heard that phrase I would have retired long ago! The facts are that whilst the job is going well and there is a steady stream of customers to replace the unhappy ones dealers turn a blind eye and are happy to keep fobbing people off. But when the downturn kicks in and the customers become thin on the ground, we roll out the old favourites of good customer service and VFM. If this was always the case perhaps these businesses would be more resilient in a downturn and their happy customers would remain loyal to them throughout.

It sounds simple but that’s because it is and perhaps the fact that dealers are closing their doors left right and centre might ensure that the ones that do survive can keep hold of their precious customers in the future.

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