CX: The Good, The Bad And The Ugly #7

10 ways to demonstrate you know zero about the customer experience, or confusing smiling a lot with the customer experience.

This post shares parts of several stories about one business. This is beyond ugly. Yet it does remind me that writing a blog can be cathartic.

This is about the relationship I have (or used to have) with a car dealership. Like other relationships, it is kind of complicated. Using NPS parlance, I am a promoter of their sales department and my sales associate in particular who went to great lengths on more than one occasion to sell us a vehicle that suited our needs and wants. On the other hand, I am a detractor of their service department, which has nice people who smile a lot, but the customer experience is… just not good.

This is a car dealer that belongs to an ownership group that has been in business for some time. They are not rookies. Yet the CX delivered by this dealer is amateurish. Let’s just say that service experience in no way resembles the premium car I own or the premium sales experience I have received there. It’s like a Jekyll and Hyde kind of thing.

This axiom still holds true today in the new vehicle business: you cannot get them in the back (service) if you don’t get them in the front (sales). I have another axiom for this particular dealer – if you wreak havoc in the back, you may never get them back in the front again.

If I could, I would give the service department a negative on the likelihood to recommend scale. This much is certain – I will never, ever take my car there again. And I will need a long cooling off period before I even think about approaching my favourite sales associate there for another deal when that time comes around.

Consider this list of deeds. It could be longer, but I chose to stop at these 10:

  1. I have tried calling at different times of day to book a service appointment. I rarely reach a live person. When I leave a message to call me back, I seldom get a return call within 24 hours. And on several occasions, I got no return call at all. I kept thinking that I must be doing something wrong…
  2. I decided to get a value-added option for the car (real time traffic updates for my GPS). After I paid $200 plus taxes for the service, it took eight weeks for everyone, including the dealer, to figure out this service was not available for my vehicle. I must be doing something wrong…
  3. The manufacturer’s rep tried to troubleshoot the problem over the phone. They could not, and suggested I go to my local dealer to have it resolved. I made no less than five trips to the service department on the issue. And every time, I got a different answer – "we got it to work, try it again," "we could not get it to work and have reported the issue to our experts." I must be doing something wrong…
  4. Once someone finally realized that the service did not work on my vehicle, I requested a refund. The dealer said it had to come from the parent company since they sold me the service. I had to find a receipt and share some paperwork sent to me, then the dealer tried to expedite this for me. Good on them! After many months – I still had no refund and heard nothing about it from anyone – neither the parent company nor the dealership. I had to keep hounding the parent company and the dealer for an update about the situation. No one seemed to take the issue seriously, except me. I must be doing something wrong…
  5. On the same issue, I got fed up and wrote a snotty email to the business manager and copied my favourite sales associate. To resolve the matter, I was to meet someone from service to go over everything, again. I scheduled an appointment date and time. I showed up early. The time for the appointment came and went. That person was nowhere to be found. No one in service knew anything about this, or even how to reach that person with whom I booked the appointment. The service people smiled a lot, nervously, and tried to reach them several times, but had no luck. My sales associate got wind of this and immediately came to help. He was ticked off, almost as much as me. Within minutes, he got the dealer to pay me the refund right away. It then pursued the parent company for compensation. Hooray for my sales associate! I must be doing something wrong…
  6. On a different occasion recently, I got a reminder for a service appointment via email. It welcomed me to arrive for my appointment at 6:30 am. I complied and arrived at 6:28 am. The place was dark. There was someone walking around outside, prepping things for opening. He must have been visually challenged – he ignored me completely while I sat there for 30 minutes before the place even opened its doors. The sign on the entrance door for people walking in, barely visible from my perch in my vehicle, said the service department opened at 7:00 am. I must be doing something wrong…
  7. My vehicle was approaching the watermark for the expiration of the warranty on the vehicle. I called to get something fixed. I was instructed to bring it in right away to try to get it addressed. I checked in and was referred to a service advisor. They said that my next service was not due for another few thousand kilometers, so they could not do the work on my vehicle. I was puzzled. I learned later that I was very confused indeed because the advisor interpreted my arrival that day with a desire to get another oil change and service in under the wire. I guess they did not chat with the person who took my call to begin with or the person who checked me in. And there was no record of those conversations anywhere, except in my brain. By the time I went back for that scheduled service appointment, the item I was concerned about was no longer under warranty and could not be fixed. I must be doing something wrong…
  8. I complained to the service manager about point #7. They offered to have the next regular service appointment done at no charge to me. That was nice, but did not deal with the original problem – the warranty issue that prompted me to call in the first place. I must be doing something wrong…
  9. I pressed the service manager about the warranty issue. Try as he might, he could not hide the fact that he felt I had the details all wrong. He did not believe my version of the events. After some additional clarification from me, the liar, he got irritated and said it was unacceptable. He then pressed me to tell him who the service advisor was, that this warranted being fired. So… he was asking me, the customer, to rat out someone so he could reprimand them. There was no reference to fact finding, dialogue, or coaching – just firing. I said squat, and played dumb. I must be doing something wrong…
  10. The manager put a note on my file to have the next regular service appointment done free of charge (see point #8 above). However, nothing appeared anywhere on my file about the warranty issue. There was no CRM to log that. I got to repeat my story, again, to a service advisor, when I brought up the warranty matter one final time. What would possess me to raise this yet again? Evidently, there is nothing logged unless a service appointment is booked and/or a work order is prepared. The service department has no idea what was disclosed and previously discussed. It does not care how many times I have to repeat the same sad story. It has no idea how many cars I bought at this dealership, or my lifetime value to that dealership. I must be doing something wrong…

And here is a bonus one for good measure…

  1. The dealership has systems in place to notify my sales associate when I have a service appointment. He tries to drop by when I am in just to say hello and catch up. My sales associate knows me a little. There is a kinship there. No one in the service department can even say my name properly. I must be doing something wrong…

Promoters will forgive those they love for their mistakes. I do believe that I have taken more than my fair share of lumps from the service part of this business. Perhaps I am too patient. Perhaps I am a fool. Either way, I know for sure that I am NOT the one doing something wrong.

Top three takeaways

  1. It is good to have customer-facing staff who are proactive, inventive and empowered  to tackle customer problems head on.
  2. It is bad to have such vastly different customer experiences in the same organization - it undermines the brand promise and weakens business results.
  3. It is ugly to imply a customer is lying and even worse to presume you had no hand in creating the problem to begin with.

Written by Andreas Noe

Andreas H. Noe, MBA, BComm Marketing, is a founding partner of Phase 5 and has more than 30 years of experience in marketing research and consulting. Andreas leads Phase 5’s Customer Experience and Market Insights teams.