Car dealerships appear to attract the most customer complaints on poor customer service. I see it virtually every day, although this experience raised some interesting points worth sharing.

BACKGROUND

A disgruntled customer posted the following comment online;

Car salesmen always over-promise and under deliver. Yesterday I took delivery of a £47,000 Range Rover Sport. On the handover I realised that the service indicator had not been removed after the service. I then waited half an hour for this to be rectified. As I left, I noticed that the car had enough fuel to get me 20 miles. For the sake of £50 and customer satisfaction why not put some fuel in the car.

COMMENTS

Some of the comments raised fair and valid points on both sides of the coin.

One car dealer said that fuel is one of the biggest single monthly expenses and profit drains on a sales department’s bottom line. If there is no fuel agreed on the order, then expect it to have what the previous owner left in. Unfortunately, in my experience, customers don’t tend to like to give fuel to dealers!

Another said that it’s all about the experience and obviously yours hasn’t been a great one. The service light is probably an oversight – annoying, but not the end of the world. The fuel is something you should have either negotiated during the deal or at least confirmed by the salesperson before collection, but it’s all down to customer perception. £50 would half fill a Range Rover Sport and some would then complain that they didn’t get a full tank. What you don’t make clear is what you were promised and what you were not delivered.

A Regional Director of a well-known chain of car dealerships said that he couldn’t understand why you would want £50 of free fuel.

Someone said that their main gripe is the admin fees that continue to be applied to used car purchases – HPI checks, administration fees, preparation charges – the list is endless. The lengths some firms go to in order to get the lowest price online. That comment reminds me of Ryanair, which I have spoken about on numerous occasions.

Another said that if the car was checked prior to handover and a full Quality Check was done, the service light would have been noticed. A reasonable amount of fuel should always be a given. A happy customer is a very affordable marketing tool for your business, especially given the importance of social media.

Another individual said, “I exceed my client’s expectations. I think to myself, what would I want as a customer and then exceed it”.

Someone else commented, “What is someone’s ‘satisfaction’ is another person’s ‘non-satisfaction’. It is very personal and purely subjective. Why stop at satisfied? It should be an unforgettable experience”.

CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE

Customer service and customer experience are entwined. In an era where everything is much the same, the one thing that sets a firm apart is consistently good customer service and a great overall customer experience.

If I was paying £47,000 for a car, I would expect more than 20 miles of fuel in the tank regardless of how good or bad the customer service experience is.

A reasonable amount of fuel should be a given and a happy customer is an ambassador for the firm and brand.

The Quality Control in this instance doesn’t surprise me, speaking from personal experience with Jaguar Land Rover.

I bought a £18,000 approved Jaguar a few years ago that had faulty door locks that needed a software upgrade, car mirrors that were not folding properly, bubbling paintwork on the chrome plinth on the boot lid, loose clips on the rear bumper and much more.

Jaguar Land Rover has a poor reputation for build quality, reliability, customer service and customer experience.

Some firms set the bar for others to aspire to, and I have spoken about Jet2 and Lookers as shining beacons in a world of mediocrity. They know what their competition is like and consistently deliver great customer service. If things go wrong, as they sometimes do, they remedy it with the minimum of fuss.

The Regional Director missed the point entirely when he asked why anyone would expect £50 of free fuel.

The individual who pointed out that customers should get an unforgettable experience nailed it for me. Firms should aim to meet and exceed customer’s expectations and be five steps ahead of what a customer expects.

CUSTOMER LOYALTY

Common sense is a rare commodity these days. There is too much focus on profits and the bottom line as part of a short-term vision instead of playing the long game and encouraging customer loyalty and retention.

It is easier and cheaper to retain an existing customer than it is in trying to find new customers. Firms that don’t consistently deliver and focus on the importance of great customer service will eventually find that they will not have any customers at all.

One bad experience can go viral in minutes via social media and consumers are more inclined to take to social media and use various platforms to air their grievances.

Buying a car is the second most expensive purchase most people make after buying a home. Car dealerships need to realign their focus from seeing customers as a one-off opportunity to fleece them with various add-ons and commissions and aim to deliver an unforgettable experience which will foster and encourage customer loyalty and repeat custom for years to come.

Customers who have a great experience become unpaid ambassadors for the brand and recommend them to family and friends.

Keep the circle positive.

What are your thoughts on this? What good or bad experiences have you had with car dealerships?

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