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Suzi Shopper: What retailers can learn from car dealers (What NOT to do)

Suzi Shopper: Thoughts on business from a consumer’s perspective

Ah, the dreaded car dealership experience.  I don’t think I know a single soul who enjoys going to buy or have their car serviced at a dealership, except maybe the intrepid Clark Griswold—and we know how that turned out for him (can anyone say Metallic Peat?)

I’ve bought one car from a dealership and will never do it again. Well, maybe if I have enough cash in my pocket to pick up a shiny new Porsche Cayenne that I can just plunk down on the desk and drive off without having to haggle with payments and financing terms...but I’m daydreaming again.

Anyway, my most recent experience with my local car dealer was just as frustrating as the last.  You see, my sunroof motor died, and no non-dealer repair shop would touch that job.  If I may vent for just a bit, here’s how it went:

Last October, I called to get a quote.  It was in the neighborhood of $600.  I decided to wait – it was practically winter, after all.

A month ago, I called to set an appointment to get the motor replaced while I was traveling on business.

Appointment day. I drop off the car in the morning.  By that afternoon (wow—fast!), I get a call from the service rep telling me my switch, not my motor, is bad.  Good news!

Alas…I don’t hear from them again until I’m back in town and I have to call them to find out what is going on.  Only then do I learn that the motor is in fact, dead.  So, now I’m in for the cost of the switch and the motor.  And all the labor.  Fine, just fix it.  Beach weather is coming, after all!

Today, the day I’m supposed to pick up my car, I get a call from the rep informing me that there were, in fact, two motors manufactured for my particular year and model…and, of course, they couldn’t tell which one was needed based on the VIN, so they ordered both.  Of course, my car needed the more expensive one.  Can you say scam?  That’s exactly what I’m thinking.

I am very fortunate that my brother has a spare car.  If I were renting one, this would be costing me much more.  Since I am not, I’ve decided to let my car sit at the dealership until they make some concession for providing false information and improperly quoting me 3 times.

So, what can we learn from this?  Setting expectations (see my previous blog on the subject) is obviously important to improve the customer experience, even if it’s not what the customer wants to hear.  Having the hard conversations makes for a much better customer experience – so don’t procrastinate, and don’t treat the customer like an idiot, please.  You’re just putting yourself ahead of your customer when you do.  If you don’t know, own up to it. If you do know, stay in touch and just be honest.  Just because you have a “captive audience” now, doesn’t mean you will get their business in the future.  Car dealers, you really need to pay attention to this, by the way. Doesn’t it bother you that you have a bad reputation across the board?