Customer Service—Round 3


June 10, 2014

Over the past few weeks I have conveyed my thoughts and examples on what I believe is an appalling state of customer service in many service industries. I have addressed restaurant and retail experiences, now I will tell you about buying a $35,000 vehicle and the related good and bad experiences.


Last year my wife began looking to upgrade her SUV. After much research she had chosen a Lincoln MKX. She did not want a new vehicle but rather a pre-owned vehicle with relatively low mileage. After searching the Internet she found a couple of choices.


We went to the local Lincoln dealer and looked at options in the parking lot. We even went inside and no one, I mean literally no one was visible or even came out of an office to try and help us. After at least a 5-minute wait in the showroom we exited and were on the verge of getting into our car to drive away when a salesman came running out to engage us. After a few seconds of apology he persuaded us to take a test ride in a vehicle my wife was interested in. She liked the SUV and decided to talk with them about price. Going in, she had a pretty good idea of what she wanted to pay and how much she would get for a trade of her KIA.


One of the tactics used by the salesman was to take her keys to evaluate the trade in. Trade in value was pretty much in line with what she expected. However, the dealer price was significantly more than what she wanted to pay. We decided to leave, however, had to basically demand to get the keys back as the salesman continued to try and haggle, influence and get her to buy the car at the price he was offering. Finally we got the keys and left.


A couple of days later we got a call from the salesman who said he and his sales manager agreed to make “significant” concessions on price and invited us back. Obviously “significant” is a relative term however, our idea of significant was not anywhere close to the $500 reduction in price offered. Again we took “significant” to mean thousands of dollars not $500, and drove an additional 25 miles one way to be disappointed. By the way when we conveyed our disappointment in the $500, there was no additional negotiations. We left.


My wife found basically the same car with less mileage at a dealer over 1 hour away from our house. We drove there, were greeted immediately, and a lovely young lady went out of her way to find out what my wife was looking for in the way of a vehicle. She showed her the SUV my wife found on line. They went for a test drive and developed a nice rapport during their discussions. My wife loved the vehicle and began to negotiate on price. The negotiations were painless and my wife ended up paying approximately $1,000 more than she wanted to pay for the vehicle she found locally. She was willing to pay for outstanding customer service. We drove away with my wife’s new Lincoln MKX. The saleswoman was incredibly friendly and followed up with my wife twice to ensure she was happy with the purchase.


What a difference in the two dealerships. By the way, the local dealer continued to run ads for the initial vehicle for several months. The final price noted in the ad was below the price my wife wanted to pay initially. All the local dealer did was aggravate us by not being attentive, sell the car at less than what they could have sold it for, sit on it in their lot for several months, and paid for advertising space to promote it after they could have sold it to her.


Three industries—all demonstrating the good, the bad, and the ugly in customer service. Why does Nordstrom’s charge more, yet continue to do well as a retailer? They take care of their customers. Why do many, many business, do an extremely good job with customer service, yet others fail miserably? They take care of their customers. How do they take care of their customers? They never lose sight of who really pays them—the customers. They live by the Golden Rule.


Who pays you?