Believe it or not, despite the bad press over the years, the motor trade has always been totally committed to customers, without whom let’s face it, there would be no business. I know there are probably many examples where this statement simply doesn’t ring true but, apart from a few rotten apples, the business is filled with employees who come to work every day understanding that all potential customers who come into their showrooms will be making a major financial commitment and deserve to be treated accordingly.
Car manufacturers have now picked up the customer first baton and embraced the whole ethos to such an extent that it has almost become a kind of new religion.
For example, in the old day’s unhappy customers, who wanted recourse for perceived problems with product or service, could and would complain bitterly and, although they may often be met by brick walls, would if they managed to contact the right decision maker get satisfaction although they would need time and patience.
Fast forward to today and if complaints get further than the general manager the drains are pulled up and a stewards enquiry is under way. No, nowadays no matter how spurious the complaint much like M&S or John Lewis the reputation is built on just saying “yes you are right” to the customer. Although this may have short term connotations in the long term the reputation grows and customers start to trust the service and the products but most importantly the company. The belief is that the spurious complaints become fewer as the peace of mind becomes greater.
The ironic aspect of this changing policy is that although it can only be positive to todays consumer in the car trade, which is still governed by monthly targets and budgets, there are always times where customers are almost compelled into doing things the way the dealer wants them done.
For instance, it is a well known fact in the industry that if we enter the last weekend a few car sales short of target all kinds of incentives can be offered to encourage sales execs to sell and deliver cars right up until the last day of the month. So car buyers are given extra incentives to take delivery so that the unit counts for that month. Of course a full tank of fuel or the next annual service FOC or a year’s road tax are not to be sniffed at if it means customers can be made to be compliant, however when making such a large commitment is it really great customer care (or putting the “customer first”) if sales execs are under pressure to handover several cars on the last few days of the month? Will the buyer feel special if he/she is being hurried to vacate the showroom because the next slot is ready to be filled?
It appears that in the pursuit of achieving targets it is possible that customer service could be overlooked.
A dealership accountant told us that he estimates that up to £5,000 per month of goodwill freebies are given to customers to get them to take their new car at month end so that targets can be achieved. He believes that if the situation were managed better there would be no backlog and dealers would perhaps achieve budgets without having to give stuff away. More importantly perhaps, customers would feel far more relaxed and valued when it came to taking delivery of their next car.
This is especially important when you consider that with the technology on a lot of cars these days being only slightly less complicated than the space shuttle.