The fact that trading conditions have been tough this year (to say the least)and look set to be even tougher next year, car dealers need to be lean, mean, fighting machines to survive and without the precious commodity of customer footfall that is going to prove somewhat difficult.
In advocating best practice and transparency in dealings with used car customers, it is vital, in order to expand or even keep what you have got, that dealers avoid cutting corners for short term gain and stick to the principles of fairness.
According to the latest OFT report the number of complaints about used cars is nearing the 60,000 mark so far this year and tops the list of overall complaints for the umpteenth year running.
Whilst the vast majority of car dealers are recognising that customers have a right to expect that what is being advertised is the same as what’s for sale, there are still many dealers who make claims about their cars which simply are not true.
The recent high profile cases involving car supermarkets demonstrate that even large, high profile dealer groups have retained some of the mentality of the old days, where buying a used car was akin to walking through a minefield. The claims being made around car checks and subsequent faults which were either ignored or not settled satisfactorily, indicate that there is still a long way to go if consumers are to feel confident that there is a satisfactory back up service once they take possession of their car.
As we often point out on MTI, cars are made up of thousands of mechanical parts and despite massive improvements in technology, reliability and better warranties, cars will on occasion go wrong and parts will wear out. The point is really how car dealers are prepared to meet the challenge when there is a problem to avoid the dealer customer relationship breaking down.
As indicated in the report more than 70% of complaints were about faults with used cars and that means 40,000 drivers could not satisfactorily resolve their complaint with the dealer and therefore took the step of complaining to the OFT. T hat’s a sad indictment of a failure to recognise what is fair and correct in customer service.
The fact that car buyers are left out of pocket by an average of over £400 each tells the story of how the message is not getting out there and dealers are then annoyed that customers are encouraged to ‘haggle’ for every last penny when negotiating a deal.
Perhaps the most disturbing aspect of this news for car dealers is that many buyers, the silent majority, just do not have the time or inclination to complain and therefore just never come back. It is therefore even more important for dealers to understand that if their customers do not have issues resolved they may not complain but they may never return and more damagingly will almost certainly let other people know.
With social media ever likely to provide a platform for customers to complain there is even more reason for dealers to do business the correct way.
The old adage is ‘if someone is happy with their car and the dealer they may tell friends and family, if they are unhappy they tell everyone they speak to!’
It seems, in many cases, that this message is just not getting across.
Smart dealers, who recognise the service to profit chain, are likely to be the winners against the fast buck, short term mentality of their other, less scrupulous competitors.