Posted on January 20, 2023 by Dennis Snow
Recently I took my car in for an oil change and went to meet with the salesman that I leased the car with back in early 2020 (right before COVID hit). I really liked him upon first meeting him and felt that he and the dealership provided great customer service to me along the way whenever I had a service appointment.
Knowing my lease was coming to an end, I wanted to talk about purchasing the car at the end of the term. With car prices (especially used car prices) having gone crazy the past couple of years, it made a lot more sense to buy this one rather than turn it in and buy or lease something else. Plus, I love the car.
My appointment was first thing in the morning so I only had a minute to talk with the salesman before he got called over for the daily or possibly weekly sales team meeting/motivational session. It was held right there in the showroom so I had a chance to listen in on their meeting with all of the sales reps.
The past couple of years have been very good to dealerships as cars were being sold faster than they could get them on the lot and very often well above MSRP. However, that has changed rather quickly as the industry slowed down significantly.
The weekly sales meeting began with an overall positive vibe. Before it ended, however, one of the other sales managers kept them for a more serious talk which made it obvious the overall slowdown in business was a concern for him and should be a top concern for the salespeople as well.
He highlighted the importance of staying up-to-date on inventory to make sure they could provide their customers the best possible information. He was tired of them constantly wasting his time by asking him to check inventory instead of them knowing what was currently on the lot.
He stressed the importance of reaching your goal for the month (and from the board I could see, they were still a long ways off) and to do whatever they can to meet or exceed customer expectations. He also stressed how good he was at doing all of these things back when he was selling cars.
When the meeting ended, my salesman spoke with that same manager to get a piece of information for me and then I sat there for a good 10-minutes while this manager talked with him about the past weekend’s college football and NFL games. Keep in mind, this was only moments after he expressed his frustration with the salespeople wasting his valuable time. I suppose his time as the sales leader is much more precious than mine as the customer.
Now, I’ll admit, that weekend of football was an exciting one. I love watching and talking about college football as well and there were plenty of top ranked matchups that weekend and quite a few upsets that were fun to watch.
But, this wasn’t a conversation to have in that moment with me (the customer) in view and within earshot. Now, I’m not naïve. I am well-aware of how the car sales game is played, but if that moment was held behind the scenes away from me, it could have at least been played off as if my salesman was trying to create a positive outcome and got the big boss to agree to some concessions.
However, in that moment, this manager showed his true colors and it was now obvious that there was a disconnect between how he says to treat your customers and his actions. To his salespeople, he stresses the importance of being available and doing what’s necessary for customers while only moments later his actions showed that his thoughts on football were more urgent than letting his associate provide that level of customer support to me.
I understand that in the grand scheme of things, that’s a rather minor inconvenience. But I don’t believe that every post or story about customer experiences (good or bad) have to be about something big or earth shattering. Very few interactions end with a big disappointment or a big customer delight. Those may be the stories that get the headlines but the overwhelming majority are the little (often forgotten) moments that make up the entire service experience.
And it’s in those moments where customer loyalty is earned or possibly lost for good.
While this experience didn’t prevent me from buying out the lease of the car, it did alter my perception of the dealership. And in any industry, it doesn’t take too many little moments like that before the overall experience is diminished and our customers begin looking elsewhere.
If there’s one thing we don’t have a shortage of in our area, it’s car dealerships.
This is a good reminder to us all that when we’re “on-stage” (whether it’s the show room of a car dealership, ride operators at a theme park, servers at a restaurant, etc.) the show is on. Conversations about personal life, issues with co-workers or any of the other challenges that are a part of our lives need to remain “back-stage” and out of sight of the customer.
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My father, Dennis Snow, had a good post a few years ago about the importance of acting in a professional manner even when you think no one is watching, www.snowassociates.com/blog/when-you-think-no-one-is-watching
Here’s another one on leaders who “walk the talk,” www.snowassociates.com/blog/a-few-things-great-leaders-do