Sunday, February 01, 2009

The Adventures Of A Shopper

I have had my first visitor of 2009. Upon my friend’s arrival he told me the saga of his recent adventures at four dealerships. The trade-in was a 2005 Buick, paid off and his check book was hanging out of his shirt pocket. How many buying signs can a sales staff miss?

First attempt: The Buick was in the shop for maintenance and a new battery. While speaking with the service advisor he asked for the sales department to appraise the car so he could buy a new vehicle from them. While he waited, he strolled the lot. After 45 minutes a sales consultant suddenly appeared asking “What brings you in today?” The reply was my car is in the service department. The sales consultant turned and left my friend alone instead of asking, “While it is in the service department come with me and you can see what is new?” That is all the sales consultant would have had to do. My friend had every intention of driving home in a new vehicle that day. Instead the sale consultant ignored him.

As the day progressed Scott made three separate telephone calls to the service and sales department. During the final telephone call Scott asked the sales manager which vehicle he would be driving home in, the Buick or a new vehicle. At that time the management decided they were not interested in taking the Buick in on trade at any number. Scott returned to the dealership to retrieve his 2005 Buick from the service department.

We must recognize that this dealership sold three previous Buicks to Scott over the past ten years. Is this any way to treat a previous customer? Could new personnel be in need of education? Could the dealership’s processes need to be reevaluated? Was an opportunity missed?

Second attempt: Next door, new faces with GM vehicles, perhaps this would be the lucky group to earn his business. This dealership is located next door to the original Buick dealership and Scott’s vehicle was still in service at the first stop, so he thought he would take a look while he was there. It took twenty minutes for a sales consultant to surface in the show room.

Greetings and salutations were exchanged; Scott told the sales consultant that his vehicle was next door being serviced. Upon receiving this bit of news the sales consultant disappeared. The potential customer was left alone, abandoned, with his checkbook still intact and a clear title to the Buick in his pocket. Scott returned home with the same vehicle he had been driving for the past four years wondering how much work will be involved to find a General Motors dealership that wants his business.

This dealership’s sales personnel did make one follow-up telephone call and half-heartedly made an attempt to make a return appointment. If Scott definitely knew he was going to buy a vehicle from them, and purchase on that day, then the sales consultant would show up at the dealership. If there was any question in Scott’s mind about where he was going to spend his money then he could see any person available at the store, as the sales consultant was going to watch his son’s ball game.

Third attempt: The GM dealership down the road. Where he went in and asked to have his vehicle appraised, the sales consultant replied that they could not do so until they landed on a particular vehicle. Scott identified the models and colors he was interested in and asked if they had those particular models.

Sales consultant replied that they did not have his color choice, however, they could get it and in the mean time they could have the manager look at the Buick. No discussion was had regarding the status of the Buick. Two hours passed and the manager still had not looked at the vehicle and seemed offended when my friend asked for his keys back as daylight was burning and he had a list of things to do that day and buying a new vehicle was one of them.

For those of you reading this saga, please keep in mind that at no time, at any juncture has there been any discussion of price, the value of the Buick has been quoted as $6,000 and at one location perhaps $8,000 depending on the vehicle being purchased. No one has even asked if the Buick has a lien on it.

Fourth attempt: to spend money: A sales consultant, who after a short interview decided it was acceptable to let Scott take the new vehicle out for a test drive by himself, greeted him. Scott told the sales consultant that he would return in less than ten minutes.

Perhaps the sales consultant thought Scott was not a buyer, perhaps he had an important lunch date. When my friend returned, he found the sales consultant had gone to lunch, the sales manager did not offer to help Scott with the buying process, nor did any other sales consultant step in. The test drive took ten minutes. The potential buyer waited forty-five minutes for the sales consultant to return from lunch. Time marches on and Scott, once again being ignored, departed the automobile market to dream about owning a new 2009 American made vehicle.

Since this saga began his email has been filled with rebate, coupons, and low interest finance offers from the manufacturer. His 2005 Buick is still available for a trade in and he is still looking for a professional buying experience.

For those of you reading this article thinking you cannot afford to educate your personnel please read this again and consider the expense of ignorance, complacency, or lack of guidance. There simply is no better time than now to invest in your human capital and implement an effective positive value added customer service process.

Dealer Marketing, February 2009