Buying a new car is a big deal for most of us. Once we get the notion in our heads, we actually start watching car commercials, notice what other people are driving, think about what we hate in our current vehicle that can be “fixed” in our new one, read online reviews, seek out the advice of others, etc., etc. Bottom line is, it’s probably the second biggest purchase you’ll make in a while (next to a house), so you’re a little more thoughtful about the process.
And while the fun of shopping for something new is always fabulous, the real proof-of-concept comes when you take that baby in for its first service check-up. Now that they’ve made the sale, how well does the brand treat you to ensure you’ll keep buying from them again and again? As a marketer, this is where the rubber hits the road … forget all the carefully crafted content, emails with offers, and direct mail packages about recalls or tune-up reminders. It’s the visit itself that makes or breaks your relationship with the brand.
Two years ago, when the last of my kids was headed to college, he needed his own set of wheels. But instead of buying him something used by a stranger, I decided to give him my 10-year old Acura and get Mama a little somethin’ new to spin around town. I wanted something sporty and fun to drive and considered a MINI, but after a test drive, found it a little too low to the ground for all the potholes in my area.
After getting a ride home from a friend one night, I fell in love with her Volkswagen GTI. It was good looking, roomy on the inside and gas efficient. So I headed to the VW dealer with my list of demands.
Tony probably couldn’t believe his luck when I rolled into his showroom on that fateful Saturday: I wanted a white VW GTI, 6-speed stick on the floor, black leather interior, sunroof. He made a quick call and my dream car was driven up to the door outside his office, 2 miles on the speedometer.
If I said I peeled rubber out of that parking lot, would that sound too braggartly? I love driving a stick shift, and Tony clung to the hand rail as I zoomed around a few tight corners and headed out to the open road.
SOLD! I negotiated a few extras (including a 3-year service package) and was out the door in two hours with my new toy.
At 5,000 miles I sauntered back in for a tune-up. Everything was good and I was back to terrorizing the roads.
I got a recall notice about some part around 9,000 miles. Booked an appointment, but received a call that the part wasn’t in yet, and they’d call me back. Never heard from them again.
At 15,000 miles, I was due for another tune-up, so I booked an appointment and watched as my “check engine” light came on two days before my scheduled day.
The problem really started when I got a call around noon telling me my car was being washed and would be ready to be picked up after 2 p.m. At 3 p.m., they called to say another warning light had come on, and they were checking it out. At 4 p.m., they called to say they couldn’t figure out what was wrong and needed to keep the car overnight. That’s always a big hassle, but I quickly made other arrangements. I called in the morning to check-in. Sorry, the car still wasn’t ready. I called at noon … sorry, still not quite ready. They called me at 2 p.m. to tell me it was ready, but I was busy, so my husband volunteered to pick it up.
The next morning I climb back into my baby, but in the middle of a 30-mile drive away from the dealership in a blinding rainstorm, an emergency message flashes at me on my dash telling me my tires were underinflated. Wha–?!?
I start to sweat. I call the service guy on the phone, tell him my issue and he, of course, says, “Why don’t you just stop by?” Um … because it’s INCONVENIENT.
I finally get back to the dealership by 4 p.m. and after a 30-minute wait, I’m told the tires were okay after all … somebody in the service department hadn’t reset the computer in my car after they were rotated. Grrr …
24 hours later I get an email from “Sandy,” the woman at the dealership in charge of customer care. She advised me that I would be getting an email from VW Corporate, and wanted to make I would be rating my experience as “extraordinary.” Since you and I both know that the dealership probably has a target Net Promoter Score (NPS) and my service rating would not be “10” I decided to email her back. I carefully recounted my experience, step-by-painful-step, and told her my experience would rate far less than “extraordinary.” I had barely hit “Send” when my phone rang.
Sandy was extremely apologetic and dismayed over my experience. Not only did she thank me for taking the time to respond, but she claims she ran it “upstairs” and was authorized to give me $500 off on my next service appointment. That’s all well and good, but since I have a service plan, that doesn’t help me at all … “No problem!” she exclaimed. Use the $500 towards new tires, or floor mats, or whatever my little heart desired.
Is this “gaming” the system? Is her interference between my experience and the corporate research team changing the way this dealership is ranked and scored on customer service? Probably.
Will I give them an “extraordinary” rating? I’m still not sure. I’m worried that if they found out I gave them 8 out of 10, they might take my $500 away from me. For now, I’m just idling …