Got Bad Service? Deal with It

A few weeks ago, I sold my motorcycle. The buyer had seen private-party financing advertised by the maker, and called about financing a small amount through the dealership. He was pre-qualified and ready to close the transaction, so we arranged to meet at the dealership one Saturday morning.

When we arrived at the dealership (the same dealership I bought my motorcycle from), the finance manager was immediately rude to us, and tried to reschedule the meeting, even though the buyer had driven almost 200 miles to meet me there. They were apparently having some sort of event at the dealership that day, and he did not want to be inconvenienced. When we persisted, he reluctantly proceeded with the paperwork (or more accurately, he made a colleague proceed with the paperwork). In the end, the buyer paid almost $1,000 in fees for a $3,000 loan. We signed all the paperwork and I handed over the keys, thinking I was done with the transaction.

Fast forward to last week … and another manager at the dealership leaves a message informing me that I need to drive to the dealership to sign over the title, even though I signed a power of attorney giving them the authority to change the title on my behalf. When I return his call, he tells me that the document I signed was incorrect, and they need me to physically sign over the title. The dealership is 45 minutes away from my office, so when I tell the manager I’m unsure when I’ll be in the area next, he immediately gives me attitude, claiming, “We did you a favor by doing this deal.” He then proceeds to threaten me with what “might happen” if I don’t sign over the title quickly.

Both managers I dealt with at the dealership were rude and ungrateful for our business, and were only concerned about being inconvenienced. I was livid. I allowed myself 30 minutes to calm down, and then called the general manager at the dealership to tell him the story in its entirety. He was kind, understanding, and quickly offered several potential solutions to the problem. Even though he apologized for their behavior, I informed him that I would never shop for a motorcycle there again—they had lost me as a customer.

Every Employee Has Power

It only takes one employee to turn a good experience into a bad one. It only takes one bad situation to force a loyal customer to look to your competitors. Every employee has the power to build or destroy customer relationships.

Deal with Employee Issues

I’m certain that my altercations with each manager were not the first they’ve had with customers. In fact, when I told the general manager who I had problems with, he immediately changed his tone and started apologizing—as if he’d been there before.

Disgruntled customers are a way of life; it’s impossible to make everyone happy. But when you receive multiple complaints about an employee, you need to investigate and take action if necessary. If I knew the two rogue employees were going to be dealt with, I might consider shopping there again in the future.

Ask for Customer Feedback

Not everyone will call you to complain about a bad experience. In fact, most customers who have a bad experience will just never come back. That’s why it’s so important to ask your customers for their feedback. Whether it’s a phone call, online survey, or a card you send in the mail, ask your customers for their honest feedback.

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  • Jenni

    I sympathised with you until I got to this part:

    ‘I informed him that I would never shop for a motorcycle there again—they had lost me as a customer.’

    As soon as you say that, the employee will think one or two or all of the following things:

    a) Yeah, that’s what everyone says. But they still come back.
    b) We don’t want customers who will cause us hassle and waste our time by complaining anyway.
    c) There’s no point taking it further or taking steps to resolve the problem as we’ll never see this moaner again.

    The point is that by doing the little cliched ‘I’m NEVER shopping here again!’ flounce, you lose an employee’s respect, and it goes from ‘I have to care because you’re standing right in front of me and may come back to annoy me’ to ‘Phew, I don’t have to do anything except grovel and it’ll all be over in seconds’.

    Don’t forget to wave bye to your dignity as you turn to the door…

    • http://www.brandoneley.com Brandon Eley

      Thanks for your reply. My exact words to the general manager were more that I would not shop there again if I had to deal with either of those two employees. Since they are the only two finance managers that pretty much makes it impossible for me to shop there. At that point, the GM did offer to deal directly with me in the future if I do choose to shop there again. While I appreciate his offer, I won’t be taking him up on it.

      I know a lot of people make empty threats, I was just letting him know that I would go to any one of three other dealerships within the same distance instead of dealing with rude managers again.

      He did resolve the problem — he sent an employee in a company car to bring me the title to sign. It wasn’t so much what they did (or didn’t do) that lost me as a customer, but rather the attitude of the two senior managers I dealt with.

    • jamie

      I only partially agree with you. While I agree that telling the girl filing her nails at an offsite call center “I’ll never do business with you again!” means absolutely nothing unless someone of import happens to be listening in, getting that same information to a manager can make a big difference. Like a friend once told me “keep asking to speak to the manager, and eventually you’ll end up talking to someone who isn’t used to dealing with customers, and they’re going to listen.”
      Saying they’ve lost your business is one thing, but they can’t ignore you SHOWING them how they’ve lost your business. In the movie Pretty Woman, Julia Roberts gets kicked out of the first store, only to come back a day later loaded with purchases. When the sales lady excitedly tries to help her, she sais, pointing to all her purchases, “I was here yesterday, you would not sell to me, remember? Big mistake. HUGE.” — Showing the company what they lost as a result of their rudeness really can’t be beat ;)
      Unfortunately many companies do not recognise a customer complaint for what it really is: FREE, useful, valuable feedback. For the one person who speaks up, there are probably 10 who do not. Same for a website: when someone emails you a note about something that doesn’t work well, think of it as a free usability test result. They don’t recognise it because instead of reaching someone who cares, it’s stopping at the black hole that is the customer service department.

  • Self Made Wealth

    It’s a nice post. You have brought an important topics in front of us. Thanks.