People have short fuses when it comes to problems at a car dealership. Too many people assume a car dealer is out to “get them” 100% of the time. This simply is not true. Honest mistakes happen at car dealerships, just like they do with every other business, but nobody believes that when it happens at a dealership.
When I had my dealerships, I had a very open-door policy with my employees and customers. I can’t tell you how many times I had customers storm into my office and state “I’ll tell you right now, I’ll never buy another car here again” or words to that degree. Without fail, I would just calmly say “I am sorry to hear that, you just took away any incentive I have to help you”. Also without fail, they would retract their statement and we could almost always resolve the issue.
When problems occur at a car dealership, yelling and screaming will seldom get the desired results. Like any other business, the employees just want the yelling customer to leave the premises, and that doesn’t solve anything.
I empowered my people to make decisions to insure complete customer satisfaction. Not every dealership is like that, but most are. I preached to my people that they may as well make our customers happy, because if they spoke to me, I was going to do it anyway. I never questioned an employee on why they spent money to make someone happy. You see, I knew the cost of replacing the customer with a new one.
Understand that there are department heads for each department in a dealership and going through the chain of command is always a good idea. If it is a service issue, start with the service manager. Usually, there is someone above him or her with the title of Parts and Service Manager, that is a good second stop.
If it is a sales issue, talk to the new or used sales manager depending on what you purchased. If you still have a problem, the General Sales Manager is overall sales operations including the finance department.
Then, if the problem persists, it is time to speak to the General Manager and ultimately the Owner. Sometimes that is the same person.
In some of the larger dealerships, you might get sent to a customer service representative, and that is OK, often their job is to fix the problem and make sure you are completely satisfied.
Whoever you speak to, try not to let emotions get the better of you. Have your facts written down, don’t make threats, and try to get the person to put him or her in your place. If there are documents, have those with you and organized. I think you will find most dealership employees to be reasonable people when someone has a compelling case.
If there is a warranty issue, remember your dealer has to work through the manufacturer of the car since it is the automaker paying the bill. Dealers have set in stone procedures they must go through. Remember too, the dealer did not build the car, their job is to sell cars and service them within the confines of your warranty.
Face-to-Face Is Best
I still believe that it if possible, talk with the dealership personnel face-to-face. It is too easy for the employee to forward an email to someone to handle, and it gets lost in the shuffle. Telephone calls are OK, but you don’t really know if you have their full attention.
My biggest fear as a dealership owner was the silent customer. Those are the ones who had a problem and instead of letting us know, they just took their business elsewhere. Give your dealer an opportunity to solve the issue. Going in person will generally yield better results.
The last thing a dealership wants is to lose your business. Be sure to let them know how to keep it.