Customer Experience

I purchased a new car yesterday. While its always satisfying to get new wheels the point of this post isn’t really about the new car experience. The process of buying a car can be summarized very plainly, it sucks. I sat on an uncomfortable chair in a less than interesting showroom listening to bored sales people talk about mundane things as a thunderstorm raged outside. I was one of two customers in the showroom, the other guy was waiting on something or other to come thru while I was not so patiently waiting on the paperwork guy. As I am waiting the salesperson I dealt with proceeded to try and sell me all manner of interior protections suggesting that fluids can seep into my new leather seats and remain in the foam potentially releasing an airborne toxin. I replied that I didn’t think that was actually a thing and if so I should probably reconsider buying this particular car. His descriptions of fluids in the seat cavities was akin to someone, hopefully not me, being cut up by a chainsaw while sitting in the rear passenger compartment. There were three levels of this epic save your seats compound, I would ask you now to pause and ponder the fact that there are three levels of interior protection options. I asked the obvious, does the cheapest option allow 75 percent of the fluids to permeate through the seats, does it include a gas mask for the releasing poisonous gasses? Perhaps the Goldilocks option only allows 50 percent of the liquids in? As you can likely tell I did not opt for any of these solutions. My salesperson was visibly disappointed more or less slapping the brochure onto his desk. There is always a fine line when presenting service options for something new and expensive. The salesperson had just spent time telling me that the vehicle I was buying is awesome then proceeds to tell me that the seats have no ability to resist even a droplet of Kool Aid.

I was finally summoned to “Johnny Closers” office to finalize the transaction. First, as a technologist, I am going to point out to great dismay that car dealers are still using dot matrix printers. For the love of all things its 2017, get real. Second, why the hell is all this crap still on paper? Hand me a tablet with all the documents loaded, I sign my name the required 552,000 times (I actually think I may have bought a house along with the Parthenon as well), and let me be on my way. That of course is not how it went — it was purely analog with carbon copies flying about and Johnny placing my copies in a giant envelope I will likely never ever look at again. I have now been at the dealership for three hours, my deal was actually done within the first 45 minutes, it was a pretty simple transaction. My salesperson informed me shortly after I put my all powerful and legally binding initials on the piece of notebook paper with the serious and vast negotiation locked in that “Johnny” requires about 15-20 minutes to get all the paperwork entered. That ended up being a doctors office 20, the math came out to 1 hour and 25 minutes to be exact. As I am finally going thru the stacks of paper and arthritically signing the myriad of documents “Johnny” is fielding phone calls, not just answering and quickly dispensing with the callers, he is having 3, 5, 7, 10 minute conversations. Meanwhile I am sitting there waiting for the next slew of documents to come my way. When he finally gets off the phone and we make our way thru the Yellow Pages of documents he pulls out the same crime scene leather protection good, better, best sheet. I explained that I had already been through this with my salesperson and I wasn’t interested, shocked he replied, “He is good but I explain it far better and I know you won’t want to decline this amazing protection package.” As a sales minded person I just had to hear this pitch as the words “what a tool” floated around in my deadening brain. He went with the “old school” telling me about some of his customers that pretty much lost everything because they didn’t buy his seat disaster prevention solution, “if they had to do it all over again they all said without a doubt they would buy.” At this point I am so numb to the idiocy of the situation I could only reply, “Johnny (moniker), I do not want nor will I ever buy the leaky car interior fluid repelling system.” I was having fun calling it several different things; of course he said I had 30 days to change my mind, what a relief.

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Thankfully my salesperson collected me and escorted me to my new car, Johnny followed as I did not think he had completely given up on selling me the leather seat condom package. My salesperson hands me the two keys and asks if I need help backing it out of the service bay where they had kindly placed it as it was raining outside. He did not offer to show me anything. In all honesty I didn’t need him to; I could teach a class in Apple Car Play. However, he could have shown me where the hood release was (that’s a thing, right?), where to put in windshield wiper fluid (not that I would but, hey), or demonstrate how the rear seats fold down with the push of a button, a feature I discovered on my own. It was after closing but that’s no excuse. Now we enter the moral of the story. As I am about to climb into my dangerously unprotected driver side seat they pull out a customer survey form. Now I know why Johnny tagged along as they both hit me like velociraptors explaining that the only column that matters is “excellent,” anything less is a failing grade in the eyes of their faction. They asked that when the survey comes I please score my experience as excellent, it would really help them out. As you might have surmised, I have a few points here. First, as someone that loves our own Customer Experience Survey, I find it hugely distasteful and completely valueless to suggest to your client how they score you. The results are a basis of measurement on areas that are strengths along with things that could use improvement. If you cook the numbers the survey has zero value. It was obvious they are incentivized by the results, which is also a huge mistake. A company should not need to incentivize their teams for doing the right things and providing a great experience for clients. That must be the absolute focus and mission at all times. I did not feel I received an excellent experience so I am certainly not going to cater to these goofballs because they want to hit a key performance indicator by the end of the month. Here is a really easy suggestion. Instead of telling me to rate my experience as excellent why not actually make my damn experience excellent. If you focused your attention on me, the customer, if you demonstrated professionalism, pride, confidence, organization, expertise and skill, then an excellent rating you will have.

In the end I scored them based on how my experience was, which was less than satisfactory. When I saw the car in the daylight the following day, I was astonished to see that despite it only having 20 miles on it was caked with mud in the interior rear door sills. In fact the car was pretty terribly ported — it’s black and there were streaks and soap residue all over, it was terrible. Buying a car is a special occasion, a big life purchase. No matter what you sell, there should never be any sign of complacency on the part of the representative providing the goods and/or services. Purchases are often emotional, even B2B transactions. It does not matter that you may do these transactions all the time, your client does not. If you want an excellent score, be excellent; it really isn’t all that hard. Hopefully my new seats hold up under the pressure and the chaos found in the modern suburban environment.

This blog was reprinted with permission from Frank Sabella and originally appeared here.