Opinions & Advice

5 Steps to better customer service!

Customer_wanting_service_2 Why is it so hard to come by good customer service in the automotive vendor industry?

Let’s start of with what I consider to be good customer service from a vendor in the B2B sector of the automotive dealer industry.

  1. Don’t over promise and under deliver.
    I find this to be a huge problem in this industry. From dealer website providers to CRM/ILM companies, they all say “YES, we can do that”, only to find out when you have the system installed and running, nothing works the way they promised. Once they have your money and a signed contract you just a number.
  2. Answer your phone.
    There’s nothing more irritating then having a quick question or a minor issue for tech support and having to wait on hold forever. Then after waiting forever, you receive a voicemail that tells you to leave a message and your contact information and someone from support will contact you back. Then you never hear back from them.
  3. Have skilled tech support highly trained and familiar with your product.
    I get so sick and tired of dealing with tech support representatives that know nothing about their own product. It’s even worse when I know more then they do. Don’t get me wrong, some issues are deep rooted and I would never expect a level 1 tech support to fix a major issue but if you have to get with a manager for every little issue and to ask simple questions then this representative needs to go back into training before answering the phone as a tech support representative.
  4. Call me BACK!!
    If I call in an issue and you can’t fix it right away, provide me with a ticket number and CALL ME BACK when you have it fixed. Matter of fact, call me back even if you don’t have it fixed and keep me in the loop with the progress.
  5. Check in and see how I’m coming along and what kind of progress I’m making.
    Here is where just about every vendor I have ever dealt with over the last 8 years in this business FAILS. I can’t recall ever having a vendor call me at least once a month to review performance, issues, or just talk about the product and how I’m getting along with it.
  6. Be open!
    Especially if you’re a CRM or Desking software vendor, why would you not have tech support open on Saturdays? It’s the busiest day of the week usually and when an issue occurs, it’s imperative to have it corrected right away.

This has to be the only industry that allows below average customer support to exist. I don’t get it really, why do dealer continue to sign these long term contracts for sub par products and poor customer service? If a dealer would show the same lack of support to their customers that most vendors do to the dealer, we would sell a lot less cars.

Those are my 6 steps for better customer service. If you have others and would like to share, please do so (lets keep this posting clear of vendors and allow only dealers to comment. Thanks!).

Founder of DealerRefresh - 20+ Years of dealership Sales, Management, Training, Marketing and Leadership.
Wow. Had a bad experience lately (I mean regularly)?

It is SO true. The only truly excellent customer service vendor I ever came across in the industry was Cars.com, and even with them I am sure it was that I had the best rep in the company in Oklahoma City -- Jojo. HE (not they) would take care of everything for me. If it was something that he had to pass on, he would always follow up with me to make sure it was done.

I think the point of origin of the problem is that people in the industry are so used to the issue, they don't make decisions based upon it. In other words, poor customer service is almost expected.

You mentioned website providers. In my opinion, dealing with most of the top 10 at one point or another, I think the problem is pretty much across the board. You can find glowing testimonials for any of them, and you can find hate-blogs for them as well.

I recently started working for one, and I can say that an emphasis has been placed (and a department created) to bring customer service to the top of the priority list. Just like with selling cars, it's much less expensive to retain customers than it is to bring in new ones. We recognize this and it is tops on our list of goals.

For other vendors, it seems that all of the "customer service juice" is used up during the sales process. Because almost everything is done through long-term commitments in our industry, the focus has been put on getting the contract signed.

It's just like in baseball. How many players have stellar performance during contract years, sign a 6-year deal, then coast through the next 4 until it's getting close to sign another. Same holds true in automotive. It's sad.
  • J
    Jeff Larsen
  • August 26, 2007
Great timing of the article Jeff...

Upon returning to my hometown dealer group six weeks ago, the Owner and GM's of the group entrusted in me to choose the ILM and Vehicle Management Tool (VMT) that I felt would be most productive for the Internet Departments success. What an honor, I didn't want to let them down.

Two weeks and much research later, I proudly sat in the owners office presenting the features and benefits of the company I chose, and how their product would seemlessly integrate the VMT with our ILM and most important of all... ROI from all of it.

Entrusting in my decision, the owner immediately had his secretary process the credit card payment to get the set-up rolling.

Fyi for all, I did not dispute any of the set-up fees or monthly charges as I thought they were fair for what I thought the dept could show in ROI, and may hopefully get in return for tech support service afterwards. Nor did they have to travel, present, or close the deal. I did that for them.

They said I was fortunate they were not charging more since it was a dealer 'group' even though it was only one DMS dial-in number to ADP and one outgoing vehicle feed for all websites and vendors.

Four weeks after payment for first month and set-up, I feel as I was LIED to by my sales rep and am now a beta tester for their product.

Product Issues: Lead routing between only two of us receiving leads is still not consistent, vehicle pulling is 80% without stock photos of new, the 'vehicle brochure' just sucks, and again most important of all- ROI... The reports do not show it accurately.

Customer Service Issues: The ONE tech support guy is knowledgeable, responsive, and helpful but all he can do is put a bandaid on the functionality issues that the sales rep LIED to me that the tool could do well, and now won't even return an email. Good luck calling the main company number without knowing an exact extension, all one will get is voicemail boxes.

To my fellow ISM's craving to know this VMT/ILM company's name; I don't want to use DealerRefresh as a resource to slam anyone, but at the same time what would you do in these circumstances?

All responses welcome!
<strong>Behavioral Science and CustomerBehavior</strong>

Harvard Business Review On Point republished a great paper on customer service by Chase and Dasu that uses behavioral science to explain how people perceive service. The paper is chock full of goodness on how to make customers feel better about a compa...
  • L
    Lao Shi
  • August 27, 2007

There are many companies in the market place worldwide that are great CRM service Companies so the examples are there for the rest of us to follow.

The problem is most do not want to follow.

You look at dealerships such as Jeff’s MB Dealership, 6years running they win the best of the best awards. This required luck, hard work as well as a commitment from the owners, management and staff.

You look at Jeff’s site, an ideal example of a boutique site without the “Pimping and Cookie Cutter” approach. I loved the image of the living room viewing the vehicle in the driveway. The site was an invitation to come in which is what a site should be.

There was a wise man, Walter Deming; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/W._Edwards_Deming

Mr. Deming ( it is amazing how few in dealer management country wide even know who this person is) laid out his thoughts many years ago on quality control; which was embraced by the Japanese Industry. As we can see the principles were well founded as the Japan Auto Industry has done well.

In Japan, Korea, Taiwan and China it is mandated that his thoughts and ideas are studied in business schools.

The examples are there, LL Bean, Costco, Dell Computer and many others to follow. Customer Service/Satisfaction is the focus throughout the organization.

I think the gradual move of some of the OEM’s to centralize their sales and supply channels, IE: Toyota, Honda through ecommerce and the Internet will help the industry achieve greater CRM with their clients. When you look at the strengths of successful OEM’s they have a strong, two way relationship with their customer base.

  • J
    Jeff Kershner
  • August 27, 2007
J.D. thanks for asking! I could write a few paragraphs and really rag on a few vendors but I'll re-frame. I just finally signed on with Cars.com so I hope you are right about their customer service.

Jeff, sorry to hear your having had such a poor experience with your new ILM provider.

Lao, thanks for the compliments on my dealers website. Though it has a long way to go for it to be where I want it to, but it's a great start. Thanks for the link to Walter Deming. Interesting stuff!!

So true with your example; LL Bean, Costco, Dell Computer. I would like to add another one to that. T-Mobile; I consistently get the best customer phone support from them then any other retail company I have ever dealt with. Friendly, fast and they always take great care of me.
  • B
  • August 27, 2007
I feel you on this one Jeff (and everyone else)! I love dealerrefresh and all the information I get from this site, but I have never really felt the need to post until now.

Our dealership just signed on with a local company here in IL and its been nothing but a joke. I found this company by reviewing one of the best sites on the net (Hummmmmm?) but maybe he paid more for the site/service than I did. I wont give out my site or give out the outstanding site that drove me to this company. But its been nothing but a bunch of lies and patches. They could have told me the truth and I would have managed with it to get what I want. Its a huge let down. I am thankful they have no contracts. But enough about them and their VM box only service.

The industry as a whole is a mess. I come for a very process driven industry and actually did CS for 8 years. Had I preformed like the vendors I use today, I would have been fired. Or my boss for that matter. I have to admit that the size of the company does not matter in this industry. I figured that the larger companies would have had better service, but that has not held true. I can understand the smaller companies trying to make it big, but these larger companies with deeper pockets need to get it together. Come on. The automotive industry is quickly getting with it and IMs are becoming smarter and expecting more. We deserve it and we PAY for it.

Thats just my two cents. Thanks Jeff and the dealerrefresh community for letting me get this off my chest. I cant go to management and say these vendors are a real pain because I'm the one that stuck my neck out to get them in the door. I could lose my job as sad as that is.
  • J
    Jeff Kershner
  • August 28, 2007

-->> "I found this company by reviewing one of the best sites on the net (Hummmmmm?) but maybe he paid more for the site/service than I did." <<--

Email me who you are referring to.

-->> "But enough about them and their VM box only service." <<--
I hope this is not who I think it is!!

Let me know please.
  • D
    Dan G
  • September 11, 2007
I hear you loud and clear!! I can't seem to get away from horrible CS with the majority of my major vendors.

Our website provider (I SO want to publish the name...but wont...its a big one too) never takes care of issues in a timely manner. I usually have to call numerous times and speak to a few different people to get something done. Very frustrating. I have been a web designer / developer for 10+ years prior to becoming an ISM...and I can tell you they flat out lie to us..even their sales reps. (case in point....100% flash driven sites are NOT what customers want...and no...search engines have not truly found a way to index 100% flash sites...grrrrrrrrrrrr) Problem is..they talked upper management into signing ridiculous contracts..so we're stuck with them...even though we haven't sold one vehicle to any of the "leads" we get from our site (only 5 leads last month!!!)

Our CRM isn't much better. Buggy....goes down at least once a week..usually during the busy hours. CS there is horrible...calls get transferred from one department to the next...calls don't get returned... problems take FOREVER to be fixed. And the same thing...their sales dept talked upper management to sign a multiple year contract.

I hate to think it's the industry as a whole. But I'm leaning that way. Can you tell im frustrated today??

Dan G,
You're so right, flash sites are nearly invisible to search engines.

As you know, there is a "work around" where they can add text into the bottom of the flash pages. In these early days of SEO*, this solution works fairly well. BUT... when your competitors wake up and hire SEO specialty firms (like mine), your provider will need a full blown makeover to keep your site in the front pages (sniff... sniff... I smell more fees coming).

If you and your mngt. team ever want to become visible in search engines, rest assured that you're not limited to working with your current web site provider only. Shop around, there are hybrid solutions that can "surround" your main site and point all traffic back to the home site.

*Search Engine Optimization
  • D
    Dan G
  • September 12, 2007
Yeah...they already hit our dealership up for more fees a month prior to me coming back on board. And there really is no difference form what we had before...less then stellar search engine listings.

And adding text to the bottom of a page...isn't that sort of black hatish? Just asking. What I have done in the past was separating the flash content into a XML file so at least the content had a fighting chance to get indexed...(that is if a client wanted flash..)

These automotive web design providers need to embrace web standards..plain and simple. Semantic markup and separating content from style and behavior is the way of the future. And they are not telling us this (us meaning car dealerships) They know that dealer principles want things flying around the screen...so that is what they sell them. And that is poor...poor customer service in my book.

Whoops.....there I go again!!!
Maybe we should start a thread about the vendors who continually frustrate us. If anything, it may get them to start changing their tune. What do you all think?
<strong>Customer Service Thoughts From the Blogosphere</strong>

Here are some interesting things I read around the blogosphere today... A frusterated USPS worker: We are not a hand holding service or even a true customer service department. We will document your service complaint, we will tell you...
Hello Everyone,
Personally being in the industry since 2003 on the Website/ SEO/ SEM side the one major thing I found is customer service is always the number 1 priority, as well as make sure to be open and honest about the products and services being offered and their capabilities. I believe the company I am currently with has addressed this issue by having customer service and support staff available 24 hours a day/ 7 days a week. Happy New Year!

Heyy bitchh :]
  • K
  • February 4, 2009
Heyy :]
Someone talk to me