Last week was a bad week for customer service. A ripple in the force was felt from Cornwall in the UK to East Hartford, CT to somewhere in southern California. I was tangled up in the East Hartford scene, home of my Jeep dealer. It was awful. I’ll try to let my mind calm down a bit before sharing the details, I don’t want to overwhelm you with a long spewing rant. Let’s get back to England.
Ellen published a post about the differences between customer service in the UK and customer service in the US. She seemed to be on the fence. Reading her post, I would gather that customer service in the UK is a little worse than what she remembers from the US. I might point out that her most recent US experience was in the Midwest, where people are nice. It’s true, people in the Midwest are nicer than the people on the coasts. I don’t know why, maybe the tide doesn’t affect them. In any case, unless you’re talking about college football, religion (and we don’t talk about that here) or gun control, I think you can get along pretty well in the middle of America. Then again, Ellen appears to have also lived in New York, so…
Later in the week, my friend Brad Lewis went on a small tear out on the left coast about (the lack of) customer service. Brad knows good service when he gets it, and he recognizes and calls out bad service when he’s the recipient. I admire that trait in him. It’s true. It’s how we met. He got bad service from a bartender and he called the bartender out and a small argument ensued. The bartender was wrong. When a guy drinking expensive scotch tells you that you went light on the last pour, you add a splash. You don’t argue.
If it wasn’t for Ellen and Brad, I might have decided not to share my car-dealer-from-hell story. I actually wrote a draft, filed it away and decided not to publish it. What’s the point? It’s not like the dealership follows my blog or is friends with me on Facebook. They don’t care. They didn’t even send me that stupid:
“tell us how we did on your last service call…we really want to know…your opinion matters…please give us all 10s” survey they always send.
On the other hand, the folks at Jeep did send me a survey. Jeep got a few low numbers, ‘cuz some things broke on my Jeep way before similar things have ever broken on other cars I’ve owned. Jeep still got some good numbers, but the dealer? Not so much. In fact, the dealer got a few zeroes.
I guess it’s time for the details. I’ll give them to you thumbnail (expression hangover from Twilight Zone Marathon).
My Jeep was making sounds that machines make before coming apart at the seams. Sounds the Titanic made before sinking. Squeaks, clunks and bonks from both the front and the rear.
I was told that I needed to replace a bunch of things. I agreed to the recommended repairs.
Let’s fast forward to Tuesday afternoon. I had asked on two occasions about the when the car would be available. I had offered to make my arrangements to accommodate them, if they needed more time, but I let them know that my arrangements were complicated and that I needed an accurate estimate. The manager assured me that he understood my concerns and that my car would be available Tuesday afternoon.
My ride dropped me off. Then – I bolded that because it actually hadn’t happened earlier – the manager talked to the mechanic and discovered that the car wouldn’t be ready when promised. I complained. The manager checked and told me “I’d give you a loaner, but we don’t have any.”
This is the point where it gets interesting. It’s 3:45 pm and I’ve just been told that my car won’t be ready until 5:30 and that there were no loaner cars available.
As I waited in the lounge, I heard three other pissed-off customers yelling at my service manager. “You said…this isn’t fixed…you didn’t do…I’ll never be back…” and like that. He offered two of them a loaner car. You know, the thing that wasn’t available to me. He arranged a rental car for the third guy.
See, that’s how you lose a customer, you lie to them. I can handle expensive repairs to things that shouldn’t have broken or worn out yet. I can handle leaving my car overnight. I can handle asking friends to schlepp me around. I can’t handle having my concerns dismissed as if they don’t matter. I can’t handle being given a make-believe answer just to get me off the phone and I can’t handle being lied to.
I’ll have to ask my brother if the dealers in Iowa are nicer than this. I’d ask Brad, but I’m reasonably sure the dealers in LA are only nicer if you’re buying nicer cars than a Jeep.