Customer experience has become an industry “buzz term” of late when talking about customer acquisition and building loyalty. Most of the time, the focus is on the small things that turn a customer off — attitudes, inefficient processes, or other such actions. But what happens when, well, everything goes wrong?
Imagine if a couple visited a showroom where they were met by a salesperson. Before visiting the dealership they conducted some online research – as is the case for most customers nowadays. They had pretty much decided on which vehicle model they wanted – a Toyota Sienna, but had some trim level questions. They also, of course, wanted to touch and feel the vehicle. The couple proceeded to ask the salesperson questions and, to each one, received the answer “I don’t know.”
They went on a test drive and the salesperson was literally watching YouTube videos while on the test drive in order to answer the customer’s questions. Based on their own research, the customers decided they wanted a premium model loaded with features. The dealership only had one available and the salesperson went off to find it leaving the couple waiting in the showroom. While waiting they attempted to ask questions of other salespeople. Sadly, they were again met with blank stares and “I don’t knows.”
After about 20 minutes, the salesperson returned only to discover the vehicle sitting right on the sidewalk in front of the dealership. By then, the couple had figured out that they could build a car on Toyota’s website and informed the salesperson that they would just go home and do it themselves. In a panic, the salesperson begged the couple to stay and let the manager introduce himself (sound familiar?). After a long 25 minute wait, no manager had arrived and the salesperson couldn’t even find a business card to give them. The last interaction they had was a call later that evening from the manager apologizing that he had been busy and had not been able to service them.
Pretty much everything that could have gone wrong with that couple’s visit did. Well, I’m sad to say that it’s a true story.
So, what caused this whole chain reaction of bad experiences and misfortune?
- Lack of Product Knowledge: None of the salespeople had any product knowledge, which is imperative when selling vehicles that cost tens of thousands of dollars. Especially in the hyper-competitive retail automotive market.
- Lack of Organization: A habit of any successful salesperson is to walk their lot daily to see WHAT they have in stock and WHERE the vehicles are. Vehicles get moved all the time. Knowing what inventory is in stock and the location of any vehicle is key both when a customer is standing in front of you and for any customer enquiring about inventory over the phone – they may want to come right in for a test drive.
- Lack of Management Support – The salesperson was no doubt instructed to never let a customer leave without talking to a manager. That’s pretty standard in retail. But what happens when that salesperson tries to comply and no manager shows up? Frankly, I’m surprised that the couple waited 25 minutes before they left — I guess the Toyota website was keeping them busy in the Toyota showroom.
In the end, the dealership lost a sale. It’s a pretty good bet that the dealership was the closest Toyota dealership to the couple’s home. But they ended up buying the vehicle from a more distant competitor who delivered it to their house. What are the chances that this couple now uses the local dealership for service?
This story illustrates how important it is to ensure that everything is in place for an excellent customer experience: That the staff is knowledgeable; that resources are available and that managers are there to support them – for every customer that visits. Failure to do so is a slippery slope.