When Car Hunting Turns Into A Customer Service Lesson

Lexi Tucker
Posted on March 7, 2019
(L to R) Ricky and my mom, Debbie (hi mom!)

(L to R) Ricky and my mom, Debbie (hi mom!)

TORRANCE, Calif. — It turns out you can learn a lot from people you weren’t expecting to. In our everyday interactions with others who have different occupations, it’s interesting to note there is wisdom in how they earn a living. If you look at the title of my column this month, you’ll notice it’s changed from Millennial Matters to Disruptive Discourse. While generational differences are important to note and adapt to, I think it’s even more vital to learn how customer interactions and the way you do business have changed due to disruption.

This month, I’d like to discuss two different customer service experiences I had…at car dealerships. Back in December, my mom wanted me to come along with her as she shopped for a Subaru. Normally, I’m game for anything. Car hunting does not make that list. Why, you ask? Because, like most my age, I have an intense dislike for pushy salespeople and human interaction in general (just kidding about that last part).

Dealership Experience One

The first stop on our journey to find the right vehicle started at the Subaru dealership closest to our home. As soon as we pulled into a parking space, I knew we were doomed. We got out of the car and a woman immediately pounced on us who was clearly waiting for her next victim. Because I feel it’s wrong to call a person out —she could have been having a bad day because it was New Year’s Eve and wanted to be anywhere but here — we’ll call her Karen.

Karen walked us over to her desk where my mom started to explain what she was in the market for. The first question that came out of Karen’s mouth was, “Well, what are you looking to pay?” Excuse me? How about, “Well, before we talk about anything else, how about we take a test drive and make sure it’s the kind of vehicle you want?” Time and again, it was price, price, price.

For the record, my mom was looking for a lightly used 2018 model. When she brought this up, Karen basically scoffed and kept mentioning how she’d been working at this particular dealership for six and a half years and had never seen any leftover vehicles from the previous model year. Yeah, OK, Karen, whatever you say. At that point we knew our journey at this particular dealership was over. As we were walking away, Karen asked us if we’d be interested in leaving our phone number with her in case something did turn up. Hard pass.

Lesson Learned: No one wants to be treated like they are just another sale to you. As a salesperson, you should think of yourself as a problem solver. The person calling clearly is in the market for what you are selling. Help them make sure your company’s product is the perfect fit for their needs. Yes, budget will come into play, but it shouldn’t be how the conversation starts. With so many options that allow people to not have to call, those who do crave that genuinely pleasant experience with the person on the other end of the phone. Don’t make them regret calling.

Dealership Experience Two

As we clicked our belts on, my mom and I exchanged knowing looks. When she suggested we try another dealership not as close, I groaned but agreed. On the way over, I looked at the website for Timmons of Long Beach and saw they had three used 2018 Subaru Foresters for exactly what my mom was looking to spend. We trashed Karen all the way until we parked and hoped for the best.

Enter Ricky. We got out of the car and he shook our hands. He introduced himself and asked what we were looking for. My mom gave the speech and he walked us right over to the cheaper car I had seen online. After a walk around the vehicle, he fetched the keys and joked with my mom and I as she conducted her test drive. Every now and then he’d look back at me to tell me about different features as well. This made me feel like I wasn’t just the “tag along.” He walked us through all of the different tech aspects of the vehicle, and helped us learn how to hook our phones up to the Bluetooth system. I even got to bump my tunes for the rest of the (incredibly smooth) ride.

By the time we got back to the dealership and he went to go check and see how much they’d give my mom for her old car, I turned to my mom and said, “This is the one.” It just goes to show how being  a genuinely nice, authentic person can sell much better than someone who treats you like the gazelle to their hungry lion.

Lesson Learned: When you do things right, you won’t just have one customer. That customer will tell another person looking to buy, and so on. I thought I’d be a Honda girl for life, but now I’m seriously considering getting a Subaru of my own. A good salesperson isn’t just in it for the sale — they have a genuine desire to help. Thanks for showing ‘em how it’s done, Ricky! 

Related Topics: customer service, Lexi Tucker, Sales & Marketing, salesperson, vehicle sales

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