Live blogging the dealership

Just a quick rant while I hang out at Courtesy Nissan. Short version of the story is that 2 weeks ago I brought my car in because at low speed the car would die when I pushed the gas. Not break down, but not move forward either. Brought it into the dealership that morning and they couldn’t find anything. Yesterday I came out to the car to discover a sizable puddle of gas and a visible leak. And when I started up the car to drive back to the dealership this morning, the same lurching problem came back.

I come into the dealer when they open (7a) in order to get a prime spot in line, only to discover their mechanics don’t start until 8a.

Then at 8:15a, I’m told that they can’t find "any evidence" that the car was leaking gas or that there was a problem. Since the computer didn’t set an error, and they "couldn’t see any gas residue", they told me they’d be happy to hang onto the car overnight and see what happens after it sat for a while. Of course, I’d be paying for my rental since, again, the computer didn’t tell them anything.

Of course when I asked to see the underside myself, I immediately pointed out two, yes two area of gas leak "evidence". Only then did they decide to put their trust in themselves rather than in the computer.

Good customer service isn’t difficult. Trust from your customer is easy to build. You just have to want to create that kind of relationship. Here’s some tips fo rmaking that happen:

1. Run the numbers – Make sure to review your entire cost/benefit analysis before building a business that is developed are nothing more than cranking customers out as quickly as possible. Personally, I’d have a hard time recommending this dealership to anyone. When we turn in our lease in a month or two, I’ll have a hard time buying from this dealership. Is the hour of labor they give to researching my problem worth loosing a $25k-35k sale? Worth loosing the recommendation? Funny thing is, they probably spend a sizable amount on bad TV commercials that barely work.

2. Fight the stereotype – Here’s a tip: when people are pre-disposed by years of poor treatement to believe that your industry/business is out to screw them, don’t give into the stereotype. Make yourself stand apart. I’m not an ACE certified mechanic, yet I’m the one that had to point out the "evidence" of the problem I clearly witnessed?

3. Language is important – As you can tell from my repeated use of "evidence" (in quotes), I was irritated with the advisor despite his overall polite approach. Because he was clearly sending the "I don’t believe you" signals, I was immediately turned off and more willing to fight to prove I’m right. Maybe this advisor has become jaded at level or regular customer incompetence when it comes to cars. If that’s the case, he should be fired and a new, unjaded advisor hired in his place.

4. Rely on your customers, not computers – We hear stories all the time about computer mistakes. We know that computers are buggy, error filled, and often problematic. We know that a few misplaced keystrokes can turn a 20 year old man into a 60 year old woman. Yet, what the computer says is always correct. The service industry has become so dependent on the computer that human customer input has no effect on the conversation. Because the computer didn’t tell the dealership that I had a gas leak, I didn’t have a gas leak… despite my driveway still reeking of gas. If you want us to put our trust in your business, perhaps you should put a little trust in us, no?

UPDATE: Turns out, I was right. The car was, in fact, having problems. Big problems with the fuel delivery system. A valve was broken, causing a vapor-only filter to fill with liquid gas. After 45 minutes of removing the rear end (relatively short, really), the problem became obvious to the mechanic almost instantly from what I was told. Why this warranty work was being resisted so hard is beyond me. I’ve reported issues that were all inter-related going back four or five service visits now…

Here’s an extra rule to round out this discussion:

5. Apologizing doesn’t make you less of a man – After all this back and forth, a simple "Sorry about that, we should have just gone ahead and dug around a bit more before sending you on your way" would have made me love the dealership. As it was, you could tell the service advisor was doing everything he could to get me out so he could avoid the eye contact that would have given away his embarrasment.

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