It is that time in my life again when we have to replace both of the cars in our household! I always think to myself as this three year cycle comes around again that I should do something radical like keep one for an extra year so the joy of dealing with car dealers is spread more evenly across my life.
At the point of purchasing new cars; I am forced to look at things from the point of the consumer; which in turn always makes me consider the similarities of estate agency and car sales – aside from the obvious one that buying either a house or a car means you end up with a huge monthly commitment that isn’t easy to get rid of!
I am a little old fashioned; I like what I like so I have only once been ‘off brand’ with my choice of car in the last 20 years; dull I know. My partner however is not such a stick in the mud and so flips from manufacturer to manufacturer. When searching for a car; I was amazed at the extremes in difference in the customer service provided between dealerships; so much so that in the case of the car we have eventually ordered – we ended up buying the car from a dealership in Oxford because I refused to give the order to the local dealer who I feel dealt with our whole enquiry so badly.
This made me think again about the customer service we provide to our clients and made me realise one big difference in the two industries that I had not previously considered – my choice in going to another dealer was made way into the process of looking for a car; my initial meeting with the local dealership was fine – they said there would be no problem in meeting our expectations on specification, our monthly budget, the value of our part exchange etc etc and we were very happy to work with them. I thought to myself in hindsight these are the type of promises that all estate agents make when they sit in your front room and provide you with a valuation and tell you all about the company they represent – and at that point no wonder people have every confidence in placing their property on the market with the man or woman who promises that all will be fine… In the matter of purchasing a car; once the process started with our local dealership the wheels literally fell off (car pun intended there). Nobody returned our calls, email were ignored or only part of our questions answered, the PX figure was changed because of a slump in the market for used cars and basically everything turned sour… Looking from the estate agency point of view – it is of course that at this point, most homeowners have selected an estate agent and placed their property on the market with their chosen agent and are tied into an agency agreement of 10 or 12 weeks with a lengthy notice period; and they can do nothing to combat the poor service they are receiving. When buying a car, I simply called another dealer and spoke to them for an hour on the phone. A day later after looking at all of the options they presented I had paid the deposit and ordered the car – it was that simple and hassle free – in fact it was exactly the service that my local dealer had suggested they would offer but it transpired they did not.
When this business was founded in 1990, our directors made a decision that they did not agree with a lengthy agency tie in period for clients and that our clients should receive the level of service that they were promised at the point of valuation and that we should not need to tie any client up in a long agency period with a long notice period on the end and it is that philosophy that we still work to today – if any client is not happy; whether it is week one or further down the line – they simply have to give us 14 days notice to terminate our services and they are free to leave – in exactly the way I walked away from the poor service provided by my local car dealership. I stand by the fact that is a customers prerogative and the right to good customer service should not be optional; but compulsory.
The dealerships shall remain nameless; as will our competitors who tie clients up into lengthy agency agreements – but the message is always the same – if you provide a good service, people stick with you – if you do not; they should be able to walk away!