Last month, I was about to write this very blog when we had three wonderful pieces of news and I decided to write about them, rather than this – which I will call my Ranting Blog.
The reason for my ire...car main dealerships!
Recently I have had three dreadful experiences of poor customer service at main dealerships. It is often said, you get what you pay for but, as these experiences show, I severely doubt that.
One of our company vans was sent to a main dealership because a warning light repeatedly came on and the van would go into limp mode. Twice it went back to the dealership under warranty and returned with exactly the same problem. On the third attempt to get it fixed, the fault actually returned as the dealer was driving the van back to us. It is obvious the dealership had failed to fix the fault on all these occasions.
In total, the van was off the road for nearly seven weeks – that’s seven weeks we were paying for a lease and had no use of the vehicle. We were not even offered a courtesy vehicle! During this period, we received very little information from the dealership, leading us to suspect that, because the vehicle was under warranty and we were not ‘paying’ customers, we were being treated as a low priority. Our vehicle only became a priority when I threatened to write to the head office. At that point, we also got some recompense for the seven weeks.
My partner’s 20-year-old son took his car to a main dealer to have a full service, paid for as a present from his grandfather. When it came back from the service, it had a list as long as an arm of things that needed sorting. Now, the car may be 12 years old, but it has been well maintained and had only just passed its MOT with flying colours. We therefore knew when, for example, the dealer said the steering wheel had too much play to pass an MOT, this was a lie. That is just one example of something they reported that wasn’t true. Others included:
- Cam belt needed replacing – we had recently replaced the cam belt
- Sump had a leak – no, it needed a new gasket
- Clutch was worn and wouldn’t engage – I can change the gears with one finger
- Heating didn’t work and needed a new coil – our company garage found the fault to be a loose connector and did not require new parts
My 20-month old company car had the glow plug warning light showing and, as with the van, it was going into limp mode. I arranged for it to go to the dealership and explained I had to have the car back by 4pm. I therefore arranged to drop the car off at 7.30am and was assured it would be ready. At 3.45pm I called and was told the problem had been found and they would fit a new piece the next morning. I explained, quite gently I felt, that that wasn’t good enough and that I needed the car. They offered a loan car at 7.00pm, which again I explained wasn’t good enough and told them I was on my way.
The car still hadn’t been fixed, so I rearranged for it to go in at 7.30am and again explained I needed it at 4.00pm. When I returned to pick it up, it still wasn’t ready and so I sat around until 5.30pm. They didn’t have time to get my car ready, but they did have time to make a lovely little video of my car showing the wheels and telling me the brakes were 80% worn! Now, I may not be Carol Voderman, but that suggests the brakes still have 20%. Motoring is going to become an expensive occupation if we start replacing parts when they aren’t 100%. In the end I said no thank you to that, they wanted to charge me £800, and I called my local garage, who said they would charge £170 + VAT.
My favourite part of this encounter was the fact they had the cheek to ask me to leave a positive review.
These three experiences left me, as the customer, feeling abused. In all three cases, it seems as if the impetus behind the business is solely profit – if the cars on warranty, it can wait because we’re not making a profit; if there’s a private client, let’s see how much we can add to the bill.
Now, I am very happy for them to suggest things to make the car safe. I don’t want my employees, my partner’s son, or myself, driving around in a dangerous car but, it seems to me, the credo behind the lovely videos etc. is to scare us into buying things at a time when they don’t need replacing.
The customer experience seems to be missing in all these three examples. I would be horrified if our customers felt that we didn’t really care about their requirements and were only looking for ways to pile on the pounds. When we set up Cleankill, it was with the expressed intention of putting the customer first – a happy customer is your best advertisement. Recently we received a testimonial from a residential customer in Woking that backs this up:
“Thanks for coming out so quickly and for providing such sound advice, guidance and especially reassurance today, I am very grateful to you and I would definitely recommend your company to my family, friends and neighbours”
The importance of good customer service is enshrined in our company ethos - ‘The Cleankill Way’. Over the years, we have won and been named runner up in several business awards in the category for best customer service, including: Croydon Best of Business Award 2012, Seahaven Business Award 2017 (Highly Commended), Lewes District Business Award 2017 and, most recently, Gatwick Diamond Business Awards 2018 (Runner Up). We have also been named Provider of the Year at the ARMA Ace Awards 2017.
As a businessman, I know we have to grow our business and make a profit. I hope, however, we never lose sight of the fact that the customer always comes first. My experiences with main car dealerships makes me think this is something they have forgotten.