Why sales is all about good service

In the old days companies told us, through advertising, how good their products or services were, in the expectation that we would buy from them. But that was before the internet made price comparisons and customers’ satisfaction ratings easy and social media enabled consumers to quickly share their buying experiences with friends, relatives and colleagues. People today don’t care what companies say about themselves, they care what other customers of those companies say about them. You’d think, therefore, that bad products and poor service would be as rare as a London black taxi on a rainy Friday evening. Sadly this is not the case, and some companies seem to be operating as if it’s still 1990, not 2016, as a recent personal experience illustrates.

" People today don’t care what companies say about themselves, they care what other customers of those companies say about them."

Last autumn I took delivery of a new model Audi Q7 from my local dealer. Within a few weeks the car developed a fault which caused the retractable information screen to make a terrible juddering and clicking sound as it lowered into the dashboard.

On investigation the dealer advised that the fault was due to a software ‘glitch’, of which Audi was aware but had yet to solve. I was assured by the dealer that as soon as the software upgrade was available, they would call me to arrange a time to install it.

Eight weeks of annoying clicking and juddering later, I had still not heard from the dealer, so one Tuesday, when I happened to be passing, I popped into the dealer. I was advised that while there was now a solution to the software glitch, a special software chip would need to be ordered. There was no mention of why no one had thought to contact me with this welcome news during the previous 8 weeks. I was advised that someone from service would call me the next day to confirm when the repair could be carried out.

By the following Saturday I had still not received the promised call from the service department, so I decided to drop into the dealer to find out what was going on. On entering the showroom I noticed that there were about ten members of sales staff wandering around of which a few were with customers. Two more staff members were sitting behind reception desks doing nothing except gazing into thin air.

"Two more staff members were sitting behind reception desks doing nothing except gazing into thin air."

In the service area there was one person dealing with a customer. I sought help from several members of staff who were wandering around: ‘Sorry I’m parts dept.’; ‘I just do car hire.’; ‘I’m just on reception.’; ‘I’m in sales’. I was, however, offered a cup of coffee on several occasions! I waited, and I waited, and I waited and finally, after about 15 mins the sole service lady returned from her marathon conversation with her last service customer. Luckily for me it was the same lady with whom I had spoken the previous Tuesday.

I asked why no one had called me as promised the previous Wednesday and she advised that she had gone on leave and left instructions for a colleague to call me with an update. She couldn’t tell me whether the part had been ordered or when it might be available as the dealership did not have internet access that day due to ‘a server fault’. I was promised a call the following Monday to update me.

I did indeed receive a call from someone the following Monday to advise me that they still had no internet access and they had no idea when the fault will be fixed. So I have a five months old car that cost me £50,000, which continues to make a terrible noise every time the information screen retracts and still no end in sight.

So what are the lessons we can learn about customer service from my Audi experience?

  1. Make sure that you have sufficient service or support staff. Most products sell themselves these days but they don’t service themselves.
  2. Don’t employ people to do non-jobs that add no value to customer, such as people sitting at a reception desk, looking out of the window.
  3. Make sure that you have a robust client care system which enables your staff to deliver on the promises they make to customers, such as telephone calls.
  4. Email isn’t the be all and end all. Make sure that if the Internet does go down you can still function with some form of back up and your staff remember that they can use the phone to communicate.
  5. A high price is no guarantee of good service but customers certainly expect it.
  6. Most employees do want to do their best but often they are let down by sloppy, unprofessional and incapable senior managers who don't set a good example.
  7. Small problems can become big problems if they aren't handled promptly, efficiently and professionally.
  8. People want their problems sorted out, not free coffee!

Our previous car was a Range Rover Sport. While it did develop several faults in the three years that we owned it, the customer service was brilliant. My wife and I will go back to Range Rover for our next car, because even if it does go wrong at least we'd be sure to get good service!

Warm regards