Keep Your Customers in the Loop

Every business holds a certain responsibility to its customers to provide the service upon which is agreed.

I’m trying to buy a car. It’s a used car—not necessarily a huge purchase in the perspective of many. But it’s a big deal to me. I’m looking to replace what currently acts as my daughter’s car in our family’s fleet.

I have a friend who owns a garage. Casey and his staff have been my mechanics for about 10 years. I like the work they have done to maintain the vehicles I own, and I have not been disappointed so far. Casey also sells used cars on his lot. I have purchased two cars from him already, and I feel he has been very fair in price and made sure I was getting mechanically sound vehicles. I see advantages to buying from him because I trust his judgement (and honesty) regarding the condition of a car. Plus, he knows what he’s dealing with when I bring the car in for service later.

Casey’s son, Marcus, is now taking over the car sales part of the business. Marcus is a nice guy and, having “grown up in the garage,” seems to know a lot about cars. However, I’m beginning to question his customer service skills.

When I first started my car search, I had a general idea what I was interested in, so I called Marcus to see how he may be able to help. I gave him a prioritized list of features I would like in the vehicle, told him my price range, and asked if he was interested in helping me find something suitable. I made it clear that I only wanted his help if it was going to be beneficial to both of us. I also explained that if my expectations were too high, he should let me know. He seemed eager to start the search.

The next day, Marcus called me with a vehicle he had found. It did fall in the price range I had specified, but besides being an SUV, did not meet any of my other top requests. I turned this vehicle down, but expressed my appreciation for his effort and explained again that if my expectations were too high he should let me know. He then seemed to disappear for 3 weeks, providing no additional feedback.

I decided to hit the pavement myself to see if I could find a vehicle to match what I had described. I quickly realized that I had substantially underestimated the cost that it would take to purchase what I want. After reevaluating my budget and accepting that I would need to spend at least an additional 25 percent, I test drove a few different models and found a car that I liked that covered all of the bases.

Rather than making the purchase, I decided to give Marcus another chance. I called him and described the vehicle, and he quickly said he could beat that deal. Within 2 hours, he called me back saying he had found the exact same model and year, but with 15,000 fewer miles and a price $1,000 lower. I only had to wait for it to be shipped down from Pittsburgh (about 300 miles). Of course I verbally agreed to the deal.

Marcus said it may take a week or so to get here. After a week and a half, I called him to ask for status, and he told me it should be on its way. Now, almost 3 weeks later, I still do not have the car.

I’m typically a patient guy. If there are issues with the car or in transporting it, I’ll listen. I understand that things rarely go exactly as planned. But now, twice, Marcus has set expectations with me for service, and twice he has failed to communicate with me when those expectations are not being met. It’s one thing to not be able to deliver on schedule because issues arise; it’s another to drop the ball when it happens. Customers deserve better communication.

Every business holds a certain responsibility to its customers to provide the service upon which is agreed. In our industry, that typically means on-time delivery of parts that meet specifications. Understandably, failure to meet these customer requirements, particularly without good reason, generally results in the loss of business. I hope Marcus is able to improve his customer service skills before he does substantial damage to the business his father has worked so hard to build.