Lessons Learned

Loyal readers of this space know that I am constantly preaching that the best customer service lessons are learned when we ourselves are the customer rather than the seller. There has been news on the automotive front recently that I feel offers all flooring dealers a valuable lesson in how to deal with customer claims and warranty issues.

Ford Motor Company is in the process of introducing an entirely redesigned model of the Escape. This has been a highly successful model in a very competitive product category in the past. In a market that is just recently showing signs of recovery, they simply cannot afford to lose sales momentum. Sound familiar?

Recently, Ford announced a recall on certain models that had a design flaw on a part made by an outside supplier that could potentially cause an engine fire. Serious problems require serious solutions! This is where the story gets good.

Rather than sending the customer a notice to bring the vehicle in to fix, they contacted the buyers and asked them to park the vehicles. They then sent a loaner vehicle and picked up the affected vehicle. The repair only takes about an hour, but that’s not the point. What Ford did correctly was to show concern for not only the buyer’s safety, but respect for their time as well. They did their best to keep concern and inconvenience to a minimum. They did not point fingers at their supplier, but rather took the responsibility themselves. By doing so, not only were their customers well served, but the media dropped the story after a day or two. No need reporting correct behavior for long!

Contrast this with the way Toyota handled their unintended acceleration fiasco of a couple of years ago. By the company’s own admission, they failed to provide timely information to media, regulators and the public. As a result, the negative press seemed to last forever. The loss of both actual sales and good will are still creating repercussions among some potential buyers even today.

My experience is that affected customers are typically willing to forgive a problem with their purchase if the response is immediate and genuine. In fact, this is a great way to build solid repeat and referral business. Since mistakes are inevitable, and people are going to talk anyway, don’t miss the opportunity to keep their words kind. Only when you fail to do so, does the cost outweigh the value.

Tom Jennings

Tuesday, July 31, 2012