To the Editor:Despite the paranoia about dot-com companies taking over the role of the dealer, it hasn’t happened, and indications are that it won’t.
But it’s not business as usual. Every manufacturer is stretching for conquest sales and customer retention. Customer relationship management has become the battle cry for the sales and marketing gurus.
Most programs are well-intentioned, but they lose their effectiveness as time goes by. Remember OK Used Cars in the 1950s and 1960s? We now have moved to Certified. What are Ford’s Blue Oval, Chrysler’s Five Star and General Motors’ Standard of Excellence programs all about? Have dealers slipped? Are manufacturers asking too much?
This is a customer-driven business, and the customer has two questions: Which vehicle do I want, and where should I buy it? The answers aren’t complicated. Spending millions on advertising only to have the customer uncomfortable in his first face-to-face contact at a dealership doesn’t sound like good customer relations management.
That usually comes from ill-trained salespersons who “practice” on the customer, and that stems from ill-trained managers who see selling as trying to “crush” customers.
For customers, the buying and service-department experiences come down to “the best of the worst.” The overall problem is responsibility without proper accountability. There won’t be much change until dealers and manufacturers design programs that are profitable for themselves and that solve the customers’ problems.