At what point does the hypocrisy become obvious that the auto industry really doesn’t want customers to come calling on the Internet?
Automakers don’t want customers calling them. Car dealers don’t want shoppers’ phone calls. New companies don’t employ community relations representatives. If you’re not reaching out to buy a vehicle, just stay away. Beat it.
That’s the not-so-concealed message of an ocean of companies in this business today. Go to the websites of any 10 automotive companies, and five of them will not tell you where the business office is. The sales lot? Yes. The president of the company? Forget it.
Dealership websites have pull-down bars that promise to let you “Meet our Staff”… but there is often nobody there to meet. There is no email address for the company manager. The service manager’s name might be there, but not a way to phone him or even write him a letter.
There is a phone number flashing in the top left corner of the screen. But chances are it’s a toll-free number that takes the caller not to the company, but to an off-site phone bank where the wonderfully trained phone professionals don’t have a clue how to put a customer in contact with the store manager or whether my sunglasses are still sitting there on the service lounge coffee table where I forgot them.
Brilliant new startup ventures declare their presence on the Web with clever graphics and artsy photos. But where are they? No answer. How can I phone and ask a question? No phone number. No names. No points of contact.
Companies don’t want to be bothered. They just want to display their names online next to some foggy comments about how they are committed to innovation.
The sites pretend to be warm hellos, but they might as well be cold paper posters at a bus stop.
Big companies invite “inquiries” with blank forms that a customer must fill out, with small spaces to write a question or explain a problem. Click the “submit” button to send it to a faceless corporate mailbox, and maybe someone will respond someday. And maybe someone won’t.
Is this really the bright new era of connectedness and social interaction the car business has been boasting about for the past decade?
I hope not.
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