Dealer Forrest McConnell says the easiest decision he makes on any given day is how to respond to a customer who claims he or she didn't receive an expected product or service. He gives it to them.
"Maybe sometimes we forget to give them something. Maybe sometimes we didn't explain something properly. Or maybe sometimes the customer is mistaken," said McConnell, a third-generation dealer who heads McConnell Honda in Montgomery, Ala., and was chairman of the National Automobile Dealers Association in 2014. "None of that matters. What matters is treating our customers right. They get what they think they should have. Absolutely."
Some auto customers and dealerships publicly debate their interactions online or in the news media, calling each other out for everything from poor people skills to ignorance about products. In one widely reported dispute, a Ford dealer allegedly told a complaining customer not to return. That type of interaction — whichever side is technically "right" from the point of view of the F&I office or sales department — leaves many dealers shaking their heads.
"When you figure how much you spend on advertising, you can see it just doesn't make sense" to alienate a customer over a reasonable request, McConnell said. "People don't brag about a business if they are happy, but they do talk about businesses where they didn't get fair deals or had problems. I like feedback; I can't fix what I don't know about. And a lot of times, all it takes to fix things is an apology."