Okay, you have a great product or products. You’ve built a beautiful show room, store, or website. You have a “state-of the art” customer service program instituted. You’ve refined your hiring practices to attract and more important retain the best of the best.
It can come all crashing down because of one employee trying to make a little extra commission. Entrepreneurs have a 24-hour-a-day vigilance.
“It takes years to build a good reputation and only a moment to destroy it”
Every employee of your organization is a representative. From the maintenance man to the CEO. A smart CEO knows this. A problem can come from any part of the business process. Rectifying these can come in many forms. In addition, it is important to realize that not every transaction has to end up in a profit. Goodwill will go a long way. Even if you catch a problem and try to rectify it, the damage might already be done.
“The Customer is always right”
Words to live by, as a businessman. Let me give you a recent example of what happened to me and reminded me how important this is:
We were selling a company car, as we had “parted ways” with an employee and there wasn’t a need to have the extra vehicle. We had done our first acquisition through this dealership and it had gone seamlessly. The people were professional, the follow-up helpful, and the customer service on both maintenance and even on re-registering the car each year (something that is the responsibility of the owner and not the dealer)—was excellent. I couldn’t say enough “good things” about this dealership.
When it came time to sell, I know that we will always get a lower price at the dealer, but I wasn’t concerned. I wanted a “hassle free” transaction, there was no trade in, and this group had always made everything “hassle free”…so let them make the extra money, I thought. When I brought the car in I got a quote that was @$1,000 lower than my worst fear, but like I said….”okay”. It was a low-priced car to begin with and I just want the depreciating asset off the books. Now here’s where the problem came in. As I am about to bring the car in to close the deal, I get a call from the Used Car Manager. He tells me that since there is no trade in situation, the dealership won’t accommodate a car unless it is a higher priced vehicle. I told him that all parties knew this was a straight sale and the car in question to begin with and so we had made a deal, and I expected him to honor it. His response is that it was a mistake and that “mistakes happen” in business.
As I go into the showroom, I am met with the “there was a mistake, but let’s try to keep him happy and let’s see what we can do” tactic. This was warning signal number two. The first was warning was that they wouldn’t honor the first commitment. After a few back and forth exchanges on the original price and the fact that the deal was consummated verbally, the manager (who doesn’t take any cars straight out without a trade-in) then started to try to get me to accept a new deal at $2,000 below the horrible price I agreed to in the first place!
All the goodwill is thrown out the window
At this point, let me ask you (regardless of the outcome), what has happened to my opinion of the dealership? If there was a mistake made, how much it would cost the firm to “eat” the cost of the mistake and make it good? Could they not have made it back on a future deal by my “word of mouth” or on future business of mine? Wasn’t there an opportunity lost? Will you be able to recognize this in your business and turn a negative into a positive?
Again, this was not a financial exercise and I just wanted this to be over. But I did realize that I felt like I was being “played”. With that, I stopped all discussions and said that I wanted to speak to the Dealership Manager. Like a magic key had opened a secret door, the Used Car Manager said, “Okay, let’s do it at just $1,000 below the previously agreed price”. I paused in disbelief!
I exited with the understanding that I would come back the next day to complete all the paper work.
Here is where it gets interesting. I wrote to the dealership’s central management, via their website, that night and told them what happened. I had time to mentally review what had happened and was “aggravated”, to say the least. Within two hours a senior manager called me and said that he was completely sorry, embarrassed, and without question they would honor the original price.
So what is to be learned here and what happened?
A deal was done, obviously without the Used Car Manager knowing. He then tried to manipulate me and in the process alienated a customer (the wrong one, I might add!). The dealership general management tried to come to the rescue and probably saved future dealings with me, but I will have both eyes wide open next time, if in fact, I choose to deal with them again.
I urge you to realize how hard it is to get and retain customers. Institute policies and procedures to protect what you have got, and understand just how easy it is to lose them.