Keep Your Frickin’ Word! (A Quick Lesson for Salespeople)

For the Love of all Things Holy! Keep Your Frickin’ Word!

A great customer experience – the kind that Chick-fil-A or Ritz-Carlton provides – involves just four things:

  1. Make “it” easy
  2. Manage expectations
  3. Keep customers informed
  4. Keep your word

This simply means: Make whatever the customer wants (a chicken sandwich; a room for the night) easy. Deliver (at least) what they expect. Keep them informed of any change in the expectations (for example, if the chicken sandwich is going take an extra three minutes to prepare). Deliver whatever you promise.

Simple enough, right?

You’d think.

A friend of mine is in the market for a new vehicle. He knew what he wanted (a lease on a new Honda Odyssey) and he knew what he should pay (based on his research). He went online, found a Honda dealer advertising a great lease payment on the Odyssey and called them last Wednesday.

(Paraphrasing from his email to me.)

My Friend to the Salesperson: “Hi, I see you’re advertising a lease deal for a 2019 Honda Odyssey EX-L on your website. The terms show $320 a month for 36 months at 12,000 miles a year, with $2,999 due at signing. Now, our credit is in the high 700’s to low 800’s range, so that will not be an issue. What I need to know is this: do you have a vehicle in stock that qualifies for those terms?”

The Salesperson: “Yes.”

My Friend: “Great, because we’re not interested in shopping around or haggling; so, I need to be certain you have a 2019 Odyssey that qualifies for those terms.”

The Salesperson: “Yes, we do.”

My Friend: “Great. I’ll be in at 7:45 tonight to finalize the deal.”

After my friend shared all of his contact information:

The Salesperson: “I’ll have someone from our leasing department call you right back to go over the lease details…”

My friend thought that was strange, but okay.

After an hour with no call, my friend called the salesperson back and got his voicemail. He left a message asking for an ETA on the leasing department’s call so that he could be sure and make his 7:45 appointment at the dealership.

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Three and a half hours later and still no call. Nothing from the “leasing department” and nothing from the salesperson. Zilch. Given this, he emailed a couple of the store’s sales managers (when he found their email addresses on the dealership’s website) and informed them of the issue and that he had no intention of coming in for the 7:45 appointment because “this felt like bait and switch.”

He also wrote “If the offer on your website is real, someone other than _____________ (who has now proven to be a salesperson that does not follow through or promptly return calls, so I do not want to work with him on this anymore) needs to reach out to me and, in writing, give me the specific details. If they align with my expectations, I will make an appointment to do a test drive and inspection (and barring any issues with the vehicle or terms not previously disclosed), purchase the vehicle. If that’s not a way you’re willing to do business, I will gladly take my business to a dealership that is.”

They Got Lucky

To be clear, this dealership got lucky. They got lucky when their “leasing department” and salesperson couldn’t be bothered to call a potential customer back that my friend just didn’t go somewhere else. Last I checked there are other Honda dealers out there. Moreover, there are also Toyota and Nissan dealers that lease minivans.

After some time, a sales manager replied, apologized, and had someone else call back my friend immediately. When my friend was able to return the call, the new salesperson confirmed they had nine Odysseys in stock that met the criteria for the lease offer.

Well, Maybe They Got Lucky

Had the first salesperson kept his word, my friend would be driving a new Honda Odyssey right now and I would have nothing to write about. Because he did not, my friend made alternate plans for Wednesday evening, and told the new salesperson that it will probably be Monday before he visits the dealership to complete the lease. He also asked the new salesperson to call him on Monday to set up the visit.

While he was happy a sales manager and new salesperson were able to turn him around with responsiveness and transparency, every dealer reading this knows a lot can happen between Wednesday and Monday…

Guess What?

On Saturday, the store’s CRM sent (what my friend assumed was) an automated email from the first salesperson (the one my friend asked the manager to remove from the deal). The email asked if my friend had any questions, given he “missed” his appointment. Appointment? What appointment?

Fast forward to Monday. This was the day my friend planned to complete the lease, remember? Well, the new salesperson – the one who promised to call my friend on Monday to firm up the appointment – never called.

Tuesday? Nope, no call.

Wednesday, Nope, no call.

So, today my friend finds himself forced to call other Honda dealers to see if they will match the deal. He doesn’t want to do this, of course. Like all buyers, he just wants an easy way to buy… oh, and a simple call back when one is promised.

How’s about we just keep our frickin’ word? Why do we make selling cars harder than it should be?

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