When the Sale Hits the Fan

When the Sale Hits the Fan 150 150 Jamie Crosbie

Victoria wanted a new car. Since she had previously bought three cars from the same dealership, and even though she had recently moved several hours away, she chose to drive the extra distance to make yet another annual new car purchase. Her credit was good, and the sale went off without a hitch. After a few hours, she drove off the lot in a brand new year end model.

Two weeks later, the car brakes failed, the engine lights all came and the car stalled in traffic- all in the middle of traffic. To make matters worse, she narrowly missed being hit by an 18 wheeler and her 75-year-old mother (who was in poor health) was also in the car, shaken by the near miss.

She immediately called for roadside assistance. Needless to say, she was less than pleased that her car, with fewer than a thousand miles on it, not only almost got them both killed, but had left them stranded on the side of the road. Roadside assistance arrived after a two hours wait and towed the car to the nearest dealership. (Which was over an hour and a half away from her home.)

Towed with Less than a Thousand Miles on the Odometer

The dealership receiving the car advised her that the car was under warranty. They told her to leave the car and then come back a week later to retrieve it. This upset her and she told them that she wanted the dealership to replace the car. They responded that most dealerships would simply repair it and not replace it. They further stated that upon inspection, they were not able to locate the issue. They went so far as to question her version of events, until she provided photos taken with her cell phone of the lights and warnings lit up on the dash. This made her even angrier.

At which point, Victoria called the original dealership demanding to speak to the manager. Unfortunately, the sales manager was out due to a doctor’s appointment, and her call was not returned to the next day. (More about this later.) The preceding scenario is not only real; it shows how one weak link or product failure can kill a previously profitable long-term sales relationship.

A 2011 study, for example, demonstrated that customers are overwhelmingly responsive to good service, with 9 out of 10 people surveyed stating they would be willing to pay more for a positive customer experience. US companies lose as much as $84 billion dollars each year due to poor customer service, and or product performance failure.

While it can bring an abrupt end to the sales conversation, a flawed product or even poor service does not necessarily mean the end of future sales. Of course, the best solution to poor quality of a product or service is always to prevent it beforehand, rather than trying to fix it later. If and when it does happen though, all is not lost. The same research study mentioned above also concluded that as many as 70% of all customers will continue to do business with a given company following an issue, provided the issue is resolved promptly.

It may not work every time, but a thoughtful retention strategy can rebuild customer and brand loyalty, when issues arise. This kind of responsiveness is not haphazard and must permeate the company culture and mindset. If left unchecked, product and performance issues tend to create a downward spiral that sucks out profitability.

Poor service or product issues can compromise and damage your brand, leading to a sales slump. Even if your you spend more to market the product, the issue will only grow unless you forcefully course correct the way you respond to inevitable failures. This means that you need to anticipate, plan and respond in a way that makes the customer feel both heard and valued.

Back to the Broken Brand New Car 

After arriving at the dealership the next day, the sales manager was informed of the issue. He promptly called her and offered to replace the car, but she would have to drive to the dealership (a trip of several hours due to her relatively remote home location), to pick up her replacement.

Someone would either have to drive her there and then follow her back, or she would need to rent a car and then figure out where it could be returned. In the end, the sales manager made a decision to have two members of his team drive out with an identical replacement, bringing the necessary paperwork and contract with them.

This was outside of the norm, but given the lifetime value of the customer, the specifics of the problem, and the need to rebuild trust, he chose to step up with demonstrably superior service. The manager also made sure to include a few extras, such as adding the window shading at no charge. The issue was resolved within a week. As an aside, the customer later stated that she intends to purchase her next vehicle from the same dealership.

The takeaway is threefold:

  • Develop a responsive plan for restoring client faith
  • Be proactive in making them whole and rebuilding brand trust
  • Listen and respond appropriately based on the situation and client needs

Instead of simply trying to save face, taking responsibility for situations and working towards rebuilding brand trust, can save not just the sale, but the lifetime value of the sales relationship.

Jamie Crosbie is an accomplished senior executive with a proven record of sales leadership success.  Contact Jamie today and find out how to take your business to the next level. Beyond ordinary. Be extraordinary! jcrosbie@proactivate.net

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