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One of my first jobs out of high school was selling cars and I have worked as a vendor with a CRM company in the industry for 7 years. I enjoy working in the auto industry and take pride in helping dealerships be more successful either through the products I sell or through the processes I teach from my experience.
About every three years, I find myself as a customer in the market for a new vehicle. Recently, that time had come and I was looking for a new vehicle. I am not loyal to a particular dealership, but I usually buy my cars from the dealership that has the vehicle I want, and at the best price. Since I am only in this situation every so often I thought it would be wise to document my experience, with the hope that dealers and industry specialists could use it to improve their processes.
I sold my car to a private party and needed to buy a vehicle within the next day or two. In deciding my next vehicle, I did my entire search online. I looked at manufacture websites, read reviews from Car & Driver and other respected publications. I searched videos on YouTube and jumped on vehicle-specific online forums where I could read what owners of the vehicle had to say, both positive and negative.
Once I knew the vehicle I wanted I went back to the manufacture’s website and built that exact vehicle. An inventory search showed that five dealerships within a 50 mile radius had the exact vehicle (model, features, packages, MSRP).
The Phone Up
I began calling these dealerships, asking if I could get some numbers. I knew that they would have to work on the numbers so I gave them my cell phone number and told them to call me back. I was surprised by the following:
Dealership 1: Called me back two hours later.
Dealership 2: Called me back in twenty minutes.
Dealership 3: Called me back an hour later, only to ask what vehicle I was looking for again.
Dealership 4: Gave me my numbers over the phone.
Dealership 5: Never called me back with an offer!!!
It just amazes me that there are salespeople who don’t call customers like me back! What also makes me concerned is that not one dealership that gave me pricing has called me back since to follow up.
One dealership I called answered with an automated service, telling me that “the call might be recorded for quality assurance”, only to ring to another automated service “call is being recorded” two more times! By the time I got someone on the phone I was pretty sure I wasn’t talking with anyone at the dealership, but to someone at a call center. I gave my information to them, only to be transferred to the actual dealership where I had to give all of my info again.
I ultimately went with the dealership that offered me the best price, which happened to be located an hour away from my home. An hour before I got off work, I told the salesperson at the dealership that I was going to come up that night. He told me that he was leaving early but to talk to his counterpart in the internet department. When I got off work I called and told him that I was planning on driving up and that I would have my two kids with me (3 year old and 8 month old). I asked if I could give my credit info over the phone to get all of the paper work started, so my wife and I didn’t have to spend all night there with our kids. I told him to also make sure I qualified (credit) and everything was good before we drove up.
We got the kids all ready and waited for the call. An hour and 15 minutes later he called me to ask if I own a similar make product: No. If I am currently leasing a vehicle: No. If I am active Duty Military: No. Then he says to me that the original salesperson misquoted me and included all of those rebates in my price he gave me. Now my lease payment would be $120+tax more a month! This was higher than two other dealer’s quotes I had received.
I understand mistakes happen but I think the lesson I learned is about managing customer expectations. If he originally told me a fair payment I would have been happy with it. Instead, he quoted me a very low price and got me to expect a low payment just to get me in the store, and then at the last minute the price changed. Now this may have been a mistake, but it also sounds like it could have been a dirty business tactic. I was shocked to say the least. I was sure glad I called ahead of time instead of driving all the way there with my kids only to find that the deal was too good to be true.
I ultimately had to call the manager at the dealership. I felt uncomfortable by putting the dealer in this position but it seemed as though the dealer could honor the misquoted price and have a happy customer or not honor it and have an unhappy customer. Unfortunately, it was only after a heated discussion, that the manager was willing to work with me. We eventually meet at a price we both felt comfortable with and I picked up the car.
Looking back, it was an interesting experience. One I hope that by sharing others can improve their processes. I still am surprised, it’s been 5 days and I still haven’t received a follow up call from the dealership.