The Oaks Ignore Their Pleas

Reflections on Service

Posted in bad design, cool design, Marketing by Jeff Graves on January 7, 2008

Seth Godin posted a cool piece the other day about the concept of “all inclusive” in business today, and how it can either be a legitimate way to show customers the love, or a half-hearted effort that really isn’t going to help in the long run.  I just happened to read the post while I was at the car dealer, and I realized that I was experiencing a real world example of that very concept at work.

 While I was out of the office over the holidays, one of my to-do’s for the week was to get oil changes and Massachusetts State Inspections done for both of our vehicles.  Over 2 days, I took my car to a local Chevy dealer, and my wife’s van to a local Honda dealer.  The differences between the two experiences were striking, and I think highlighted Seth’s point.

My experience at the Chevy dealer started out by making an appointment to have the work done, due to the fact that it was the end of the month, and I expected a lot of people would be doing the same thing.  I arrived at the dealership on time, and pulled up to the reception bay, where I waited several minutes for someone to open the door.  I pulled inside, shut the car off, and walked to the service desk, where I waited another several minutes for someone to appear.  Eventually someone did, I gave them my information, and was waved to the waiting room down the hall.  The waiting room was about what you’d expect – a small room, a number of barely comfortable chairs, a tv bolted to the wall, and a table with some Chevy brochures.  In the hallway, was a couple of vending machines, and a “quiet room” next to the vending machine featured a couple more chairs, and a couple of desks with phones and power outlets.  I did plug my laptop in to one of the outlets, and discovered that the truck dealer adjoining the Chevy dealer had an open wifi network, so spent most of my time waiting catching up on reading blog posts.  All in all, not a bad experience…just about what I expected from a car dealer.

My visit to the Honda dealer started on a down note.  I didn’t have an appointment, so as I pulled up to the reception bay, I was disappointed to see that not only was the bay full with customer vehicles, but there were at least 8 cars parked outside the bay waiting.  However, a service advisor came out almost immediately to greet me, and let me know how long they expected it was going to take to service my car.  He also gave me a coupon for a free beverage at the dealership cafe (more on that in a minute), and I headed for the waiting room.  The waiting room, which was really integrated into the showroom itself, was a comfortable area with large leather chairs equipped with writing desks, wood paneling, a large flat panel TV on the wall, and several alcoves with computers available for customers.  Down the hall, there was an actual cafe – not vending machines, but a counter staffed with a real person, offering gourmet sandwiches, chips, pastries, coffee and cold drinks.  I sat down in one of the comfy chairs, found a plug and fired up the laptop to take advantage of the wifi that the dealer provides.  When the car was done (about the time the service advisor said it would be), the advisor reminded me that since I bought the car at the dealer, the inspection was free, so I just had to pay for the oil change.  When I got to the car, it had been washed and vacuumed.

 Two dealers, two approaches to service.  It probably bears mentioning that the Chevy dealer is the closest GM dealer to my house, and since I’m not aware of any better dealers, I go there.  However, there is a Honda dealer only 2 miles from my house.  I don’t go there, and drive through 2 towns to get to Honda North, because of the service and the way I’m treated there.  It may have cost them a little extra to build the waiting room, equip it with comfortable chairs and pc’s, build out the cafe and pay someone to staff it.  However, I know that every time I talk to someone who’s looking to buy a Honda, I strongly recommend Honda North to them.  I can’t honestly say that I talk a lot about the Chevy dealer.

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One Response

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  1. James M. Helms said, on January 7, 2008 at 6:00 am

    I must have missed the Seth Goddin Blog that you referred to. Great post, the point that you make is a very good one. There are many places that could have 10 times better service and 100 times more evangelists if they would spend 2% more. I suppose that it takes a real good manager to understand the value of doing a superb job.


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