What if it was a £10,000 watch?

What level of service would you expect if you were buying a £10,000 watch?

Customer service is an age-old debate. I once sat with a very famous motor dealer group Chairman (a Knight of the Realm no less) who is sadly no longer with us, and he said that he found “all this nonsense about customer satisfaction bunkum! – but the customers seem to like it, it makes us money, so let’s do it!”

Moreover, for me that is the reality. Customer service, the experience of buying from your dealership, isn’t something you should focus on because the manufacturer tells you to do it or because you read somewhere that it is flavour of the month. It’s something you should do because your customers like it and it makes you money! In addition, it leads to a stress-free life – if your customers are happy then they do not complain and that takes a lot of stress out of the job.

Therefore, my point this week is this… Focus? How focussed are you on ‘customer service’ and the ‘buying and owning’ experience – no, seriously how focussed are you? Do you do the minimum to get your standards bonus? Do you trust your people to “just be nice to customers?” On the other hand, maybe you think “we provide everything we need to so of course our customers are happy?”

Customer Charter?

Perhaps you are one of the few businesses that have a ‘customer care charter’ – a set of defined values on how you treat your customers. A set of principles that you share with your customers that will allow them to understand what to expect from your business.

If not, perhaps you should consider devising a ‘Charter’ – a set of rules on how visitors to your business should be treated and set of values that will define the ownership experience. Help your team understand what you want them to do. Outline key actions and responsibilities, let your team know that you care and that you have standards that they must live up to. In short, set your stall out to be brilliant at customer service.

Urban Legend

In conversation with a dealer principal, we got to sharing ‘war stories’ about customer expectations and how the industry treats customers. I asked him about an urban legend that had come my way recently about his business.

It went something like this:

An ex-customer who had bought another brand had turned up at the service department of the dealership of their newly chosen brand with their newly chosen vehicle expecting a courtesy car. Unfortunately, he hadn’t booked a courtesy car and there wasn’t one available.

On explaining that he hadn’t been told he that he needed to book a courtesy car, although apologetic they explained that there wasn’t one available. So, he called the old dealership (different franchise and no longer supplying or servicing his car) just to unload to the dealer principal that the service wasn’t as good at the new place.

Of course, this was seen as a great opportunity and the ex-supplier sent a car round immediately to the new place and dropped it off outside for him to use while his car was being serviced by someone else. Now, there is no guarantee that he will get the business back next time the customer changes his car, but he has put himself in pole position. Plus, as a piece of advertising for customer service it is brilliant (and cheap) as everyone is aware of the legendary customer service at garage A and the appalling service at garage B.

Watch Analogy

As we talked through the attitude of many salespeople and aftersales people and the poor customer focus at many car dealerships, I drew the analogy of buying a watch.

If you think about the average price of a new car as being somewhere around the £10,000 mark with a profit on the metal of between £500 and £1100 then it poses a dichotomy for the average car dealership. Do you provide a service that matches the customer spend of £10,000? Or do you provide a service more akin to the value of the business to the dealership – the £500 to £1100 profit?

If you were spending £10,000 on a watch then you would expect to be treated like royalty. You would want the staff in the shop to go to extraordinary lengths of service to persuade you to buy the watch. Well, here’s the rub – in the customers eyes, it is the same £10,000. Except they are spending it on a car and not a watch. They want the £10,000 service and not the £500 service. They expect you to be brilliant, not just OK.


Set your service levels at the very top of your price range and do not accept any compromise by any of your team. Make your business the stuff of urban legend when it comes to the customer experience and watch your profits soar.

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