I borrowed my buddy’s Ford Transit Van. You’ve seen these vehicles. Big, tall, lots of seats, or in my case, lots of room for hauling stuff when the seats are removed.
When I got to my first destination a warning light came on telling me the tire pressure was low. It didn’t say which tire, but no problem, right? I’ll just check them all at a nearby gas station.
Unfortunately the tires on this vehicle required 86psi and $1.50 later I found out the little silver box at the far side of the gas station parking lot didn’t have the power to get me more than halfway there.
Again, no problem. My Honda dealer where I take my Pilot for service has air hoses right inside their service bay drop off. The Ford dealership is right by my house. I assumed they would have the same.
At 4:15 pm I pull into the Ford dealership’s service bay. No hose. I get out of the van and head to the service desk just in time to watch three people walk out of the room, leaving me all alone.
I look for a bell. No bell. So I wait.
Five minutes later I am joined by a lady with a white Ford Taurus. We stand there wondering where everyone went. She mentions the lack of a bell. Just then a guy in a Ford shirt walks in with his head down, goes over to the desk where I am standing, picks up a brochure and starts thumbing through it. I didn’t want to disturb him while he was deep in thought, so I waited to speak.
I never got the chance.
Without ever looking up—as though he was trying to avoid eye-contact—this guy took the brochure and a stack of papers off the desk and walked out of the room. He was gone before either of us could utter a word.
At 4:23 pm another guy walks into the room and starts shuffling papers. I say, “Hello,” for fear he might walk out before speaking, too. “Hello. What can I do for you?”
“I just need to get air for my tires.”
“Oh, you need to go around the corner to the other side of the building to our tire department.”
As I head to the van I see him exit the room, having never acknowledged the lady with the white Taurus.
I pull the van around the corner. There are several bays, but none that you enter like the service bay, so I find a parking spot and enter an office/waiting area. There is a gal at the counter with the employee.
The employee has the customer sign several papers and they leave together with paper floor mats and a mirror hanger with her service number. I wait.
The employee returns, starts shuffling papers, places them in a folder, then places them in a filing cabinet, not once looking up at me or even acknowledging my existence at the counter. I wait patiently. At least—unlike the service area—someone is actually there.
At 4:35 pm, after doing something on her computer, she finally turns to me and asks brusquely, “What do you need?”
It took every ounce of restraint by now to not blurt out, “Someone who gives a shit?”
Instead, I explained I just needed air in the tires of my van.
“I don’t have an open bay right now. Have a seat and we should have one open in the next hour.”
I drove the van down the road to the Honda dealership.
At 4:42 pm I pulled into the service bay. Brad looks at me quizzically in the Ford Transit Van and says, “Hi Phil. What are you doing with this vehicle?”
“I’m borrowing it from a friend. Had to move some furniture. I just need some air in the tires.”
“Give me one second to finish up with this customer and I’ll be right there.”
I knew how to pump air, so while Brad finished with the other customer, I grabbed the hose. I was on the second tire when Adam, one of the other service folks, came over to check on me.
“Hey Phil. Are you trying to take our jobs here?” he joked.
Two minutes later the tires were all filled to 86psi. Brad, Adam, and I had a nice laugh about my trials down the road at Ford. I thanked them. They thanked me. And I drove away.
Wait, did they just thank me for coming in to their building to get free air? Yes. They. Did. And they were upset that they didn’t get to inflate the tires themselves.
The Ford dealership …
- Didn’t greet me.
- Didn’t have a way for me to let someone in service even know if I was there.
- Didn’t acknowledge my presence on three occasions.
- Didn’t have an easy solution to an easy problem.
I left twenty-two minutes after I arrived without solving my problem.
The Honda dealership …
- Greeted me immediately (and by name)
- Told me when they would help me
- Allowed me to help myself
- Had an easy solution to an easy problem.
I left five minutes after I arrived with problem solved and some friendly banter on the side.
Which dealership would you rather visit?
PS I told this story to a friend of mine who drives a Ford. He started defending the dealership saying it was probably just a perfect storm of timing. I told him he was probably right, but they still lost a potential customer because of their inattention and poor attitude. Whether you like it or not, you are often defined by your worst moment—at least on Yelp. If you greet customers and keep the easy stuff easy, you’ll have far fewer “perfect storms.”
PPS I actually liked driving the Transit Van. In fact, I’ve driven several Ford vehicles in the past. I left Ford when this same dealership screwed me over with no remorse on a service call twenty years ago. Doesn’t look like things have changed. Brand loyalty only goes so far.