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This wasn’t my first Ford. Last year I traded in a Lexus IS-F for a Mustang GT. I never had a problem with the Mustang, which means I never had to take the car in for service.
I arrived at the dealership and walked into the service area where I waited in a line behind one other person. The person in front of me was told a state inspection would take about 4-5 hours. He thanked the service advisor for his time and walked out. He’ll likely drive around the corner to a gas station to have the inspection done.
Before I could step up to the counter a gentleman wearing a white shirt stepped into my path. All the other employees were wearing blue shirts, so I assume this person had been graduated to a new color shirt and likely some sort of leadership role. He came from a side office and stepped directly in front of me. He smelled of last night’s cheap beer and his shirt was tucked in messily.
While still in front of me he looked back into the office he had exited and with no regard for the customers around him, proceeded to shriek expletives at a blue-shirted employee.
“What the fuck is wrong with you? She is on a fucking personal call? Are you a moron?”
I assume the tech at the receiving end of this rant wanted to discuss a customer’s vehicle seeing that he had a tech sheet and key in his hand. The lady “on the person call” was likely a service advisor.
I stood there dumbfounded, shaking my head and thinking – this is what it’s like to be a Ford owner? Seems worlds apart from the happy faces surrounding Mike Rowe in the advertisements.
The puffy angered man in the white shirt stormed past me and another customer. He never once looked back, apologized or acknowledged his unprofessional outburst.
Looking around the other employees just went back to work as if this were business as usual. No on stepped up to say “Hey boss, you should take that inside and close the door.”
Why not? Were employees afraid of Mr. Whiteshirt? I doubt that was the case. It seemed like they just didn’t care.
I walked up to the counter. The tech looked at me, never once apologizing for Mr. Whiteshirt, asked what he could help me with. I explained I had recently purchased a Focus and had a Check Engine Light come on. He said, “Well if you leave it here we could probably take a look at it sometime tomorrow afternoon.” It was 10:00 a.m. and yet it would still take two days. A simple diagnostic scan means leaving my car with a store for two days and me taking a taxi home.
I walked out, headed to another store, hopefully one less violent.
The whole time driving I couldn’t help but think – did owning a BMW, a Lexus and a Cadillac (#humblebrag) skew my sensitivity to cutsomer service? Was I spoiled by all the pampering that comes with owning a luxury automobile? Sure, I had to wait when getting service at those places, but I never witnessed a JerseyShore-like altercation, nor did I feel like cattle being handed a number and being herded into an overcrowded waiting area.
The irresponsibly and emotional part of me wanted to pass right by the Ford dealer and go to the nearest luxury dealership. At that moment I wanted nothing more than to be behind the wheel of an experience that went further than just the product. Thankfully my wife’s phone call interupted the math I had already starting doing in my head.
It’s a team effort.
The goal for most automakers: hope a one night stand (test drive) leads to a long-term commitment (vehicle sale).
This strategy is effective, but tremendously shortsighted. Especially if retail is expected to be the foundation for the relationship.
Any productive long-term relationship, even those between brands and buyers, need complexity, fostering and love.
My impression of Ford’s product won’t change. They build some of the best cars on the market. I’ll continue to recommend their cars to friends and family.
While this did leave a bad taste in my mouth, it’s retail, not corporate. I get that. The people at Ford Motor Company do their best to deliver great product. It would be unfair to dismiss their hard work based on a few bad retail apples.
I’ll bet this is the case across most automotive brands in America. Constantly under attack by poor retail experiences with little to no recourse. I feel for these brands. I really do. Few if any other brands have to walk the same rope. I’m sure its hell on brand sentiment, loyalty and any other of level of buyer satisfaction metric.
In the end this little exploit helped me to understand something much bigger. When it comes to luxury, sometimes you really do get what you pay for.