Once again I’m reminded that the weakest link for most automakers is their retail partners.
My wife, who is 5 months pregnant, my son, a 20-month old handful and I just finished our traditional early Saturday morning breakfast. I get my son strapped into his car seat and my wife waddles over and falls into the front seat. I put the key in, turn the ignition and get the disheartening click-click-click of a dead battery.
I call my friend who comes to jump the car. Once connected the car starts without hesitation. We get home at 9:00 am and I call the local Ford store.
I explained that I believed it to be a bad battery as it wouldn’t hold a charge and was showing signs of corrosion around the negative terminal.
Service advisor: “OK. How does Tuesday sound?”
Me: “Tuesday? Its 9:00 am on a Saturday – is there any way I could come there now?”
Service Advisor: Service is done by appointment only. You will need to schedule an appointment.”
Two blocks away is a local mechanic who is well-know and very well liked by those in my community. I arrive around at this shop at 9:20 and explain what happened. He walks out to the car and says – “Do you have 5 minutes? I can test the battery for you right now.” I waited, he tested. The battery did have a dead cell.
He went on to say, “Well I can sell you a new battery, but with the car being under warranty you should be able to get it replaced for free.” I verified that it was in fact covered under warranty.
I called Oursiman Ford, again. This time I explained that I had the battery tested and it did have a bad cell. The service advisor said he could have the car looked at and have it ready by Monday afternoon. Keep in mind it is now 10:00 am on a Saturday and all I needed was a new battery. I offered to drive the car to the store, disconnect the batter so they could test it (again), verify the VIN and install the new battery myself. They said that wasn’t an option and stated again, “You need to make an appointment.”
Before leaving the local mechanic’s shop I had him change the oil in my car. It needed it and it was the least I could do for him as he was not only willing to help me right away, but also because he didn’t try to force me to buy his battery.
The Lesson Here
Why didn’t the service advisor step back and think outside of the box? “All this guy needs is a battery. There has to be a way we can work him in here today for a new battery.”
Instead he stayed true to the store’s script insisting that I make an appointment. He didn’t care what my problem was, he only cared that I adhere to the narrowly defined solution; schedule an appointment.
Now I had to go without my car for an entire day just so that Ford could replace the battery.
The same would have held true if I were driving a new MKZ as this store was a Lincoln/Ford location and the rules applied across the board (I asked).
Ford is trying its damndest to create a better-than-the-rest luxurious customer experience for Lincoln, but if the people executing these strategies are the same people who had me wait 3 days to change a batter, the brand and the experience are doomed.
Buyers, particularly in the automotive sector, have set the bar so low when it comes to the retail experience that had this Ford store stepped ever-so-slightly outside of their pre-programmed message to help me – this post would have been about how wonderful treatment from this store going out of its way; instead this is just another post of why brands don’t know when or how to care and why automakers have no clue how to make it better.