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Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Cost of Confusion

How many ------ people does it take to change a light bulb? There are as many answers to this joke as there are to filling in the blank in the question.  But when it comes to purchasing a car, I recently came across a situation where it took 12 people from the dealer to be involved directly with me. I have purchased cars from dealers in the past, and it took only 2, sometimes 3 people to make the deal happen. This is a dealer that is out of control! This is also a story with many teachable moments. See how many mistakes were made. How many are made in your organization?


There were 3 sales people (one rather junior, who did most of the work. We all started somewhere), 2 sales managers, 1 technician, 2 sales administrators and finally 4 people representing the finance function (including one who collected the funds and provided receipts). I should make it clear that this was a cash sale, without any financing involved.


Previewing the car and coming to terms on a price was similar to other transactions. Two days prior to entering this dealership, some 60 miles from my base of operation, I called to first reconfirm that the specific car I found on line was actually on site available for sale, and to confirm that this New England dealership could handle the process of transferring the registration of the Florida plates. I spoke to the sales rep who answered the phone, held me on the line and then confirmed all the above.


Two days later, as I was preparing to visit the dealer, I called again with the same questions. A different sales rep held me on the line, and responded “yes”, as the first rep was not at the dealership at the time. When I arrived at the dealership, I asked for a specific sales rep that I found on the dealer web site as “good” to deal with. Unfortunately he was not available and I was redirected to the person that answered the phone earlier in the day, after I found that the first rep from two days earlier was also not available. This rep brought the car around and we did a test drive. There were some discrepancies with the on line site list of options. While this is a dealership mistake these were not deal breakers, however during this process our rep (been with the firm for one month) obtained help from a more experienced sales person (who I later found out described himself as a sales manager)., who took control of the discussion. Now I had two dealer people in the discussion, and we arrived at a deal.


Understanding the process needed for Florida plate transfer was a research and time consuming project on the part of the sales organization personnel. A mistake!! However, it appeared that no one knew how to get it done.  The result, after hours of research, was that I walked out on the sale.


The above occurred on a Friday, over 60 miles from my base of operation. Over the weekend, our own time and research made a solution visible. On Monday, the sales manager’s manager I called determined that the car was still available and the previously agreed deal could still be accomplished.


After making the 60 mile trip once again, the two of the sales people who made the deal said they were trying to find a phone number to reach me over the weekend. They made the mistake of not obtaining it from me earlier, they had my address only. It did not seem they had anything new to add, however. I brought copies of all the needed forms and a list of contacts, I had already confirmed.


The novice sales person and I spent hours filling out the forms and reconfirming the data and contacts. He took notes on pieces of scrape paper found lying around on a shared desk. He turned this information over to a sales administrative desk where two people created on line seller forms, reflecting incorrect information through three cycles to get it right, due to the difference in transferring Florida plates in place of registering in their home state. They only understood one way to do things, yet another set of mistakes on the part of the selling organization. I finally had to tell them how to fill out their own forms, which they did.


The sales people are compensated with a flat fee (no matter the price of the car) going to the initial sales person. In this case the fee was split 50/50 with the novice and the person that took my first phone call and provided the information I needed.


The corrected documents were forwarded to a busy finance person. After a very long wait, the novice sales person under pressure from me, attempted to move the file to another finance person. After a quick review this finance person gave the file back to the first finance person. Another set of dealer mistakes here.


 The overworked finance person, finally presented me with yet another set of documents that substantially altered the price, based on a set of administrative tasks she said no one else understood. She said she had a process to deal with our issue, that was not known by anyone in the sales organization, and was different then the one I was promoting.  More mistakes here.


Her process added about 30% to my costs. When I explained the time and effort a group of people, including myself, put in to the process, I was now promoting, she initially refused to deal with it. Yet another mistake! She asked me to leave her office so she could deal with other customers. Another Mistake! I refused! Escalating to her manager produced an agreement to go my way which was simpler, faster, less costly and all the forms were completed.


When the finance person finally prepared he needed documents, and forwarded them for processing, one of the major seller documents was incomplete, and had to be redone and resent. The fee I had paid the dealer to pay the Boca firm, did not get paid. More mistakes!!! And more time before I could drive the car off the lot, even though I paid for it. This added delay caused a five additional day delay (due to a holiday weekend) before I could drive the car off the lot. Ridiculous!!


On the day the documents arrived at the dealer, the novice called to tell me so (a day after I told him it was being overnighted to the dealer. While the novice told me he worked until 8 PM that day, I arrived at about 5 PM as I told him I would. Not only was he not around, but the sales manager was gone as well. The car was delivered without floor mats, only one key and a stolen previously mounted (when I paid for the car) EZ pass transponder. Mistakes, Mistakes and more mistakes!


One needs to ask why anyone would conduct business with this seller again or recommend anyone do so? Without changes, this dealership is not maximizing profit potential, losing potential references and customers, and is likely to fail.


How many mistakes did you see (not just those I mentioned)? How many similar mistakes are being made in your business?



Steve Koenig, SCORE Counselor




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