A dealer friend of mine recently went through some really bad publicity. The highlight of this bad publicity is that they sold a car and a day later the customer came back and wanted a different color which they allowed him to do as an even swap.
Within a day or so the dealership discovered they had made a $5600 mistake. Management attempted to contact the customer in order to collect the additional money. When they were not able to find the customer they had him arrested for theft of a motor vehicle. Eweeee. (Charges have been dropped.)
There is some debate over who said what involving the actual arrest. So, you guessed it. When all is said and done they have a multi-million dollar lawsuit and many millions of dollars worth of bad publicity.
I know that the managers involved in this deal are really good people. I also know they were trying to do what they believed to be the right thing and in the best interest of the dealership.
The bottom line is that somewhere in the equation there was a massive screw up. If you’ve been in this business for any number of years you’ve either seen this scene before or have been a part of such an incident. Maybe not this severe, but you’ve seen it.
Situations like this don’t just happen in the sales department, they happen in all departments and in all businesses. With the auto industry being such a heavily regulated industry many people want to take a shot at us.
When these things happen you have to ask yourself what could you have done differently?
I know what you’re thinking. The customer owed the money so what’s right is they needed to pay it. I don’t disagree with that statement. But, when the fire starts to burn someone has to have sense enough to put it out. All it’s going to do is get bigger and a whole lot hotter.
In the book titled “It’s Ok To Be The Boss,” the author makes a point that if you receive bad service at a restaurant it’s not the waiter or waitress’s fault. It’s management’s fault. In cases like this it’s upper management’s fault.
The dealership has apologized and offered to let the customer keep the car with no additional money to be paid. Too late, which is frequently the case. In most cases the problem is not recognized and/or dealt with soon enough.
Whoever initially gets a problem often tries to push it under the table, thinking they are doing the right thing. They often end up jerking the customer around due to pay plans or what they think is in the best interest of the dealership. It usually turns out that management is making a decision that is in the best interest of that individual manager. As in cover your butt.
During my dealership days we had great success with what I called “The Playbook.” Before I share that with you let’s see if we can come to an agreement on a few things.
1. More often than not when a major issue comes up management will hold a meeting to state what the new policy and/or procedures are going to be.
2. When the meeting is held, it is possible the entire staff is not present. Someone is off, with a customer, etc.
3. Sales people and sales managers come and go.
4. Most messages will evaporate over some period of time.
Therefore, if you can agree to the aforementioned you can see that the message that is delivered to the troops either has an incomplete audience and/or a short shelf life.
Now, the Playbook:
Make a list of company policies and legal issues you know to be a potential problem. Set them up on an excel spreadsheet with 12 months across the top and two columns under each month for the date and initials. (See Example)
Each person who attends the meeting will be given his or her sheet to sign off on at the conclusion. The meeting leader will use a book to discuss in great detail each item on the list. The “Playbook” is done once a month and once set up will take an hour to cover, depending on the length of your list.
With the technology we have today this could be done electronically but there is no substitute for a solid presentation by the GM or Dealer/Operator.
So, over the course of time you will have eliminated the excuses of “I didn’t know” or “I forgot.”
You will not eliminate all your problems with the “Playbook” but you will go a long way toward reducing about 90% of them and maybe avoid a multi-million dollar lawsuit and millions more in bad publicity. That’s all I’m gonna say, Tommy Gibbs