Comments are now close on the What Will It Take article I posted earlier. I’d like to thank (almost) everyone for their thoughts and comments. There was some great stuff there and plenty of food for thought for Saab themselves, dealers, national Saab bodies and customers as well.
There are a couple of initial themes that I picked up on when reading through the comments, which I thought I’d bring to the front page here.
There were a number of complaints raised about the sales experience. People commented about a level of arrogance displayed by some salespeople, as well as a lack of knowledge with regard to the Saabs those salepeople were trying to sell.
To my eyes, where dealers were named as giving a poor experience, some of those dealers had smaller Saab stores attached to multi-brand operations, indicating that maybe those dealers weren’t overly dedicated to the Saab brand. That’s the inference that I drew, at least. I know it doesn’t apply to all multi-brand operations because there are some very good ones out there.
The things that make me angriest are hearing stories about service departments ripping people off. It wasn’t Saab related, but 74Stingray’s story is a classic:
I used to have a chevy dealer hit me with a “headlight alignment” for $30 during the yearly inspection. The night before the last car went in, I discreetely marked the headlight adjusting screws….. yep, they never touched them but they charged me…. needless to say I got my money back and never went back.
In the same comment, Stingray also talks about his dealer dropping the price for a basic oil and filter change from $99 to $69…..
I’ll just spend the extra money and let my dealership do it while I look at the new 9-5 and enjoy free coffee.
At $99 he’d do the oil change himself at home. At $69 they’re not making as much money per service, but they’re making some sort of margin and they’re getting a customer poking around the new 9-5, the 9-3x etc.
The lesson learned (for the service dept)- charge a realistic price and build a relationship with your customer. Dealers need long-term relationships. Why put that in jeapoardy over something stupid like a false $30 headlamp alignment that’s a) quite high on a customer’s list of potential rorts, and b) so easily confirmed as such.
That Chevy dealer lost a potential long-term customer over $30. I realise Chevy service outlets may not often be the beneficiaries of long-term customer loyalty, but still, it’s amazing.
I want to thank the couple of dealers who got involved in the conversation in this post. Your input is quite valuable in this context and I thought your contributions added to the discussion.
To those few who took at is an opportunity to jump down the throats of those dealers, I’d suggest you go take a good, long, hard look at yourselves. This thread would have benefitted a lot more from more dealer involvement, but if the few who do chime in are attacked at the onset, then how are more going to be encouraged to join the discussion?
I think many of the flaws in the dealership experience could be addressed with a good dose of mutual respect – from both the dealer and the customer. There’s got to be a way of setting up this experience so that it’s not so adversarial. I’ve never lived with a Saturn dealership, but I believe they only held on as long as they did because the customer relations model was so good (it certainly wasn’t the product). Maybe there are some lessons to be learned there.
Nothing comes for free
I alluded to it at the top of the discussion and sure enough, there were still people calling for more free stuff. That’s OK, actually, as long as you don’t call for cheaper cars at the same time.
Understand this, as knowing what’s involved in the full scenario is part of the mutual respect thing – stuff costs money. You will pay for it either at the purchase, or during the service relationship. You can’t have it both ways.
Perhaps these suggestions might be of value…..
Even the most hardcore among us have been challenged from time to time at the magnitude of severity and cost of repairs for the newer (1995+) Saabs. Have you taken advantage of your customers and charged large amounts or invented reasons to replace large components? Have you nickeled and dimed your customers when they visit your shop? Have you supported your customers as they expect? In many cases, the answers to these questions is NOT in accordance with the way that customers want to be treated. Don’t expect to hang out a “Under New Management” sign and get those people back overnight.
Like I said before, some dealerships have done the vast majority of these things right. Some haven’t, however.
We all face a long road ahead. New product is still needed. Upgraded or upgradeable existing product would be welcome. Service would be welcome. A real ‘Saab experience’ would be ideal.
I’m thankful that there are a lot of people who are good customers, who already have good relationships with good dealerships. I hope those situations are something that Saab can look at as a model, and grow.
Thanks again for all your contributions.