#6 Form Letters and No Customer Focus

A Personal Car Shopping Experience (Part 6 of 8)

During our new vehicle search, my wife Lisa and I recently expanded our consideration set to include a few select sedans in addition to the previously-examined SUVs. The 2019 XYZ sedan made the list, so on a Wednesday afternoon, I reached out to a dealership through a link on the dealerships main website. Because I wasn’t sure if a sedan would fit in our budget, I asked in the initial inquiry if someone could provide a monthly lease payment based upon very specific/complete lease terms on a base model. I also noted that I had no trade-in and our credit is perfect.
Like the earlier experience with the last dealership, I received a quick response about 30 minutes after my inquiry. It was great to get a quick response, but it was only a form letter inviting me to come in for the usual test drive. And, when I followed the one link available in the email, my laptop’s anti-virus software went immediately “code red” and warned me that the page was a known threat! In fact, I went back and checked the link again today (one day later) and I received the same message. Unfortunately, that store’s response to my inquiry was not representative of a premium brand such as this one, or a premium dealership.

Perplexed, I emailed the person named in the initial response. In three sentences, I re-requested the lease payment and let him know about the dangerous link in his email. To his credit, he promptly wrote back, and it wasn’t a form letter this time. However, he did not acknowledge the problematic link… and he asked me to provide him with the lease specifics. I wrote back again, asking if he received the lease specs in my initial inquiry. Replying, he indicated he had them but just wanted to see if I had “changed my mind about them.” It had been about 90 minutes since my first contact, and as you (the reader) might assume, nothing had changed! In that same response, the salesperson did provide a lease payment and yes, it was in our payment ballpark.

That evening after work, I made my way to the dealership; no specific appointment had been made because our commute traffic is tough to predict. Upon arrival, I received a friendly greeting from the salesperson. There was no sedan in the showroom and he couldn’t find one on the store’s main lot. He had me walk with him out back up to a second-floor garage where we found the dealership’s lone XYZ sedan; unprepped and undrivable. So, I sat in it for a minute to make sure I fit (I’m tall and always must ensure the moonroof doesn’t take up too much headroom!). After that, it was a return walk to the showroom and a thanks before departing. I received another form letter in follow up the next day.
The salesperson was a nice gentleman, but he asked no questions that would allow him to understand how I planned to use the car. It was another example of a salesperson missing an opportunity to effectively “sell” the vehicle based upon understanding the customer’s needs. Also, in his two emails that weren’t form letters, he had several prominent grammar and spelling errors. Finally, I was quite surprised that the lone XYZ sedan was not prepped and ready to be test driven and sold; even if it had arrived that same day, one would think this would have been a dealership priority. In summary, I was expecting a premium brand experience but didn’t receive one on almost any level.
I pose these questions to you: Was any part of the initial exchange of emails conducive to a sale? If you say no, then why does management allow the use of form emails that don’t answer customer requests? What excuses exist for providing unsafe computer links? And when emails are personally written, is there any excuse for constructing simple, short communications with spelling and grammar errors? If a vehicle comes in during the day and it is the only one of an entire model line, is there any reason for not prepping it immediately? What would you do different?

About the Author

Mark Krach is vice president at automätik, an organization dedicated to “Eradicating boring training from the face of the Earth.” He has nearly 30 years’ experience in the automotive industry—having worked for a manufacturer, a dealership, and as an automotive training writer and facilitator all over the U.S. and Europe.