The Anatomy of a Great Customer Experience: From Craigslist to Repair of a Nearly Totalled Auto…

In December 09′ I wanted to purchase for my wife, a “gently used” late model Mustang.  Being an internet junkie, Craigslist was my first stop.  There I searched for the car and the price I wanted to pay and found a couple of nice selections.  From there I narrowed it down to a nice 2009 white Mustang convertible at Downtown Ford in Louisville, Ky.  I called and spoke to a sales person, Heydon “Coach” Wilson.  It was there that the adventure began.

I arranged to meet with Heydon to take a look at the car.  Having purchased many cars in my life, I prepared myself for the ensuing battle, but when I arrived at the dealership what I got was nothing like what I expected.  A very down-to-earth, laid back kind of guy that knew his cars and kept himself in the balance of trying to sell me and not giving a care if I purchased the car.  He went through the features of the car, showed me what Ford had improved etc… then asked if I’d like to take it for a ride.  On our ride we talked about everything except buying the car.  He didn’t ask me my income, what I wanted for a payment.  We talked UK basketball, our ailing health as we age, and our teenagers.   Kind of refreshing.  So we get back to the dealership and he says “so what do you think?”  I said I’d give it consideration and left it at that.  He shook my hand, said he’d love to do business with me, and handed me a couple of cards and bid me farewell.

The next day I went back, let them test drive my Camry that had 11million miles on it, and they made me an offer.  I made a counter offer that I thought was fair for everyone (not too far off from what they offered) and a deal was struck.  I was happy, Heydon seemed pleased, and my wife was about to become ecstatic when I surprised her that evening.  Thus far I felt I’d dealt with a dealership the way things were probably done many decades ago by old friends over a beer and was very pleased with my experience at Downtown Ford.  But it was about to get even better.  You see my wife loved the car.  She couldn’t wait for warmer weather to drop the top on her way home from a stressful day at the hospital and pop on “The Eagles” and enjoy her ride for a change.  But things took a bitter turn.

Eleven days later she called me a 7am on her way to work, crying.  She had a hard crash with her new Mustang on I-71, the air bag had deployed and the car was un-drivable.  She was OK, which is paramount to anything else.  I arrived on the scene before the police.  We had never been involved in a crash where the car was immobile so we had no clue until the officer asked if we had a wrecker on the way, that it was up to us to clear the car from the highway.  My insurance agent was un-available, and Allstate’s hotline was more concerned with getting a claim filed than getting the car off the road.  So I dialed up Downtown Ford and got their service department.  They immediately gave me the name of a wrecker service, even asked if I wanted them to call.  I said I’d take care of it.

I told him I’d just purchased the car there and would be bringing it to them for repair.  The service manager (I didn’t get his name) offerred his condolences, asked if my wife was OK, and then asked if I’d need a rental.  I hadn’t thought of it…so I said yes.  He said he’d have one waiting, and that he’d let Fran Dorton, their body shop manager, know I and the car were on the way.  I took my wife home and tended to her, and picked up the rental the next day.  Fran did all the right things to make sure my wife’s car got back into the shape it was when it was purchased, and even better since there were a few scratches on the bumper that would be replaced!   She arranged for all new OEM parts, not aftermarket, since the car was new.  The total came to just over $15,000!  Now you’ve got to know, when my wife does things, she does them right!  We picked up the car about 4 weeks later and were tickled pink with the results.  The car looked, drove, and handled just like it did when we drove it off the lot. The entire dealership worked almost like family with me to make sure we were happy.  Now I know they’re a business, and are making money, but at least I didn’t “feel” that way.

So when we replace my Corolla with Ford Fusion which I eye’d for myself when looking at the Mustang…guess who’s getting the first shot at it? That’s right, Heydon “Coach” Wilson, and Downtown Ford, Louisville Ky!

So from a free ad on Craigslist to a vehicle sale, to a huge repair….all within a few months…it’s all about how you handle a customer at every stage of the game, that makes an instant loyal customer, or makes your dealership just another bump in the road.  What’s your company’s culture?  Do your sales, rental, service and parts departments work in harmony to provide this kind of service?  Do you go that extra mile and reach out beyond the limits to help customers in need?

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