One of Toyota’s weak links, at least in the U.S., has been their dealer customer service. Jim Womack referred to this in our podcast last week and now business/marketing blogger Seth Godin highlights his bad dealer experience.
In doing so, Seth highlights that the difference between “good” and “great” is often huge:
My guess is that even for a thriving brand like Toyota, most of these guys weren’t paid so much. They were ‘good’ salespeople, lifers who showed up, did what they were told and closed a sale here and there.
It soon became clear that the salesperson who was assigned to me wasn’t ‘great’. The dealership had messed up: He had no record of my appointment, no file, no history of why I came. But he just punted. He made no effort to engage with me or look me in the eye or empathize with my frustration at the complete waste of time my call yesterday had been. He gave up after about ten seconds, bummed out that he had lost his place in line. So I left.
I have a two-week old Prius, a company fleet vehicle. More on the Prius later. All I had to do was pick the vehicle up at a DFW area Toyota dealer, so mine wasn’t the typical “car buying” experience. But when I got out of my vehicle, I had a smarmy swarm of three sales guys on me before I even got inside. That initial overbearing impression was similar to any other dealership I had ever been in. Short-term thinking, the “hunter” mentality, rules in auto dealers, regardless of what company’s product they are selling. (Jim Womack’s e-letter on hunters and farmers, in PDF).
The fleet rep I was working with asked about the work I do. He was amazed that hospitals are applying the Toyota Production System. “You’d think they could come up with their own thing,” he said. I didn’t sense a real deep appreciation for TPS, even in this guy who had worked for the dealership for over a decade. His desk certainly wasn’t “5S-ed”, but that’s not the real indication of lean that I would look for.
There was a lot of paperwork that could have, honestly, been filled out before I got there, which would have reduced my “turnaround time” there in the dealership, but oh well.
The real indication of lean and TPS would be the dealer culture, which I couldn’t surmise in an hour. Is the workforce focused on the customer and their needs or just on moving metal? Are employees engaged in suggestions for improving the dealership, or are they each lone wolves working in competition with each other?
Anyway, growing up in a GM family, that was my first ever visit to a Toyota showroom.
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