Ben Garside: I was a dream customer but certain dealers really need to wake up

Time 9:00 am, February 22, 2019

I’VE previously said that it is never too late to learn and I’ve done just that by investing in another new skill.

For those of you connected to me on LinkedIn, you will have seen that it was passing my driving test. Yes, all these years I have been talking about the motor trade and I couldn’t legally drive a car.

However, please don’t judge me on this. I have always loved cars and motorbikes, and I’ve spent a hell of a lot of time around motor sports and the motor industry.

As a kid, my dad was a biker and my uncle raced karts, so I spent weekends up early loading the van to travel the country to different race meets, getting oily and needing tubs of Swarfega to get me clean, or I spent them
on the back of my dad’s Triumph Bonneville going to bike rallies.

As a teen, a lot of my time was spent pipedreaming, reading Max Power and other comparable magazines. I also loved getting in karts myself and chucking them around corners. However, a couple of incidents in karts and in my driving lessons a long time ago put me off driving a car, and instead I chose my Vespa, as in my head I had less chance of hurting someone else.

In August, I decided enough was enough and I needed to stop worrying and procrastinating as I love cars and I couldn’t stand seeing everyone with cars while I was missing out.

So now that I’d passed I set out to get a car – and learnt even more about the trade that I’ve been in for the past 14 years.

I visited a number of local franchise and large independent dealers and some a bit further afield. I did so with an open mind into what I wanted and what I was willing to buy.

Yes, the car did need to be small to medium-sized. I had been taught in a Toyota Auris so that was my benchmark and I didn’t really want anything much bigger than that. I had a lot of makes/models in mind from the off obviously, but I wanted to sit in them, test-drive them and also purchase something I would love.

I should have been a dream customer. I wanted to be sold to, I had savings and credit available, I was open to options and I love cars. A salesman could have talked my ear off and led me down any path. But what was I met with? Well, it was December, and I think most of the sales staff at the dealerships that I visited had decided that Christmas had come early.

I won’t pinpoint any in particular as that would be wrong. However, I visited a lot of dealers and had to significantly go out of my way to get any service. I was ignored by most of them as they sat and watched me walk around. Some even looked the other way when I tried to get eye contact. Needless to say, the first dealer to show me any sort of service quality actually got my business.

There are a few points to this story but the main one is that I noticed numerous consumers getting a similar lacklustre service, so if you don’t already invest in mystery shopping then you should, as people may be walking on and off your pitch constantly.

Ben Garside is marketing manager for First Response. Call him on 07817 518739 or email [email protected].

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Car Dealer has been covering the motor trade since 2008 as both a print and digital publication. In 2020 the title went fully digital and now provides daily motoring updates on this website for the car industry. A digital magazine is published once a month.

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