I was informed by the Audi salesperson that the A6 is the largest selling luxury sedan in the United States. He seemed proud of this and was perhaps using this data as a means to make me feel smart because I already own one.
Unfortunately, the interaction between he and his service department caused me to feel manipulated and destroyed the loyalty that had been built as a seven year owner of an Audi that has performed well.
I have made a career in sales so this post is by no means a “salespeople are greedy, manipulative and dishonest” diatribe. What this is meant to be is another part of an ongoing series of stories relating to situations that I find myself in where the organization just seems clueless about the opportunities to collect situational information, process it, treat people in a manner that fits with how they may like to be treated and build a business relationship.
What happened with me and my 2007 Audi A6 with 152,000 miles on it was disappointing from my viewpoint and alarming if you’re the guy who owns Minneapolis Porsche-Audi (MPA) in Golden Valley, MN.
I have been the driver of this vehicle since it was new. It was not purchased at this dealership as it was leased under a company and I ended up owning it when I left that company. MPA has, however, performed every dealer recommended service on this vehicle since it was new so they are familiar with everything about it.
On Wednesday evening, I dropped this car off for a scheduled oil change and service check-up. In addition, the “check engine” light was on and, on my way to drop-off the vehicle, the right headlamp went out so I needed those things taken care of, too.
I checked the vehicle in with the usual pleasant folks who work in the service department and was told that it may be a day or two before they could get the service completed. I was told this when I booked the appointment so was not put-off by this at all. They offered me a loaner car, as they always do, and I declined. (Interestingly, if I owned this dealership, anyone with an Audi 5 years or older would be offered the newest model as a loaner).
The next morning at around 9 am I received a call from the service department telling me that, “they’d found a few things wrong” with my car. My stomach jumped and this is where this situation gets a little sticky for a guy like me because I know nothing about cars. Nothing.
I trust the guys who know about cars to give me good advice, I pay the dealer rates because I believe that they know the vehicle best and the most important thing to me is a dependable ride. If there’s a profile for a “mark” to pay for service, I am one.
Back to the repair story, once this guy ends his litany of maladies with my trusted car, I stammer, “Uh, so let me get this straight, I bring the car in for an oil-change, headlamp and a “Check Engine” light that I was told was “no big deal” over the phone and now there’s a $4,000 estimate to get it fixed?” He says, “well, it’s not that high….it’s more like $3400.” I cede the point and grumble something about quick math in my head without writing everything down as he was rattling it off.
I immediately consider my Dad’s advice about the car that you own in your garage being your most economical option, think about the two kids that I still have in college and tell him to go ahead with the repair.
Shortly after that, maybe ten minutes, my boss comes into my office and I relay this story to him. He responds, “why would you put that much money into a car that is that old with that many miles on it?” I think about that, agree and place a quick call to the service guy to ask him to hold on for a bit while I explore the option of trading the car in for a new A6.
He responds that they’re already well into the major repair, can hold off on the smaller ones and I will be responsible for the work that has been done. A bit surprised at the sudden urgency of my repair job (considering the had said it may take a couple of days) and I ask him to sit tight.
My first action is to go to the dealer’s website, fill-out a form about my trade-in and a few of my preferences for a new car. I receive a call from a sales person within 10 minutes. That’s good service.
This person asks me a few questions, I explain to him what I want, he tells me all about the new A6, the awards that it has won and says that he’ll go over to the service department (maybe 20 steps from the showroom) to check-out my vehicle and then call me back. He calls me back in a few minutes to ask a few questions about my vehicle and whether I prefer to lease or purchase a new A6?
The next call actually comes from the service guy to tell me that they have determined my car is worth $4000 if I don’t get the scrape on the left back fender fixed and $5000 if I do. In addition, he says that the value of the trade won’t be altered by the value of the repairs that are underway or any others that I may elect to have them complete.
When I hear this, I think, “wait, this guy wants me to do these repairs and tells me that they have no value on the car as a trade.” I wonder if there must be some logic behind this that is not apparent to someone not in the business. At least, that the explanation that I tell myself.
I tell him to go ahead with the repairs and thank him for his help. What’s really interesting to me, and alarming if I’m the owner of MPA is that I never heard another word from the sales person.
In the sales guy’s defense, I did tell him in the early stage that I have loved my Audi, it has served me well and I really want a new one. What I also said was that I am not a wealthy man, I have two kids in college and wanted to use the trade as my only cash out of pocket so I’ll need some options to make this deal happen. I guess that this scared him off.
What’s sad to me about this is that the sales person could have done a bit of research on me and my automobile (that his dealership had serviced for seven years) and figured out a way to potentially get a deal done with me.
Instead, he let the service guy talk to me about my trade and never even placed a follow-up call. To me, that just feels a little lazy. Or, maybe he was just too busy selling all of those A6’s to other people and winning awards.
So why does Audi potentially lose a customer out of this? Because I felt manipulated and not important. After it’s all said-and-done, the repaired car drives great and I will reach my goal of getting 200,000 miles out of it. What no one here did, though, was think about if what they were doing was helping me get what I wanted.
The sales guy could have asked me a few questions like, “how long were you hoping to drive your current car?” I would have told him that I wanted to get another 50,000 miles out of it. He could have then done a little homework to estimate what my repairs would likely be over that period and perhaps have some influence on my decision.
Instead, he removed himself from the process. The only plausible explanation to this for me is that he had assumed that I was no longer a good prospect. Interestingly, he hand’t even taken the time to call me about the trade and instead let the service guy discuss it for him.
What I wonder is if there was some friction between the service guy and that sales guy because maybe the the service guy gets paid commission on repairs? Who knows, in any case, those are their issues and shouldn’t stand in the way of my continued relationship with the Audi brand.
Both of these guys should read Daniel Pink’s, “To Sell is Human” and David Meerman-Scott’s wonderful new book, “The New Rules of Sales and Service.” In fact, dear readers, I recommend these two excellent books to anyone.
In my experience, people love to buy, hate to be sold and, at least in my case, despise being manipulated and caught-up in company politics. So when I get to 200,000 miles on my trusty Audi, I’ll still give them a look. Unfortunately, they missed the opportunity to lock me in for another seven years for reasons that are only known to them.