Customer Service Hell Blog

Monday, September 12, 2005

Ford #1 "I didn't call you a dink"

From the "Trav's Rant's" Blog: A horrible example of downright scary customer service in trying to buy a new car.

Ford Motor Company
Customer Relationship Center

P.O.Box 6248
Dearborn, Michigan 48126


John Jacobs
Jayme Jensen
Matthew Ashton

To Whom It May Concern:

I'd like to explain a situation that occurred at LaPoint Ford in Murray, Utah on December 7th, 2002. I actually waited a full week to contact you because I didn't want to write this letter with the embarrassed and angry feelings I had at the time. This is a short summary of what happened...

After working out a deal with my salesman Dan Prins, the service manager Rich Harris told me that I could not get the little remote control car with the purchase due to the price I was getting the truck for. I thought that seemed a little petty and voiced my feelings since it was advertised that with "every purchase of a new vehicle" one would be given away. He argued that the advertisement also mentioned a price and that I was getting the truck for less than that. We discussed this a little further with him walking away from me saying it wasn't going to happen. I told Dan that I thought it was pretty lame that a little toy car was the make it or break it deal here and that I couldn't get one of these little toys. It didn't even matter that much to me. It wasn't going to kill me to not get one of these toys. I just thought it was a nice bonus. Dan went back to talk to Rich and the two of them came out together. I thought Dan must have said the magic words and Rich was going to give me one of the toy trucks.

To my astonishment and absolute embarrassment, Rich got right up in my face, standing over me as I was still seated in the chair and asked me if I had just called him a "Dink". I was taken back and had no idea what he was getting at. I begged his pardon and he asked me again if I had called him a "Dink". He told me that he just heard I had called him a "Dink" and after all he had done for me, did not appreciate being called a "Dink". I was sitting there in shock, having not even called him a name and wondering where this attack was coming from.

He stormed off in a huff and I asked Dan if he had actually come out just to tell me that. Dan apologized for Rich's actions and continued to do so for several minutes. I was still shocked and completely insulted. NEVER in my life have I been confronted in such a manner especially while I was shopping. Not at a 7-11 when I dropped a slurpee on the ground, Not at a McDonalds when I told them they messed up my order, and certainly never at a car dealership while I was ready to spend a year's salary on a very long term product. I actually had to contain myself and keep myself from walking off on the deal because I didn't feel that Dan should lose his commission after all the work he did, and I felt I had a fair deal as it was. But the more I think about it, I don't know why I stayed. I don't know why I put up with that kind of so called "customer service" from a manager.

I explained to Dan that I work in a very customer service oriented business, as he does. I explained that if any of my employees were to have confronted one of my customers in the manner Rich confronted me because of something he heard was said about him, he/she would have been fired on the spot, no questions asked. Even if I HAD called Rich a name, even if I would have called him 10 names with swear words attached, that would not have mattered. How dare he come get in my face and challenge me about saying something about him? How dare he tell me that he has done so much for me and then act like I owe him so much? I am the paying customer about to go into debt for 5 years over the product I was buying from him and he implies that I owe him. Never before have I been treated with such disrespect and outright public rudeness than I was on the sales floor of LaPoint Ford that day.

Dan apologized and tried his best to do some service recovery. I don't know what has been done over there. What I do know is that I told two other employees of LaPoint Ford about the circumstance and it didn't end there. I'm sure you know the statistics of dissatisfied customers and how many people they tell about their experience. I'm sure I'm going to blow that figure out of the water. In the week I have given myself to cool off from this event, I have told 11 people about the "service" I received from the sales manager over there. All 11 people were horrified at the treatment that is given there and I'm sure they themselves have relayed the story to others. The more people continue to ask me about my beautiful new Ford truck and where I got it, the more people will find out about the quality of customer service at LaPoint Ford. I may never stop telling this story. I didn't have a problem with any other employee there. In fact, Dan's service reflects the Blue Oval type service I'm sure LaPoint Ford strives for. He did everything he could to apologize to me and make things more comfortable. The finance guy and the other sales manager both did the same to make sure that my experience would be a bit more positive. But one really bad apple has spoiled the bunch in this case. Rich's actions have reflected on the whole establishment of LaPoint Ford to the degree that everyone I know and speak to about this, including myself, will never go to LaPoint Ford to purchase a vehicle ever.

If just once, Rich could have contained his temper and used an ounce of tact and maybe admitted that his words were out of line, or just simply apologized, or even said, "hey, you know what, that toy truck isn't that big of a deal, go ahead and take it", everything would have blown over. I wouldn't have even taken the toy in all actuality and my stories to everyone about my new truck would have led to increased business at LaPoint Ford. It's a shame that someone with that kind of temper and lack of self control should be in a management position and have subordinates apologizing for him and trying to gain some service recovery for their place of business.

I had to go back in to LaPoint Ford to sign some more financing papers several days after this incident and I was still so un-nerved by the whole confrontation with Rich that I was physically shaking when I went in there. I'm glad I didn't run into Rich while I was there, and to tell you the truth, I'm glad it will be the last time I ever have to step into that building. Dan met me in the building and continued to apologize for the situation that had occurred and I told him that it shouldn't be his place to apologize for the actions of his superior. I appreciate the lengths that Dan went through to make up for my embarrassment and insult. I feel badly that he is still somewhat affected by the waythings went down that day. I will be filling out my satisfaction survey from Ford soon and I will be speaking to someone at LaPoint on Monday when they call me to ask how my over-all experience was.

I am not looking for an apology from Rich at this point. I'm over it as far as holding any grudges against him. Some people are hot headed and I accept that. I'm not looking for a free toy for under the tree, Santa will take care of that soon, hopefully. I'm not even looking to get Rich fired. But from someone who understands customer service and the way it effects business to a company that prides themselves on the satisfaction of its customers, you need to be notified about why LaPoint Ford has lost my business and probably the business of many, many more.

I would like a follow up if possible just to let me know what happens from here. If my letter is just read and thrown away or if someone really cares about what their customers think. I did read that "your satisfaction is our #1 goal" on the website.

Looking forward to your reply.


Travis did get a reply

This letter got me an apology letter from Tom LaPoint, a follow up call from the Customer Relationship Center in Dearborne MI., a heartfelt apology letter from Rich Harris, the Sales Manager, and a personal visit to my office from the salesman with my remote control truck in his hands.

AND here's the first such letter:

As a sales manager and a representative of this store I have a duty to uphold a higher standard, to be an example of how to conduct yourself in different situations. Unfortunately, I made a huge mistake in the way I treated you the night you purchased your truck from us. The funny thing is that I realized right after I spoke with you on the showroom that I should have just given you the toy truck in appreciation for buying a vehicle from us. To compound the situation I was confrontational with you shortly thereafter. What was I thinking? I don't know what I was thinking to behave so out of line. I was apologetic over and over to Dan Prins after that night for how I behaved because I was thoroughly embarrassed at how I acted. I know more than ever that my apologies should have also been directed at you for the uncomfortable situation I put us all in.

Travis, for what it's worth I want to say that I am truly sorry for how I treated you, a valued customer. I realize that at this point this is more of a band-aid than a cure but I still wanted to let you know that I know my actions were wrong. I hope you will accept my heartfelt apology and not let my actions, the actions of a rookie sales manager, determine your opinion of our organization. You really did buy your vehicle from a dealer,Tom LaPoint, who holds customer satisfaction on a pedestal. Customer satisfaction is his focus, priority, and the core of our mission at LaPoint Ford. I hope we can someday meet again and shake hands in friendship. Thank you.
Sincerely, Rich Harris


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