Sunday, January 8, 2012

The Welcome Kit !

The car does matter.  But the car dealer does more.

What a difference it makes, when you love your car.   Every time, the customer experience offered by the people who face the customer is important for somebody sticking with a particular brand.  With so many choices available, it is important that the individual customer is taken care of.

My recent experiences in purchasing a new car throw simple but powerful lessons.  Read on...


Around mid-October, I had booked my car.   Lot of wrangling between a sedan and premium hatchback,  petrol vs diesel.   For whatever it is worth, decision was made in favour of a entry-sedan and petrol ( low daily mileage, hence?!).   Some love for the Toyota brand, I ended up buying the Toyota Etios.

I went to look at the car initially for a test drive to the Lakozy Toyota showroom in Malad.  I was seated in a comfortable chair, and was served with water and coffee.  This was repeated during my next three visits to the showroom.  Meticulously followed.

Professional customer attention was
a key factor in me becoming
a Toyota customer
They always came with the estimated time of wait (ETW) very clearly.   And if it was extended, would inform about it with the due apologies.   Very impressive, it was.

When I took the car for test drive, the sales advisor would patiently explain the key features especially when driving around.   They sold the car to my heart and relating to my driving style.

Contrast this with an across-the-road Ford dealer in Malad.   I was handled by at least 3 salespeople, with no ETW.  The wait was endless and I was passed around. 

Finally, one senior guy walked in to explain about the Ford Classic being out for a corporate event, and was so was not available for the test drive.  He shared his card and never got called me back, as he never bothered to take my number, obviously.  I left fuming and Ford lost a customer.  

Ford Classic is a great car, but when it came to the decision point, at the ground level, the dealer behaviour made the difference.  Toyota earned a customer then.


The second major experience on Toyota's customer-care was during the handover.   They telephoned me to schedule the visit 3 days before the actual day.   They asked me bring in the necessary documents.  The morning on the actual day, they called to make sure that I would come and I had the documents. 

A 30 minute click-laminate-frame routine
for the new car handover ceremony
When I went that evening, I was heralded into the visitor's bay with the same meticulousness and attention, served with tea and water with a smile.   The person-in-charge said that the car would be ready in 10 minutes, plus 30 minutes of handover ceremony and 30 minutes for documentation.   They enquired if that would be fine.  I nodded.   They proceeded to get this done in precision.  

They handed over a Ganesha idol and asked me place it in the front bonnet.  They did the Pooja and handover the keys.  They took a picture and within 30 minutes, a nice pic of me receiving the car keys from the executive was laminated and frame.  How sweet!

Next, the briefing.   It was exhaustive.  Every important thing was told.   Every detail covered.  They introduced me to a personal service advisor at the end.   And they asked me if I would need assistance till home.  While I declined the offer, I was very impressed. 

Again, contrast this with a recent experience of my friend with his Tata Nano.  This was a dealer in Andheri East.   I went along with him, just for the experience.

Firstly, the time of delivery was not confirmed.   When we went to the car delivery point, there was no personal attendance.  My friend seemed to know the folks by virtue of his trips to evaluate and book the car.  In spite of that, and while there were lot of idle sales people hanging around in the reception, none cared to address us.

We went, saw and returned - the Nano
was not ready - a tough customer
experience for my friend

After three follow-ups and angry posturing,  the sales person came out and said that the car is indeed there.  But the registration was not completed.   The insurance details were not complete from our side, and what they had was a transit insurance.   Hence they advised that it was not safe to take the car out. Then why were we first told that the car was ready?!

Also some accessories like the side rails were not available in stock, they said.  They could fix the registration and the accessories part in three days.

Finally, when they brought the car around, it had scratches in the bumper.   We discovered this and when we pointed at the scratches, they said it was clean when it came, but could have got scratches while parking!  How good an explanation was that?!   My friend agreed, such a nice guy he is, to come back after three days to receive the car, after all of these would be completed.

It actually took a week.   The attitude was callous, but my friend as a customer was accommodating.   How can such a service be rendered to a person who has decided to business with you? 


I strolled in one fine morning into the Toyota service center at 9 am  for my first car service (I had crossed the 1000 km and one month mark - but it was December and a busy month at that).   The gate formalities were done. 

The service executive told me that service was by appointment, but they would quickly check and see if they could accommodate.  Within 5 minutes another executive was assigned, details were taken.  The service aspects were again explained, the same coffee-water routine happened and I was told that the car would be ready by 2 pm.  

I told them that I would decide at around 2, whether I could be able to pick the car up or not.  At 2 pm, precisely the same service executive called.  I asked them to drop the car at home.  They did and at 3 pm confirmed that they had done it.

Then the routine feedback call came.   I told the caller that it was an exhilarating experience of customer attention and service.  

My wagon-R in Chennai got great
attention from ABT Maruti
I can recall the same level of service with the Chennai based ABT Maruti.  The service advisor, Ganapathy is his name, actually grew into a customer care manager but still used to personally take care my car's service needs.   Every time, over 5 years, the experience was great.

Both my cars have got motherly affection and professional attention by the car dealer all along.  The car brand, tech-specs and the driving experience are key factors in a customer's decision to continue with a brand or not.

But the touch given by a car dealer is so important for a car lover like me- right from the welcome kit to the welfare of the car!

- The One

(Pics - Courtesy The One)


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