Honda logoWhen a company fails to follow up with a customer who is ready to buy, or who has stopped coming back for service, you have to wonder. Is business so great the people running the place don’t care?

No, more likely the problem is lack of followup.

Customers want help when they’re thinking about buying. They want good customer service and an appreciation for their business. If there’s no response, you can’t blame the customer for walking away. You can’t blame the customer for retail businesses failing.

So why aren’t companies rising to the challenge? I have two recent “followup fails” in mind, coincidentally both car companies:

Exhibit A: Ford

My husband has driven company cars for years, choosing from a limited selection of options. This year, he decided to buy his own car, narrowing his decision to a couple of SUVs.

Ford was on the list, and we both went to a local dealership and took an SUV for a spin. We liked it. “Ford employee pricing” and a $1,000 discount for Costco members made the price appealing. The special employee pricing was supposed to end within a week or so.

Did the sales rep call or email within a day or two to remind us about the deadline? No. We later heard on the radio that employee pricing was still on. Did the rep call or email to say the pricing had been extended, and encourage another test drive or discussion? No. No one at the dealership has followed up since to find out if we’re still interested.

For all we know, the employee pricing is still on, but the SUV hunt is on hold. The Ford sales rep doesn’t know this. Hey, maybe the dealership fired him. If so, who has taken over the rep’s customer details, assuming he kept any? Who is following up?

Exhibit B: Honda

I expect my car to last, and typically return to the dealership for servicing. Over time, the dealership probably makes more money from me through regular service visits, oil changes and snow tire storage than the margin on a new car.

Oakville Honda hasn’t seen me for nearly two years, though. Because their technicians don’t check for wear when removing tires in the spring, only when installing in the fall, I paid to store tires they later told me were “abnormally worn” and was rushed to replace them with winter coming.

I complained to the general manager by snail mail (I know, so old-fashioned) rather than calling out Honda on social media as I thought it fair to give the manager a chance to respond. Crickets.

In the spring, I made an appointment to get the snow tires removed, giving plenty of notice to get the tires out of storage. To make a long story short, the staff did not get the tires out of storage, apparently did not realize this until my appointment time and did not tell me until the time my car should have been ready. That meant a wasted trip and a return visit. The staff also missed making several followup calls.

I wrote again, this time to the service manager. I was still willing to give them a chance, but was already thinking about going somewhere else for the next oil change. No response.

Meanwhile, I’m now storing my out-of-season tires in my own garage. Two oil changes have taken place elsewhere. More than 18 months passed before someone from the dealership called to say it was time to make an appointment for an oil change, or had I taken it elsewhere? I said I had.

Who’s looking at the results of these calls? Who is following up?

Followup failure is everywhere

Car manufacturers are in the hot seat here, but I’ll bet every person you speak to has a customer disservice story. (I have more; ask me about my Pella door…)

Cellular service providers, airlines, appliance manufacturers, retail stores – all have repeatedly failed their customers in some way. Prospective customers get a better price on products and services than existing customers. People who pay for one thing get less than expected. Customer service calls are answered in another country, and solving issues takes multiple calls and hours of wasted time. Your call is important, yet may not be welcome after 3 p.m. or on weekends.

A little more attention to customer service and followup would help, don’t you think?

What’s YOUR customer disservice story?