Wanted to start sharing good and bad experiences with different companies, and have a discussion on what they did well, or could have done better.  The first here, is with Evergreen Ford in Issaquah, and below is both my letter and the response from the general manager.  I think this is a great example of a sales channel destroying the good will built up in an excellent product.  Ford depends on their sales channel to deliver a good experience to their customers.  When they don’t, the brand itself suffers.  The result?  As a long time Ford buyer, I walked in specifically to buy two Fords.  Later that weekend I had a Dodge and a Volkswagon.  What would you have done as the General Manager?  Tried to recover me?  He in essence told me next time I’m in the market, talk to him and he’ll take care of me.  If he would have simply bought me out of the Dodge, and given me a good deal so I was cost neutral, I would have gone back to Ford.

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Dear Tony;

I have been a loyal Ford customer for many years.  I currently have a Rousch Mustang, a 1966 F-150, a Freestyle, and an Escape.  I have bought multiple other Fords, including a new Thunderbird, a new Escape and other cars in the past 6 years.  I have also referred many people to Evergreen Ford in Issaquah over the past few years, and have been responsible for many more sales than my own.  In addition, I use the Ford service center, and have many times in the past few years.  Two weeks ago, I walked in with the intention of buying a new Ford Escort or similar for my 16 year old daughter, and a new or newer Ford F-150 for myself.  At the end of the weekend, I ended up owning a VW Beetle and a Dodge Ram Laramie crew cab pickup. I am a customer experience leader for a major company in the area– I talk about customer experience, I teach courses about how to treat customers, I write.  This is the same story I told more than 50 customer experience leaders from around the world at a course on customer service and brand, and I would like to tell you as well.

I am a very easy customer to please and to deal with.  I have a good idea of what I wanted, and am a loyal customer and big fan of Ford, so there is little reason to compete.  I get access to X-plan pricing, so for at least for new cars, there is not much to discuss regarding price, either.  All I am looking for is to deal with honest people who value me, and value my time.  I asked for an Escort with an automatic, and asked to look at trucks.  We looked at trucks, and I test drove one that I liked, it was used, a 2007 fx4 – red with a nice lift kit, very sharp looking.  I test drove it twice, then brought in my daughter and test drove again.  Other than one test drive in a new white F-150, that was it.  I called<Name removed>, the assistant sales manager, and spoke to him several times.  I told him that if they could offer me a price of $22,000 on the truck, I would take it, and be in that night to sign the paperwork.  He called me back, and said “Congratulations!  The truck we drove is yours for 22k!”.  That evening, I was 90 minutes away in Gig Harbor.  I talked to <Name Removed> a couple more times that evening, and he said he was looking forward to seeing me.  He said they were closing, and to do what I could to make it in by 8:00.  I was with my family, made them skip dinner, and we all drove the 90 minutes back to Issaquah.  We sit down, and the sales manager Mike comes over and starts the conversation with “There’s been a mistake”.  He explained that they couldn’t sell me the truck for that amount, that instead of $22k, it would now be $25,500.  “We couldn’t expect him to sell it at a $3500 loss could we?”  Regardless of the fact that it
was advertised on the internet for $24,500.  He gave us a story that they thought we were talking about a different truck.  Even though I had been there for two days test driving one specific truck.  There was no other similar truck listed in inventory on the internet, and it is ridiculous to think that they could have made that mistake, or not notified me of that when I was driving 90 minutes away!

Fool me once, shame on you.  Fool me twice, shame on me.  When I had bought my previous car, a one year old Ford Freestyle, EXACTLY the same thing happened. That time I paid the extra money.  Not again, this time I walked out of there.  The customer experience at this dealership has continually gone downhill, and I have a hard time trusting here now.  Even the little things…for example, call <Name Removed>.  His voicemail will tell you to “leave a message.  I will return your call at my earliest convenience.”  He may not even realize how bad that sounds.  But his earliest convenience?  What about his customer’s convenience?  He should give you his alternate cell number, and let you know he is currently with a customer, and if he doesn’t call back within an hour, here is the dealership number, please have him paged!  Every little interaction is a perception point where a customer like me is making a judgment about your business, about the integrity of your brand.  Any one of these things by themselves probably would not have caused the loss of business, but there were many other issues as well.  Trash talking other Ford dealerships (Sound Ford and Ford of Kirkland to be specific), and calling into question their integrity.  Any time I wanted a price on a vehicle, I would hear “Let’s go in and talk about it”.  At Dodge, there is a worry-free folder in every car, sitting on the seat, which contains Kelley Blue Book value, price sheet and the Carfax report.  Big difference in terms of  pressure.  Put together, all these things call into question the integrity of your dealership, and in fact, the strength of the overall Ford brand.  You have turned a rabid fan into someone who is now out there not just looking at the competition, but buying as well.

When I have a bad experience with a company, I tell hundreds of people.  When I have a great experience, the kind that has the potential to become mythic, or turnaround, I tell thousands (seriously).  Usually, I like to identify ways that a business can earn my trust, business and patronage again.  In this case, I am having a hard time thinking of anything, to be honest.  I like my Dodge Ram, I like the new VW Beetle.  To turn this around would require more than I am likely worth as a customer.  You would need to demonstrate that you have integrity, and that you are driving specific changes at the dealership in your staff’s approach with customers.  That gets me to the point where I respect your dealership again.  But to get me as a Ford customer again would require more.  You would need to take my Dodge in trade at my full out of pocket cost, plus give an amazing deal
on an F-150 Lariat or equivalent 4×4 with all rebates. As I said, I may not be recoverable, but you can at least avoid driving away other customers.  Btw, I called <Name Removed> the next day and asked him to return my call.  I also called the day after that, and asked him to return my call.  He has never called back.

The even sadder part is that my fiancé kept telling me she had a bad feeling about this dealership, and could we go somewhere else – she felt like everyone was too ‘salesy’, didn’t like the crowd of salespeople standing outside the door ready to swoop in on people, pushing too hard, not being honest or responsive.  I kept saying, “no, these guys are great, I’ve done business here for years.”

Thanks,

Tom Moran

Please note that a copy of this letter is also being sent to the following:
Ford Dealer Relations
Ford Zone Manager
Sound Ford
Ford of Kirkland
Issaquah Chamber of Commerce
Better Business Bureau
Facebook Evergreen Ford Fan Page
CitySearch
The Complaint Board

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Response from the General Manager of the dealership.

Mr. Moran,

Thanks for the input.  We are conducting daily, yes,
daily sales/customer perception training.  Currently, Monday-Thurs
and twice on Fridays.  In addition, Saturday early am for an all store
meeting 8-9:30.  We are in a difficult industry with a checkered pass with
regards to perception and overall customer service.

We have an added healthy environment by selling 90% of our vehicles through Internet sources such as Auto Trader.com, as well, many other Internet sources.  But regardless of the source, the Internet element has changed the customer expectation for the positive.  Our guests are much closer to a buying decision and much further along in the buying process when they physically reach the store.  For the most part, this has increased general customer satisfaction, as most of the perceived negotiation process is eliminated.  We price our vehicles with an aging factor, but more importantly, we price them for the price we need to sell for.  It has been very well excepted.  It would seem to me, with regards to your experience, we had a stock number error of some type.  As a general practice, would would be unable to satisfy any customer, quoting one price and
then not delivering on that offer, as know would guess.  Mr. Moran, I would like to apologize for any added stress Evergreen Ford put on you during your car buying endeavour. Although I cannot turn back time, I would offer this;  The next time you, or any of your circle of influence, needs help of any type related to automotive services, please contact me direct either on Facebook, email or cell.  I will go out of my way to save you and friends time and money.

Tony <Name Removed>

General Manager/Partner

Evergreen Ford/Issaquah Imports