Trillium Automobile Dealers Association

Serving the interest of Ontario New Car
and Truck Dealerships for over 100 years

Dealerships Need to Hear from Unhappy Customers

Published on Friday, 07 October 2011

Some recent columns may have left readers with the impression that new car dealerships spend a lot of time addressing customer complaints.

The reality is that most transactions are completed without a hitch. I can't cite any formal studies, but I'd say 99 per cent of our business dealings go smoothly and customers are satisfied.

With the sheer volume of work that is processed each day — repair orders, internal work orders and internal communications — mistakes are bound to happen.

If you have a problem with a dealership, the best way to proceed is to think about the issue carefully and gather all the relevant facts. It's easy to lose your cool or leave without saying a word, but that doesn't solve anything.

Once you've gathered the facts, approach your initial contact person. It could be a salesperson, a service adviser or a business manager. When relating your side of the issue, be clear, concise and objective.

Most issues brought forward by customers are easily resolved with an initial conversation. Such matters rarely get elevated to a more serious level.

However, if that doesn't work, approach a manager in that department or the general manager. Managers have experience in working through issues and finding a solution.

Failing that, you can contact the dealer principal. Throughout my career, I've been asked to mediate disputes between customers and employees, and even between employees.

Whenever I'm in this position, I'll insist the parties present all of the facts. In almost every instance where I've intervened, and listened to both parties, the problem has been the result of poor communication.

If a customer has a dispute with an auto manufacturer relating to automobile defects and warranty issues, a separate body, the Canadian Motor Vehicle Arbitration Plan (CAMVAP), handles the complaints.

Established in 1994, CAMVAP is a not-for-profit organization that serves as an independent, third party to arbitrate disputes between consumers and auto manufacturers. Informally, it's known as a court of last resort. Eligible vehicles include current model year and any vehicles within the four previous model years.

If you have a legitimate complaint about a dealership experience, don't be shy about bringing it to the dealership's attention. The last thing they want is for customers to take their business elsewhere.

Dealers rely on feedback from their customers, good or bad. Obviously, we like to hear compliments but we also need to hear when a customer is unhappy. Constructive criticism helps us improve our processes and, in turn, provide better service.

Loss of a friend

On Sept. 30, we lost a dear friend and industry advocate with the passing of Gerd Reisenecker. Gerd was the former dealer principal of Greenbelt Volkswagen in Markham.

He served as president of the Toronto Automobile Dealers Association and was past president of the Canadian International AutoShow.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family.

Go back to Editorials 2011 »

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