WHETHER it’s luxury cars or second-hand goods, you can stock the best products in the world but if your customer service is rubbish, you’re on the road to failure.
That’s been a hard fact of commercial life since the year dot – and truer than ever in these recession-hit days – but it is extraordinary how many businesses still haven’t got the message.
In the super-competitive world of new cars, you might think that all the big manufacturers would be falling over themselves to smother their customers in smarm, but it is far from the case.
Lifelong penury has ensured that new car showrooms are as familiar to me as the surface of Mars but I know people who do actually buy new cars with real money, and some of the tales they tell of their experiences would have you shuddering.
Sales staff more interested in their social lives than in dealing with a customer’s questions; failure to answer phones or call back when they promise; a sudden lack of interest once a customer has signed the cheque.
Some companies are notoriously bad at customer service and have earned dreadful reputations over many years, yet still they regularly fail to come up to the mark. A friend of mine recently bought a new car from a dealership 100 miles away because his local one was so off-hand.
So it is nice to report that some carmakers have got it right – and, in Toyota’s case, they really needed to after the incalculable damage done to the company’s good name by the recent plague of recalls and faults.
Toyota’s fast and effective handling of the recalls contributed to it coming top for customer service in a survey of 10 of the UK’s biggest carmakers, according to a poll by RoadTestReports.co.uk.
Contributed to by more than 500 visitors to the car review website, the poll put Toyota top with 17 per cent of the vote, ahead of Volkswagen and Honda, with 15 per cent each. Bottom of that top-10 list were Vauxhall, with Peugeot only a fraction ahead of them.
A spokeswoman for the website says: “Despite media criticism of Toyota, our poll proves that the company handled its recall crisis effectively and efficiently and has emerged relatively unscathed in the minds of the public. The perception of the brand appears to have been well-maintained and proves just how essential good customer service is to the overall performance of the company.
“Poor service can be the ruin of an otherwise good line-up of car models – it’s the final and essential component to ensuring that the feedback from buyers on websites such as our own is positive.
“Good service can be something as simple as providing adequate phone cover or responding to a query in good time. Eventually, providing good service pays for itself in repeat customer and word of mouth recommendations.”