Culture Shock: How Does Your Business Impress Your Visitors?

If you’re a price-oriented small business owner, you know the importance of “sticker shock” – idly turning over a price tag and blanching, because you have better taste than your budget can accommodate. When reviewing a business, your subconscious registers the same types of First Impression “culture shock” issues.

Sticker Shock

Last week, I experienced Culture Shock while using 2 car dealerships to deal with 2 recalls. The difference was so stark, I almost wanted to call up a news company and ask them to publish a short exposé with this title: “Would You Trust This Dealership With Your Car?”

The first dealership (Chapman Chevrolet) went out of their way to serve. When I called the number, they routed me to the right person, who scheduled the appointment to deal with a GM recall on a Saturn Ion. When I arrived, there was a very short wait until a customer service rep ran out to ask if I had an appointment. They found the appointment, I strolled into the clean, airy lobby with free popcorn and coffee and WiFi, and felt like Starbucks was taking care of my car. The installation was done in little over an hour, they washed my car, the invoice was left on the passenger seat, and I was handed the card of the same service manager as I had met that morning. It was easy, it was fast, and it was convenient.

The next day, a mere 18 miles away, I pulled up at a grubby-looking facility with a big “Courtesy” sign. There was a long line of cars. The week before, I had scheduled an appointment with a grumpy-sounding employee (Gary) who informed me that there had been NO GM parts available for the Saturn Ion for months. (This was completely untrue; the other dealership had scheduled an appointment with that recall that same day that I called the ‘Courtesy’ dealership.) Essentially, I had made this appointment out of curiosity – would they be as bad in person as Gary was on the phone?

Culture Shock Jam

‘Courtesy’ couldn’t be more different than the first place. I waited in that line of cars for over 10 minutes, for a recall on a Chevy Aveo. Harassed-looking employees were running around in a disorganized fashion, and gesturing impatiently to the customers in line, as if the chaos was their fault. A slick salesman accosted me (in my car), saying that I should only talk to him about getting a newer vehicle (rather than those other pushy rep’s), and that he could get me a good deal; he handed me a card without asking one question about what I wanted. Once a harassed employee actually came up to my car, he let me know that the appointment was invalid because the part wasn’t available. I got irritable and let him know the dastardly nature of Gary, who had made the appointment and also gave out erroneous information about the Saturn Ion recall. This nicer employee apologized quite well, got a copy of the recall notice, and handed me his card, saying that he wanted to earn my/GM’s business by setting aside a part just for me and my car, and would I consider rescheduling; however, he killed the good vibe of the moment by making a comment about other dealerships ‘not sharing’ GM parts when they get distributed. (Surely, as a customer, this territory wrangling was not my problem.) I took the card, and drove away. To date, the only call I’ve gotten was a sales call, asking if I could come in for a trade-in evaluation.

Eventually, I got the Chevy Aveo recall taken care of at the first facility (Chapman), whose name I never remember; I just remember how to find them online, their great service, and that there’s free popcorn and coffee. I will never forget Courtesy, because their name didn’t match their service. One had a culture of service, the other had a culture of sales.

What kind of culture does your business have?

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