Can you give your customers away?

It’s funny how things come in waves. I talked a little while ago about Nordstrom’s attitude to customers when it sold off Faconnable. What impressed me was they wrote and asked me if they could transfer my information with the sale. I remain blown away by that.

So far this year I have had two similar, but not as well executed, examples. In the first, our long time CPA / tax preparer retired (rather suddenly and unexpectedly) due to ill health. The surprise letter also told us that ‘your records and information have been transferred to….’ and named an individual I had never heard of. I “could, of course, choose another preparer if you so wish.” I was also told that we would get a call from the nominated person to introduce themselves. That didn’t happen. What did happen was that the standard tax prep pack arrived.

I was furious. Was I a commodity to be handed around as someone wished? This of all relationships was the most personal and close to home – my entire financial data and life – was simply passed on to someone I didn’t know – and I was told after the event.

The second was that Broadway Ford, of whom I have written many times (most recently here), are going out of business after 70 years. One of the reasons I stuck with them – through not always smooth car issues – was that it was a small, family owned dealer. I got a (very) strangely written form letter – it didn’t say so, but I got the impression that they were being obliged to close down by Ford – which said that there were two alternative Ford dealers close by. One is more convenient than the other, but neither are well situated for me. Maybe it’s time for an independent who is convenient.

So I was very surprised to start getting mail from the inconvenient dealer within days. It hasn’t let up, so far about six of them. No call, no personal connection, no attempt to build a relationship. I’m just a commodity to be handed around. Why don’t US automakers get that service is the differentiator. My previous car, a Jaguar then also owned by Ford, had service that was just as bad.

And it’s sad, I spent the last week driving a Ford Explorer to and from Las Vegas. What a great car! I can see why people love them – and at 20c per mile on a rental (plus gas of course!) it was a great deal. I got over 19 mpg on the 1600 mile trip including highways and driving slowly and exploring around national parks on the way there and the way back. So the cars are impressive, the service not!

So, the lessons? Back to basics it seems to me.

Number ONE – the Golden Rules

Number TWO – execution is all. This is where I judge how well the policies are delivered to me, as the customer or user.

Execution is hard! Get the policy right, then execute, execute, execute.

P.S. Today, two weeks after Broadway closed it’s doors, I got a letter from them, advising me that my Ford is due for its 50,000 mile service and to bring it to them for service.

Ermmmm. Whoops! Ford, don’t you know you closed down that dealership?????

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