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I decided it was time for a new car a few weeks ago. This should be a moment and time of excitement and joyous anticipation, but nothing could be further removed.

When did buying a car from a main dealership become such a soulless, dull, de-personalised transaction? And I say transaction deliberately, because that’s literally all it was, no sense of customer experience whatsoever, just a cold and joyless process. Or maybe this is just BMW.

I wasn’t even really looking for a new car, very happy with my Mercedes, but had it 3 years and its lease was coming up soon, so time to think about it.

Like all great stories, its starts in the pub! My mate happens to be Manager of the sister dealership next door and I told him my lease was coming up. I told him I quite fancied a particular BMW next. We did some pub maths and worked out that it was do-able.

Next morning, he and the Manager of the dealership next door sent some details of a few cars they had, and we found the right one. Result! Called me to tell me the monthly price, all good, lets do it.

A few days went past, and I eventually got an email from one of the sales team, with details about the car. Turns out, my mate had to chase them and remind them to do this, for a customer he had landed in their lap…

We arranged a time for me to go and look at it, its about 45 minutes away. I arrive at the appointment time, and I’m greeted by nothing. No reception staff, no welcome, just a few people staring at their screen behind their desks. And I’m stood around like I’m waiting for bus.

Eventually someone realises there may actually be a customer nearby, and asks if I’m there to see anyone. I go and sit with the salesperson. We go through the process of diving licence and then I’m off into the car to go for a test drive. On my own. No idea where I’m going, and no idea how any of the controls work. Like I was signposted through a hospital corridor.

I arrive back, and I’m ok with the car. Not in love with it, but then I haven’t been shown much about it. They bring up the order form, and the price is higher than what was agreed the week before. Good job I spotted that. I bring this to their attention and am told that’s the price for that vehicle and my part exchange. So I get up to leave. And funnily enough, just as I’m going out the door, the price drops back to what was originally discussed. Really?  The 80s have called and asked for their sales tactics back.

I sign the acceptance form and go back home, not feeling very great about the experience at this point. I appreciate we are in post covid times, but come on, there are some basics that every business still has to get right for their customers.

But it was about to get worse. I then have to go through the finance process for the lease. I get sent a link to my mobile, where I have to take a selfie. Doesn’t let me. Tried several times. No way to get in touch with them. I then get send another link where I have to take a photo of my ID on my phone and upload it. Tried that several times, it didn’t like it.

May well be user error on my part, but by this stage I have spent over an hour and half trying to work their system, and am extremely frustrated. Do they have no concept that a) people may have other things to be doing and b) what this is doing to their customers emotions and sentiment?

Eventually it seems to work, and I get sent another link to with a url to virtually sign the agreement. That doesn’t work either. AAAGGH! I give up at this point. For 3 days, I then keep getting texts every 4 hours from the finance company telling me I haven’t completed the process. No way of telling them I cant. No help function, and of course, definitely no way to actually contact them.

I tell the dealership this as well, but have no reply from them for 5 days. Eventually, the day before I’m due to collect it, which coincidentally happens to be their half year end, they obviously realise they haven’t had the money, and a new link gets sent to me, and its finally resolved.

I go to collect the car the following day. Again, stood at the door like a lemon. I then get the whole hard sell for all the add ons. Someone has obviously decided this is the optimum time to try and flog loads of insurance. It really isn’t. After the experience you’ve provided, most people aren’t going to be in the mood to give you any more money.

I then handover the keys for my old car, get given the keys for my new one and that was it. Off I go. No handover, no showing me around. No taking me through the consoles or the systems or all that it does. Just a cold transaction.

Honestly? I’ve had better customer experience buying a bag of apples down the market.

If this is the way dealerships are operating in 2021 and beyond, then its absolutely no wonder their whole market is being disrupted by the likes of Cazoo and Cinch. I could have had the whole transaction with the same experience, and never left my sofa.

I of course got the obligatory CSAT and NPS survey last week. No prizes for guessing how I rated that and the feedback I left, and also none for being surprised at the lack of a closed loop and any follow up, which gives you impression they just don’t care.

They need to seriously wake up to what their proposition is, and start delivering on it, or they are not going to have much of a business left in 5 years’ time, apart from servicing.

I have to say, given the above, this could well be the last time I ever buy from a dealership again. Surely in 3 years’ time when it’s time to change this car, the market will have evolved to such an extent that the online players are now the norm.

And you know what, let’s not feel sorry for the dealerships. Based on this experience, it’s about time they were disrupted. I’ll never have to face the disinterested arrogant sales people or the 1980s sales tactics ever again.


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