As regular readers know, while I work in the retail side of the auto industry, I rarely allow my day job to spill over into my writing. To ensure that I remain professional at both ends, I stay away from dealership topics close to home. An interesting trend is developing though that merits comment. Consumers seem to have lost control of their emotions and are taking it out on dealership staff at an alarming rate.
Since Christmas, the dealership I work at has had at least one irate customer a day. In some stores, with some brands, this is not abnormal. In my current store though, I can honestly say we might have had 2 truly upset customers in the 12 months leading up to Santa’s arrival. Since the fat man in the red suit has left though, it’s like the fabric that holds these people together has come unglued. Two customers have truly fallen into the certifiable category, both of which very nearly required the involvement of the boys in blue.
So, like any proactive manager, I have attempted to assess what has changed. The same cars. The same staff. We have changed nothing in our methods of dealing with people. So why are our customers becoming so unmanageable?
Over the past week, I have been doing a bit of local market research. Yes folks, car dealerships do actually keep tabs on what the local market is charging. During my many phone calls, I was surprised that one topic was brought up by every Service Manager I spoke with. I was asked by all but one: “Have you found that you are getting many more complaints than usual?” or some similar variation. One store had even called the police on a guy who went nuts in the service department. This was a cross section of 8 different stores, all different brands and everyone has experienced the same thing. In each case, Managers or members of their staff are considering leaving the industry. Their sanity and safety is just not worth it.
Experienced people, in a tough job market who are ready to walk away from their industry because the consumer has become beyond unreasonable.
Why is it then that so many people seem to have forgotten how to behave in public? Even though things in Canada are nowhere near as troubling as they are in the States, there can really be only one answer: The Economy.
We hear tales of 1929, when businessmen and brokers, distraught over lost fortunes, tossed themselves off buildings and bridges. Perhaps we could say that stressful times bring on irrational behaviour. Somehow though, I think things are different now. I suspect that those guys way back then suffered in private, never showing their trauma to others, much less taking their frustration out on others. Today’s society is different. Me, Me, Me is what got the economy in the mess it is in and that same self centered attitude is how people are dealing with other people. Folks just don’t give a damn who they offend or how they are perceived. If they somehow perceive that they have been wronged, they have no problem becoming completely irrational, not to mention treating people like dirt. People today seem to have lost any sort of social graces that were taught in years gone by.
If you are truly receiving bad service, not just when getting your car serviced, but anywhere, then make your feelings known. Just don’t feel that it is somehow ok for you to throw a temper tantrum or get in someone’s face just because things aren’t going the way you had hoped. It is just plain old bad manners. You never know, if you treat people with respect they might just do the same back to you.