Anyone who knows me will tell you… I’m a car guy. It’s an illness. And I blame my Dad for it. Completely. I grew up around a man who always had Fiats, MGs and Triumphs. I learned to drive a stick on a Porsche 944. My very first car was a 1975 Triumph TR7. (Anyone who knows British car marquees is groaning in pain right about now.) But when that is your starting point, you run a very high risk of becoming a car guy. And so, I did and I am.
With that as my basis, I’ve basically always been a guy who lurks in and around car dealers… waiting in the shadows to spring on the sales guy the second that 2004 Volkswagen R32 arrives at the shop. Good eeeeeeeeevening! I vant to buy that caaaaaar. (You were supposed to imagine The Count from Sesame Street there… I hope that worked.) Since I’ve had any number of Volkswagens, Hondas, Acuras and even Mazdas, I’ve been exposed - in a meaningful way - to a lot of dealerships. On a quick mental count, I can name about fifteen of them. And when you consider how bad some of those cars can be from a reliability standpoint…and I’m not speaking of the Japanese ones…I’ve been on a first-name basis with a great many service managers.
Like, almost all of them.
And I’ve also discovered that many service managers have a very short tenure. This means that in some cases I’ve known two or three service managers for each dealership I’ve interacted with.
And why do I know all these service managers so intimately?
Simple. Because most dealership service departments are absolutely horrible. I have had a theory for some years that dealerships have a “pain in the ass” flag in their retail systems that they flip to “on” whenever you raise your issue all the way up to the service manager, and until that flag is tripped, they just don’t bother even trying. No joy before I escalate. Once I escalate, suddenly the magic begins happening… for that issue, and for every future one as well. Hmmm….
And they all do the same stuff. How many of these scenarios sound familiar to you?
- Every single time you show up there’s approximately $450 in extra repairs “necessary,” often on some weird thing you’ve never heard of before.
- You: “It’s making a noise. Please fix it.”Dealer: “We couldn’t replicate the problem.”
- You: “It’s doing [insert bad thing here] constantly under the following very specific circumstances.”Dealer: “We couldn’t replicate the problem.”
- You: “It’s doing [insert bad thing here] constantly under the following very specific circumstances.”Dealer: “That’s normal.”
- You: “The car bursts into flames when I exceed 37 miles per hour.”Dealer: “That’s normal.”
Ok, maybe not that last one, but I could go on and on and on about all the problems I’ve had with cars and dealerships over the years, and I’m not even getting into all the sales nonsense some dealers play, like “How much are you looking to spend?,” “Are you sure this car is right for you? We have this economy model…,” and “Well, let me talk to my manager.” I once had a friend who worked at a dealership and they - I kid you not - would “lose your keys” after evaluating your current car to force you to stay there longer and wear you out. Really. I could go on for days. Days.
The Better Side of Customer Service
This all changed when I walked into Sunnyside Acura in Nashua, New Hampshire.
Now don’t get me wrong. They’re a business, and businesses have to make money, and there are still elements of being a car dealership that will influence even the best of shops, but Sunnyside is hands-down the best dealership I have worked with in my life. From sales to service, top to bottom, an absolute class act in every respect.
I once even had a situation where the result was that Acura of America agreed to pay for a complete engine rebuild… well outside of warranty. It took the guy in the service center so much effort and documentation that the resulting stack of paper was literally an inch tall. And none of that would have happened without his support. The team there always takes my concerns seriously, they genuinely work with me to solve problems, and they work with me creatively to juggle maintenances that are a little less critical so I’m not laying down a small fortune all the time - particularly important because my wife’s car is eight years old these days, and even Acuras start to age eventually. Yeah, I do occasionally get the “we didn’t hear the noise” thing, but when that happens, they actually plop a technician in the car with me, and we drive around trying to make it happen, which, in my book, is good.
The people there know my name, greet me affably, and work hard to ensure I am satisfied, and my needs are met. The dealership offers free loaner cars that are easy to get - even when you schedule late - and it’s always a nice new car that allows you to try out one of the up and coming models. Sometimes it’s one of the most expensive ones. (They’re not stupid… I can’t tell you how many times I’ve faced a large repair bill and was like “Uh, how much for the loaner I just drove?”) Tragically, they’ve never given me an NSX, but I always ask, and always get a laugh and a polite refusal. Also, perhaps a silly point, but the waiting area is nice with a space for you to work as well as hang out and watch TV, and they have free drinks and snacks. From what I hear, every other Wednesday they have a Ben and Jerry’s ice cream event of some sort… but I always stupidly miss that.
And perhaps most importantly - to this day after owning three different Acuras that I’ve purchased at Sunnyside over the course of I don’t even know how many years, I have never once known the name of the service manager. That, alone, says more to me about that dealership than probably everything else combined.
Why Great Customer Service Matters
And so, what is the meaningful result of this? Simply stated, I go out of my way to tell anyone how amazing they are. “Oh, you have an Acura? Let me tell you about Sunnyside.” “Oh, you want to buy an Acura? Let me tell you about Sunnyside.” Heck, I recently bumped into a guy who brings his Honda to Sunnyside for service, and was like “Holy cow, you can do that?! I’m telling every Honda person I know.”
And who - in any business - could want anything more than that?
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