Blog Post

13 New Lessons in Customer Service from a (Good) Car Salesman

Stay on Top of Enterprise Technology Trends

Get updates impacting your industry from our GigaOm Research Community
Join the Community!

OK, so it’s over one month later, and I finally got a car. I’m actually pleasantly surprised by my final day of car shopping. The first go-round was quite frustrating and ended with me giving up, but I’m happy to report these latest lessons in customer service from a car salesman (and this time a good car salesman).

  1. He wasn’t assuming. When I arrived at the dealership, the salesman (who very much reminded me of Sammy Davis, Jr., which probably made me a little biased, I’ll admit) was not at all assuming. He didn’t have the pushy, in-your-face attitude right off the bat about me making a purchase. He introduced himself casually and asked how he could help.
  2. He didn’t push his agenda. When I told him what I wanted, he didn’t try to steer me any other way. He let me be the guide and call the shots.
  3. If there was an issue, he said, “Not a problem, we’ll fix it.” If I wanted something addressed or corrected, he did exactly what I asked, quickly and without argument or condescension. That was very reassuring, especially with such a big purchase.
  4. I challenged him, and he didn’t feel threatened. If I argued for or against something, he wasn’t at all intimidated or threatened.¬† Other salesmen I’ve dealt with this month became agitated and frazzled if I challenged them.
  5. He stayed out of the way. He wasn’t in my face or suffocating me or not giving me room to think about my options. He gave me space without constantly talking or moving me from one car to another.
  6. He was accessible and prompt. If I had a question, he was available to me right away. If he didn’t have an answer, he personally walked wherever he knew he could find the answer (say the service department) and quickly returned with a response.
  7. He trusted me. If I said something, there wasn’t any sign of doubt or suspicion. We were very much on the same team.
  8. He didn’t haggle over price. An offer was made, and he took it back and forth to the manager until an agreement was reached.
  9. The manager didn’t haggle over price. He was straightforward and didn’t try to nickel and dime the situation. Negotiation was completely finished in a very short period of time, especially compared to my negotiation experiences with the other dealerships a month or so ago.
  10. He didn’t hover. I spent a lot (a lot) of time at the dealership, and when I needed time to take a break from it all, he went about other business, while the manager and other people tended to paperwork and other details. I could sit down and watch TV or read without him staying around all the time. He’d drop in every so often, but he didn’t overstay his welcome.
  11. He got things done. I had to bring the car in today to get a few things done to it.¬†Unfortunately, I’ve been a complete scatterbrain for the past several days because of splitting my time among holiday gatherings and preparations, car shopping and work, and I forgot to call ahead so that he could line things up for me. When I showed up, he didn’t make a big deal about it. He jumped in my car and drove it around to the service department. I left for a bit with some of my family, and he called me while I was gone to let me know that the big item couldn’t be fit in today (since it was so late, completely my fault), but that they would get to it first thing tomorrow. They did, however, go ahead and detail the car today (which they’ll have to redo after the additional work).
  12. He was genuinely friendly. It was easy to see that he takes great pleasure in his work and in making sure his customers are completely satisfied. I greatly appreciated his tireless energy and spirit. It made the entire process much more pleasant and less nerve-racking.
  13. The entire staff was helpful. If I needed something, they got it, no questions and no aggravation.

Thanks to this one salesman and the supporting efforts of the dealership team, I actually had a positive car-buying experience. I was so dreading starting the process over again, but it was such a relief to walk away pleased with the entire process. They did an exceptional job, and I will be sure to remember their efforts when it comes time to purchase again or refer someone I know. Other car salespeople of the world, take note. That’s how you get a life-long customer.

Have you had a positive experience purchasing a car? What helped make it that way?

Image from Flickr by christian.senger

21 Responses to “13 New Lessons in Customer Service from a (Good) Car Salesman”

  1. liked article and wished all car salesmen would follow these traits & teach this is sales school. how to go with the flow of the customer, not the salesman or dealership. wether pushy or not, the consumer will buy or not. but being pushy tends to make customer leave for good

  2. Nice article. It’s interesting that all the comments are focusing on the “car dealer” aspect. These tips are great for anyone delivering customer service in any industry. I think the most important (or at least the toughest) are balancing 5,6 & 7 (staying out of your way and not hovering while still being accessible and responsive – that’s an art) and 11 – getting things done *after* the sale. That’s what separates people who authentically deliver great service from people who are just faking it to make a sale.

  3. Most career car salesman are like this. We are intelligent for the most part and understand that lifetime customers equate to higher lifetime earnings. We do an incredibly stressful job, with all different personalities, and all different types of management. You have to imagine some of the boneheads in charge in this business have been around for 20 years. Some of us, don’t like working for them. Eventually that will change and people will respect the car salesman. But here is a tip to you folks if you want to buy a car from any dealership. Tell us you are interested, be very nice to everyone you talk with. We will tell you if we can make your deal, accept your deal, and treat you well after the sale. It is important you remember to be nice, otherwise you may just get your deal and the dealership will tell you to pound sand if you have a problem afterwards.

  4. $15,000 out-the door (not including taxes, title, registration) with 0% financing for 60 months. Toyotathon ends on Monday, 1/4 so who knows what happens to pricing after that.

  5. Hi

    I really enjoyed your artile and appreicate the time you took to share this article. We are also looking for 2010 Toyota corolla LE automatic model. Will you please share with us the price you paid including all fees except tax for the car?


  6. In my opinion car dealerships should take this article and have every sales person master each of the 13 things that you mentioned. Especially with the economy in such a mess, making the decision to open your wallet for thousands of dollars at one time is more nerve wrecking than ever.

    I am from a small town, the kinda town where everyone knows each other and for the most part the people are very laid back and friendly. When I went to college I left the small town behind, and after college I had no desire to return except to visit my family and purchase a new car.

    The dealership that my entire family purchases their vehicles from uses the exact strategy your salesman used and in return for putting their customers needs first they have built a loyal following of customers who are willing to travel hundreds of miles to buy a car from them.

  7. You could probably figure out the process without the fightingchance packet by researching on the internet. However, the vehicle specific information with the dealer cost and the MSRP for the vehicle and each component in the trim package is the truly valuable information that is not readily available.

    Spending 39.95 at saved me $2950 off the sticker, $1200 below invoice, and $913 less than the price from the local dealer.

  8. I had a very similar experience when buying my car. The first 2 dealers made me wish I had a shower waiting when I left. Even though I had my own financing, they were convinced I needed theirs. They were convinced…not me. Finally I went to the third dealership and low and behold, I hit paydirt. While the other 2 places were certain that I wanted to buy today, these people actually ‘asked’ if I would be interested and then made ME an offer on my car. I didn’t even have to haggle with them. I’ve learned a HUGE sales lesson just by buying my own car. This article really hits home with me! Well done!


  9. As someone who spent 10 years in the automotive business in sales, management and finance, Amber sounds like an awesome customer to deal with. Inside every one of her 13 customer service tips is a tip on how not to have a bad experience at the dealership for the customer. I promise that salesman remembers her being nice and will treat her and everyone she sends wonderfully!

  10. Well, something in the industry must have changed because it was not difficult to get a number of dealers in Missouri and surrounding states (Arkansas, Oklahoma, Kansas, and Iowa) to submit offers.

    In 2006 and 2009 I found that the best offers came from large volume dealers in major metropolitan areas. In 2006 the local dealer said (I don’t know if it was true) that the price I was paying was less than his wholesale cost.

    Keep in mind that this only works for new cars because you are playing a commodities game. Negotiating the price of a used car is a completely different game.

  11. When I was doing that job (years ago), percentage hunters (Like Bob) were not very welcomed.

    The sells were analyzed and anomalities like selling many cars to people having an address outside our area would have resulted in penalities. (The manufacturer would have lower our gross margin)

    Outside our area (defined by the manufacturer), percentage hunters got their deal from dealers with financial difficulties or for bothering an unappreciated competitor.
    Inside our area, they got good deal for quota, internal incentives, because they were recurrent customers, or bringing other customers, etc…

  12. I forgot to mention the extended warranty….

    If you want to buy an extended warranty, you do not have to buy it at the time of purchase AND you can also competitively bid the warranty between dealers just like you bid the car.

    You can buy the extended warranty any time during the manufacturers warranty, but you have the most leverage if you do it at the time of purchase.

  13. In the past, I have found the car buying experience to be excruciatingly painful. Four years ago, I learned about and it completely changed the car buying experience for me. I now feel empowered.

    Remember that new cars are a commodity. It is just a matter of finding who will sell it for the lowest price. Second, remember that dealers may have reasons for selling at at lower prices at certain times to make quotas, to take advantage of manufacturer incentives, etc. The last week of December will be the best time of the year to buy a car. Third, filling out an internet form for quotation is not the same thing is actively getting bids from multiple dealers. They have to know that this is a competitive process.

    Fighting Chance sells you information about the car you want to buy and a system for getting the best price. Four years ago it involved faxing dealers. The method has been updated as an email attack.

    Earlier this month I was helping my mother buy a new car. We test drove cars and she chose what to buy. I contacted 30 Toyota dealers by email and asked for their best price on a specific 2010 Toyota Corolla LE trim package. I offered a second round of bidding to everyone that chose to participate in the first round. Prices ranged from $15,000 to $17,342 for the exact same car.

    We had to drive 200 miles to take delivery of the car, but she got the car at a great price and was able to take advantage of the 0% financing option. We were in and out of the dealership in about an hour. I liked the deal so much, I went back and bought the same car at the negotiated price. And to prove my point above, the dealer I bought from in 2009 was not the same dealer that I bought from in 2006. They were $989 higher this time around.

    Aside from test driving some cars, I did not get caught up in the smarmy games that happen in the dealership. The entire negotiation process was done by email. I didn’t even talk to the salesman until we went to take delivery of the car.

    Some salesmen hate this technique but others love it. You can tell almost immediately from the replies that you receive whether this is a dealership or salesperson that really thrives on internet sales. I was surprised by dealers that took days to submit proposals or who wanted to discuss it further on the phone. Those people were never a factor because they were not going to work on internet time and they did not want to compete on price.

    I’m sure people will ask. In 2006 we purchased from Lou Fusz Toyota in St. Louis. This time we purchased from Molle Toyota in Kansas City.

    Web workers should harness the power of the internet to get the best available price.

  14. Ted Coine

    I really, really enjoyed this article, and have shared it with my Twitter followers. I wish you had included the name of the dealership and the salesman, though. You write you’ll refer him to your friends – how about all your readers?! Good service deserves public recognition, don’t you think?