What’s a Customer Worth?

Sometimes you just have to shake your head and wonder what people are thinking.  About a year ago, my daughter bought her first new car, a Mazda Miata Convertible.  As you might imagine, she was very excited.  Who doesn’t have fond memories of their first new car?

The dealership and the salesman did all the right new-customer stuff.  They sent thank you notes.  They took good care of her when she came in for service.  Everything was going nicely.  Then, a few months ago, her convertible top started coming apart.  The seams just started to fail.  So, back to the dealer she goes.

Of course, no one had ever heard of such a thing happening, but they replaced the top under warranty.  It only took a day and the dealer furnished my daughter with a car to drive, so while she was slightly inconvenienced, things were still OK.

Now it’s January.  The car is close to a year old and the top is coming apart again.  This defect which no one at the Mazda dealer had ever heard of before is happening a second time.  Back to the dealer.

This time, they’re not so nice.  In fact, they won’t even look at the car unless she makes an appointment.  The earliest she can get in is next week.  That’s not an appointment to fix the car.  It’s just an appointment to look at it.  If things go as they did before, the dealer will have to order the top, which takes a few days and she’ll have to go back again.

I don’t know about where you are, but here in St. Louis it’s winter!  It’s cold.  It snowed last night.  My daughter has a hole in the top of her car.  Best case, she’s going to have a hole in the roof for another ten days.

Her take on this whole situation.  "I’ll never buy another Mazda!"  Of course, while the defective top is a Mazda problem, the poor customer service is a dealer problem.  But, it doesn’t matter.  Bommarito Mazda and Mazda Motors both have an unhappy customer.

So, back to the original question:  "What are they thinking?"  Let’s do the math.  My daughter’s twenty-one years old.  You can assume that she may buy another twenty more cars in her lifetime.  Even without inflation, that’s somewhere north of a half a million dollars worth of cars.  None of them will be Mazdas.

I’m going to take it a step further and say that her three brothers will probably also never buy a Mazda.  That’s another million and a half dollars worth of cars, a total potential loss of two million dollars.  That’s not to mention all of her friends and others who will hear her story (including the millions of readers of this blog).

In this day and age, with instant communications via the social media, no company, large or small, can afford to alienate a customer, especially when a problem can easily be resolved.  Someone at the Mazda dealership could have taken five minutes to look at the car, apologize for the problem, and order a new top.  Problem solved.  Customer happy.  No negative word-of-mouth.

Instead, the dealer is still going to have to replace the top but now the customer relationship is damaged.  The relationship will be much harder to repair than the car, if it can be repaired at all.

So, before you blow off a customer’s problem, no matter how small it may be, think about the lifetime value of that customer.  You may not be selling $20,000 cars, but you could still be losing thousands, or even hundreds of thousands of dollars of potential business from that customer, her friends, and relatives. 

2 Responses

  1. Hello,

    Very good article.

    Keep up the good work.

    Grtz.

    Thijs

  2. Hope your daughter gets her car fixed soon. I totally agree with you – every customer is important and should be treated as such.

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