Where the customer doesn’t count
Our old family car was beginning to give us problems. My wife Susy and I decided to change it with a Toyota Innova. I remembered being invited to the inauguration of the new Toyota Makati complex at the Ayala avenue extension some years ago. So I called up and asked for the manager. I was told he was busy so I left my number. After a couple of unanswered calls, I got hold of the number of a sales agent (her title was marketing professional). When I met her, she told me the unit we wanted was in short supply in our preferred color, but there was one available. I gave her the reservation fee and waited. Several days passed and there was no news. When I called her, she apologized and said the vehicle intended for me has been sold to someone buying more than one unit. Fine, I offered to help. I called up a dear friend who was a top executive of Toyota. A vehicle was quickly provided.
One of the incentives being advertised about the vehicle we wanted was a forty thousand peso (P40,000) discount if the purchase was to be financed. But when I brought the papers for their in-house financing to our bank, it was pointed out that the discount was being applied to other charges, and not to the purchase amount. So our down payment and amortization was not going to be reduced by the discount. We decided against their in-house financing and went with the bank. Anyway, we thought there would be no problem as the bank was a sister company of theirs.
We were to experience more delays. After signing off on the financing papers with the bank, my wife was told that once there is a purchase order, “the car can be released in 30 minutes”. She went to Toyota Makati that same afternoon with my son. They waited for an hour and a half without being told the reason for the delay. When she called for the manager, she asked for five minutes, and then did not come back. The sales person who was handling the account kept on giving vague reasons for not releasing the car, murmuring something like “technicalities with the bank”.
It turns out that the car was being held because Toyota Makati calculated the total cost of the car differently from the bank. But instead of explaining the problem, they just made my wife and son wait and wait and wait.
To us, as customers, if they had told us the problem we would have immediately said that difference in the cost was not an issue. What was unacceptable was their unwillingness to give any explanation as to why the car was being held. We would have had no problem agreeing to a lesser discount as we were not using their financing services. We knew car dealers earn more through financing. But instead of withholding the release of the car they should have come up front and explained.
On the day my wife walked out of the showroom without the car, I was teaching my MBA class in a building not too far from theirs. My class in public governance was discussing the Total Quality Award. The number one standard: customer and stakeholder orientation.
We finally got the vehicle. Only after they showed us how customer care should not be. My only consolation is that the Innova is really an excellent vehicle. And since the Innova is in demand, perhaps this dealer feels the customer doesn’t count.