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Can the teacher learn from the pupil?

If you’re like me, you’ve attended your share of seminars on good customer service. And if I asked you what auto company is most often credited with “raising the bar” for customer service expectations you’d probably answer – Lexus. “Learn from the Lexus example” we’ve been told many times. 

Well, times have apparently changed and, perhaps, the teacher could learn from the pupil these days. I’m referring to a case in Tampa where a lady recently purchased a new Lexus 470 SUV loaded with everything, including a pull-down DVD player for passengers in the back seats to watch. It’s an attractive option for buyers with young kids. 

Alas, one day her 3-year-old decided the DVD slot should also be good for coins, so he tried one. It didn’t play. It didn’t come back out, either. In fact, now the DVD no longer plays disk or coin! So, off to the Lexus dealer where she’d purchased the car less than a year ago to get that “raise the bar” service she expected. What she got was anything but!

After trying to peer into the DVD player but unable to see the coin, and after a lot of probing into the player without success, the service manager told her there was nothing they could do for her. “That’s a factory installed special option and we don’t service those things,” she was told. “What do you mean you don’t service these,” she asked? “We just don’t deal with them,” was the reply.

“OK.  How about replacing the unit? What would that cost,” she asked. The answer was $5,000! “Wait a minute,” she said, “the DVD player was only a $1,500 option. Now you’re telling me the cost to replace it is $5,000?” The reply was short and the conversation ended with: “That’s right and that’s all I can do for you!”

I suppose you know where this is going, class.

Did that service manager handle the customer’s problem well? Even if he couldn’t repair it, should he have blown off the customer as he did? Was there anything more he could have done to help the situation?

In fairness, the service manager said “maybe we can find an after-market outlet that could do something.” To date, no one has called the customer (in over a week) with a recommendation or even an update. So much for “raising the bar” of service.

I’d like to believe that most good boat dealers would respond to a similar service situation with a lot more effort than a distasteful answer and a failed promise to call.

Could the service manager have called the manufacturer and discussed the situation to see if the factory was willing to help a good customer (her second Lexus in 4 years?)  Failing that, could the factory have directed the service manager to someone who could have offered some assitance?  Should the service manager have called the customer? Should not the Service Manager be taking time to see if he could locate a local source of service? Should the Service Manager take it upon himself to do everything possible to take care of the customer?

I know one thing – don’t give me any of this Lexus raises the bar stuff again.


7 comments on “Can the teacher learn from the pupil?

  1. Noel Osborne

    You cannot blame the manufacturer if the dealer failed to execute properly. If that was the case there would not be any marine manufacturers left. Overall Lexus has certainly been responsible for a significant improvement in the auto industry. Their J.D. Powers ratings cannot be a fluke if they win repeatedly. By the way, I am not a Lexus owner.

  2. Schwarzel

    Norm, WHY does everybody compare the marine industry to the auto industry? A car is a must for anyone who is working. Yes some are plush, but it is a mode of transportation, getting you from point A to B. Most people who own boats know that it is a luxury. I’ll bet if a DVD player was broken on a big boat (insert brand here) that most high end boat dealers would have fixed the problem. At our dealership we only do bass boats, our rep is, that we take care of our customers. Joe “Lunch box” is our customer, and to drop 31K to 45K in a bass boat is a very big deal to them. I WANT that guy happy, so that he will tell his buddies how good of a deal and the service he received. Now I could care less about Lexus, but that just goes to show you that even at the top, service is a problem.

  3. Anonymous Bob

    Keep in mind this is an isolated incident and, I would think, not indicative of all Lexus dealers. Did this happen to someone you know??

    In my experience, I have seen way too many rude sales and service people at boat dealerships to conclude our industry is on a higher plane than other industries. Yes, there are dealerships that provide outstanding service. Guess what? Those are the dealerships that are successful even in our current tough market. Those dealerships will continue to be successful because of their focus on customer service. The dealers that lack the personality, people skills, customer focus, or whatever you want to call it, are the ones that are the loudest complainers about the current market situation; however, they are also the last to attempt any type of training to improve their teams.

    Just like any other industry, the bad apples cast a bad light over all the other players. Don’t jump to conclusions about the group because of the one bad member. I’m sure the lady in the article could make some headway if she were to contact someone at the corporate level of Lexus. If it was such a bad experience, it’s imperative to let the company know so they can cull the bad apple from the bushel.

    Remember that generalizations and stereotypes do more harm than good.

  4. dave boso

    You know we never hear both sides of a story like that, But we boat dealers should know how well a mfg. will stand behind a problem. No don’t get me wrong i have not had that kind of experince, but i know dealers that have.

  5. Brad

    I suggest reading a book by Carl Sewell called “Customers For Life”. Carl Sewell has numerous auto dealerships in Texas including Lexus. The owner of our marina had us read it a few years ago. I still refer back to it. Everyone who reads can learn something from it.

  6. Anonymous Bob


    Could this not be an isolated incident? One bad apple shouldn’t ruin the whole bunch. I’ve seen quite a few rude, aloof sales and service people in the boating industry and I cringe at the thought of those people dealing with the public. It is easy to transfer those feelings to the others in the industry, when, in fact, it’s just a case of bad apples.

    My suggestion is for this lady to contact Lexus on a corporate level to relay her lack of courteous service and her dismay at discovering the alleged cruel facts of the servicing of her DVD player. Lexus does not have the reputation they do by ignoring their customers and I would be willing to bet that Lexus will do what they can to assist this customer. And if they are true to their word, I would also be willing to bet the service advisor may have a “listen here, buddy” type of meeting.

    To paraphrase and do a hatchet job with some John Lennon lyrics, “Just give Lexus a chance”.

  7. Dave Boso

    Way back in 1980 i bought a GM sationwagon with a diesel engine, would not start , had it back to the Dealer several times, never did fix it. On the way home from the dealer the last time I stoped at the Ford store and boght a New Town and Country. Life is to short to be fooling around with this stuff.

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