How to be unpleasant to your customers

My local #honda dealer is a case study in how to make life unpleasant for customers. I'm talking about having to get your vehicle periodically serviced, a downside of owning a car. Throughout the years they have changed how you go about scheduling the service and have never made it easy.

The most obvious way of doing this is a form on the web site where you could give your details and pick an available time window. For several years they did have a non-interactive form but cleverly ignored the submissions - you would get no response. When telling them about it the response was that they knew that, but never fixed it. Eventually they replaced it with just sending email. That worked well, although you would get responses in ALL CAPS.

Now they have moved onto their next generation. Ignoring current best practise there is an amazingly unusable Flash app. All the (many) issues with Flash aside, it requires you to pick your vehicle model but leaves out many popular ones including mine! It also looks like it forces you to make yet another username and password and not reuse one of the many you already have (Facebook, Google etc)

There is an email address listed at the side of the service page under "contact us" so I ended up emailing that. The first response took over 3 days, and didn't give me a date and it is now 4 days waiting for the second response. This makes setting up an appointment virtually impossible since your availability windows will have passed.

In a final desperate measure I used the main "contact us" form on the website. That turned out to go to the sales department (despite there being a separate contact for them) who responded with a form letter confirming my interest "in buying a new" (sic) plus daily follow ups about my "research into" (sic). (Yes the sentences end abruptly where some model is presumably supposed to be inserted.) Then some salesman ignored my email address provided, and my customer records, and somehow figured out the unpublished cell phone number of one of my colleagues! (Of course the voicemail he left was bizarre and implied he was one of our customers. When I was able to call back he said he would fix things and would email me when done. That was several days ago and I have heard nothing.)

The lessons for me are obvious. Buy a different car make next time.

The lessons for everyone with a business are simple. Only list ways to contact you that you can actually be contacted by. If your customers persevere and tell you something is broken, fix it or remove it. If you provide email addresses, actually respond in a timely manner. If you have forms then actually try them out. Actually have humans read what customers have submitted - daily automated irrelevant responses will just annoy them further. Simple is fine - the more complicated and convoluted you make something the less likely it is to work, which doesn't benefit anyone except your competitors. If you use Flash you have failed.

I won't detail how unpleasant it can be once you are there for your service, other than it matches the expectations from the above.

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