Updated: Jan 25
Interfaces are not limited to equipment. Inter-departmental dysfunctions can have a hugely detrimental impact to your operation. It's not only about equipment; it's about process and people.
I was recently in the market for a vehicle to surprise my daughter on her 18th birthday. After scouring online postings searching for the right one, an advertisement came up that caught my attention. It was a certified pre-owned, with low mileage, but the description of the vehicle was scarce on specific details. However, the vehicle looked clean, had a clean ownership history (one unnamed owner), and the price was lower than others similarly equipped (based on what I could see on the pictures).
Upon arrival at the dealership, I was surprised to hear the salesman say the vehicle did not exist, but I could look at others on the lot if I wanted to. We walked over the used lot, and I happened to glance over the far back corner; sure enough, the vehicle was there. No price tag, just a vehicle description on the window. We took it for a test drive (noticed significantly less mileage than in the add), and decided to purchase it for the price as advertised online.
When I picked up the keys, the Delivery department said they could not find the spare key, the SD card for the navigation system, or the floor mats; but if I called tomorrow (it was late evening), they would source some for me. When I returned to the dealership the next morning, I was met by a disappointed Delivery Manager who informed me they had sold me the wrong car. It was supposed to be a loaner vehicle for the dealership, which is why they found the missing items in the Service department. The value of the item sold should have been $6,000 more than what it was sold at. But given all the paperwork had been signed, they agreed there was nothing to be done, and they lost the revenue.
Two weeks later when the first monthly payment came due, I noticed that the information listed was not quite correct on the credit information. Upon review of my credit file online, I noticed the dealership had entered my employment information incorrectly, which affected my credit score. You can imagine the fun time I had contacting the credit bureaus to fix the problem.
The license plates were supposed to be delivered to my home as agreed, but since the paper tags were about to expire, I called to check on the status of the tags. After speaking to three different people, the Delivery Manager came to the phone and informed me that the Titling department noticed the vehicle inspection had expired, but since the vehicle was registered as a loaner, the file was placed at the bottom of the pile without notifying anyone. So, I had to go back to the dealership, have them inspect the vehicle so they could give me the license plates. After the ordeal was over, I promised the General Manager I would never set foot on that dealership again. After agreeing with me and apologizing, he asked me "what can we do to earn your business back?" Glad he asked.
Here is what we agreed they should work on:
Fix interdepartmental procedures and communication. Establish two-way verification that the correct information has been transferred to ensure the operation runs smoothly.
Independently verify sales listings to ensure the right vehicle matches the complete description of the add.
Partition the lot and designate areas for specific departments. This prevents accidentally parking a vehicle where it can be sellable.
Designate a specific department to be in charge of customer communication, and place monitor and hold points in the delivery process to notify the customer of the status proactively.
The General Manager was extremely appreciative of the feedback, and promised he would start working on the action items as soon as possible. He also asked if I would mind him contacting me from time to time to keep me abreast of progress and discuss improvement opportunities further.
Having the most knowledgeable team members does not guarantee success. You have to make sure your team works well with other teams in your organization to ensure successful delivery. You may think "sure, but that is not my job"; if you do not say something and try to fix it, you may all be out of a job.