"From the very first phone call to Avonvale, the service was fantastic..." - Avonvale Honda Northampton

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Mr Dean Fosbury 2nd July 2012

I was going to write to the Dealer Manager anyway, so your email is good timing. I wanted to test drive four vehicles this week: two from Honda and two from VW. It made perfect sense to do them at the same time as the dealers are literally next door to each other in Northampton. The experiences were miles apart.

From the very first phone call to Avonvale, the service was fantastic. The lady that answered the phone was professional, courteous and asked me what cars I wanted to test drive before putting me through to the sales guy (Bradley) so that he knew before we spoke and I didn’t have to repeat myself. He took all the necessary details from me, so that when I arrived we only had to worry about driving the cars. He also knew what car i already drove, so when he saw me pull into the car park, he walked over to greet my wife as she got out of the car with a “Hello Mrs Fosbury”. It may be small, but these things do make you feel important.

We were ready to drive. Bradley had parked the car in front of the show room, away from normal parking spaces, so the car appeared “presented” to us; an excellent touch. He was happy to sit in the rear seats with my son, while my wife and I experienced the drive from the front. He was knowledgeable on the two Hondas, and also on the two VW’s we were considering. He listened to the conversation between my wife and I and chose when to add detail about the cars at the right times. These test drives were towards the end of normal office hours, but we never once felt rushed or hurried by Bradley.

One aspect that impressed me about Bradley, was that at no point did he criticise the cars we were to test drive at VW, in fact, he knew where they maybe stronger than Honda and did not hide from that, pointing out one point where they were much stronger.

We left that Honda dealer, feeling that we were very important and that Avonvale realised that spending several thousand pounds was a big commitment from us and we were treated with that respect accordingly.

One reason why I have taken the time to write this detail, is that the experience we received 20 yards across the road at VW, was a million miles away. From the moment I made the phone call to VW I knew the experience was going to be bad. There was no polite receptionist answering the call, only a seemingly disgruntled salesman who didn’t seem interested in my call. He took no details from me, other than the two cars I wanted to drive. I even told him of one used car I had seen on their forecourt that weekend, but he didn’t seem interested and they didn’t test drive us in that specific car.

When we arrive at VW, no-one greeted us anywhere, let alone in the car park as Bradley had. After standing for a few seconds, I approached a back wall sales desk and the salesman (who turned out to be the one I had spoken to) stood up and walked away, having looked at me twice without communicating. He was then called back by a colleague once I asked for him by name. He rushed us to the car for the drive, paying no attention to my wife or son, and actually seemed annoyed that they were to accompany us on the drive. For the whole of the test drive he played or messaged someone on his phone (probably an irate girl-friend who had tried to call him three times already and he had said he’d have to call back).

When my wife asked him what a strange switch in the car was for, he replied that he didn’t know and even worse, then continued to tell us that he had been asked that question before yet still didn’t know! He showed no interest in us for the two test drives and when we returned to the dealer and parked the car, we asked to go back to the first car to look at the boot space. He popped the boot, said “help yourself” and marched back of to the showroom never to be seen again.

I work in a manufacturing company where we differentiate ourselves on service, and want to make the Customer Experience as strong as possible, so this is a hobby horse of mine. I couldn’t believe the difference in the two companies on the same day at the same time, one after the other.

Please pass on my feedback to Bradley and his Manager; he was excellent. We have been left with a quality feel about Honda. the shame for VW is that they had a head-start. I have driven VW for the 14 of the last 18 years; so I obviously like them. The customer experience that day was just appalling. One up to Honda.

Unfortunately, when buying a car, it is not just about the experience and the performance, comfort, economics, etc., all play apart and we have just completed round one with the initial test drive. We now are looking at just two of the cars and will need to test drive again. I will be contacting Bradley to see if it is possible to have a longer test drive so we can do a further comparison on the two cars (one Honda).

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