Customer Service: Inflexibility Hardens

To misquote the proverb:

As regular readers will recall, I’ve based this series on an Entrepreneur magazine article that touched on behaviors that can cost a business money and hurt customer service and retention.

The first three of these behaviors were discussed in the December, January, and February issues of Dealer Marketing Magazine. They are Rudeness, Incompetence, and Deception, respectively. This month’s discussion is about Inflexibility, the second “I” in our acronym R.I.D.I.L.

Because many aspects of this business are so closely regulated, certain specific ways business is done must be inflexible, to abide by the law and protect both the dealership and its customers.

Sometimes, though, behavior toward and words used with customers, even if benign in intent, can come off as being rigid.

In fact, resistance to change is one indicator of toxic employee behavior, reports the business periodical Fast Company. We see this sort of behavior too often—and perhaps others see it in us foremost—by a “my way or the highway” attitude. Any that-isn’t-how-we-do-it-here posture can stop conversation dead, extinguish others’ enthusiasm, and kill a bright idea before it can be fully voiced.

Where this attitude might permeate the dealership culture, watch out. Bloomberg Business noted that bureaucracies generally don’t tolerate deviation from their set ways of doing things, but this inflexibility can be a major obstacle in a competitive business world.

A quick Google scan of dealer-rating websites offers up a wide variety of real or perceived issues where a dealership’s handling of particular situation is deemed inflexible by consumers. Recognize that these stories usually have two sides, but nonetheless, remember that perception is reality when it comes to complaints like these:

  • “Dealer was inflexible on trade-in offer.”
  • “Very inflexible service department. Used unprofessional language and unwilling to accommodate a working mother’s schedule.”
  • “Dealer was inflexible with price; would not negotiate at all.”

Is it possible that a little “gimme” from one or both parties might have won the day in these examples? Do we hold to gross so tight that we lose the deal and the customer for life? Does the clock rule so iron-handedly—and our own hearts so selfishly—that we can’t find a compromise for a too-tightly-scheduled young mom?

Fortunately, most F&I managers are hardworking, ethical, and willing to bend. The newer breed is quick to recognize the law of reciprocity—give a little to earn a lot in return. Yes, F&I must be inflexible when it comes to compliance and other processes. Technology tools like F&I software that help ensure accountability can help here. The genius of F&I technology is it makes it easier to offer up alternatives that give consumers more choices and more flexibility. Inflexibility hardens. A willingness to search for options softens.

Next month, the final thorn of the R.I.D.I.L. of customer dissatisfaction: Lateness.

Jim Maxim, Jr. is President of MaximTrak Technologies, Reach him at

Jim Maxim, Jr.


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