When OEMs & Dealers have “Lost that Lovin’ Feeling'”

Jim Huebner
20 September, 2021

If you’re in business, you’ve undoubtedly heard this line more than once over the years…

“If it wasn’t for the customers, I’d love this job.” 

And then just last week, a friend of mine asked me this…

“I know you guys say you help make the manufacturer a hero to the dealer network, but don’t you find that the manufacturers just really don’t like the dealers… and usually, vice versa?”

I have to admit, they DO often complain about each other. The manufacturer says the dealer’s being unreasonable. The dealer says the manufacturer doesn’t listen to them, or worse, ignores them. Frankly, it sometimes reminds me of an old married couple. An old married couple who need each other… but complain all along the way.


  • What can be done when a company and/or its customers have lost that loving feeling?

It’s unreasonable to think that a company can make all the people happy all of the time. (My daughter may disagree with me on this when it comes to America’s most trusted brand USAA. She certainly believes THEY do no wrong.) But consider this concept inspired by the business classic Raving Fans…with a twist I’ve taken the liberty to add.

First, the company establishes their vision of how their products or services will be delivered. Then they consider what the customer’s vision is of the way they want to do business with the company. As they do this, there will be an overlap, or “sweet spot”, where those visions intersect. If the company will simply focus on that “sweet spot” and consistently over-deliver there (or as Raving Fans puts it, “Deliver Plus One”) they may be well on their way to a company/customer love fest.

At the Davos World Economic Forum last year, Wal-Mart CEO, Doug McMillon said,

“Being truly customer-centric is what the market will reward.”

The truth is not everyone aims to be the best at being customer-centric – at least from a customer service standpoint. And that creates a tremendous positioning opportunity for at least one brand in every industry and market that’s willing to step up to the challenge. Has your company been looking for a way to better position yourself in the market? Consider owning “great customer service” in the mind of your customers and prospects.

Here are some things to think about as you survey your opportunities…

  • 1) Where is the common ground, or “sweet spot” between your vision for delivering products or services and your customers’ expectations? Specifically define those commonalities.
  • 2) Great customer service is the result of great systems. How can you specifically improve the systems that fall within the sweet spot, and continually “Deliver Plus One”?
  • 3) Most important of all, understand this: Great systems will create consistency, and consistency is truly the key. If the customer has the same experience time after time after time, get ready: A big smooch is probably next.