Raz Chorev | Socially Acceptable..
sales success

How to kill Customer Experience

I had a dream! Like Martin Luther, I also had one. My dream wasn’t as big as Martin’s, it only involved me. And Harley Davidson, Softail Custom.

Ever since I remember (it is well over 20 years), I wanted to ride a Harley. Wanted to own one. Never got around to it.

I’ve owned a Yamaha Virago, very similar look, but not the real thing.

I even had downloaded a screen saver of my favorite bike, and put it on my home computer.

And last week, I had the opportunity to test ride my dream bike. Trivett Harley Davidson in Alexandria (Sydney, NSW)  had organized a riding event, during which you could test ride a couple of bikes. I can’t tell you how excited I was, during the few days since I made the booking. And certainly the night before. It was almost a dream come true for me.

only a test ride, you think – what’s the big deal?

There are only a handful of brands in the world, which can make people act a bit weird (to say the least).

Not many companies can make people enthusiastic about their products. Even fewer can get random people, not even customers, to worship the brand. Who in their right mind will go and tattoo their body with a logo of their favorite supplier? A Harley-Davidson fan would.

Harley Davidson have created a brand, which evokes a very strong emotion in people. Even people who have never owned, or even tried the product (like me).

Then, 20 years of dreaming of this product, I went to ride my dream machine. My heart was palpitating with excitement, riding my Japanese sport-tourer to Trivett, Alexandria. To the  “riding experience of my life”. Or so I thought…Me on my Softail Custom dream....

I got on it! It felt great! then I looked at it. The bike was dirty. Dusty. Brand new bike! Dusty. And Dirty. Doesn’t matter – This is the DREAM! (I’ve had dirty dreams before 😉 ). Moving on…

The sales guy who came with me to show me the bike, asked me if I have ever ridden a Harley before.  I said: “no”. Then I was introduced to the bike’s best feature – separate indicators, which I don’t need to turn off – the bike knows when the indicators are not needed, and switches them off automatically – WOW, breakthrough (I’m being sarcastic)… Then he went on to explain the gears – 1st gear down, the rest – up. Great! After 20 (ok, 18!) years of riding – “thanks for that tip….”

We start the journey – about 20 minutes ride to a beautiful coastal point, La Perouse, over looking port botany. We park the bikes. The tour guide said: “this is the point where you could swap bikes, if you like to try another, and the other rider agrees. but hurry up, I’ve got 9 of these today…” (referring to 9 more test rides scheduled for today).

I found the other bike I wanted to try, the Softail Heritage. The guy wouldn’t swap with me, as he currently owns the Softail Custom – understandable… the guy next to him had the Muscle – and agreed to swap. Great. we rode back.


Forget about the ride. We went from one suburb to another, with limited time, limited speed – suburban riding. It is what it is.

I’d like to share my experience, as a potential customer:

* I’ll start with my dream – for 20 years I dreamed of riding a Harley-Davidson motorcycle. TWENTY YEARS!! see above for details…

* Then, my effort – What did I do, to get closer to my dream?
1. I filled in an online form. a few days later (I’ve never received a confirmation email) the sales consultant sent me an email, and called to arrange a time for the ride.  cool.
2. I made some arrangement with the wife, to have some time off – this will come at a price, I just don’t know how much.

* Then, the reception – a friendly girl, hesitantly asking to sign a form (just in case I wanted to swap bikes on the way). next to her, sat the Breathalyzer man – The Law is the Law (and some insurance requirement I’m sure).

I wasn’t on the list of riders, as my request wasn’t on the list of approved bikes for the event – so they gave me a demonstrator off their own stock (not part of the event). Why did they have to tell me that – I’m not too sure…

I got the bike, the keys, the features demo (see above), and off we went, and came back.

The esky with some cold drinks came out, to refresh ourselves. nice.

I went to look for the sales person, to give my feedback! Is it just me, or should the sales person take the initiative and approach me, to ask about my experience, whether I liked it or not, and maybe try to get himself (and me) closer to a sale??? I guess I expect too much…

I shared this with him:

“I didn’t like the bike. it was comfortable, but I expected some oomph, power, from such a bike. Nothing of the sort”. His response dropped me to the floor:

This bike is standard. Once you change the exhaust pipes, change the air filter, and chip the engine, you’ll get 15% more power.

Let me get it – you’re trying to sell me a bike that is “standard” therefore under-performing to my basic expectation level,and tell me I need to modify (spend thousands of dollars more! )it to get slightly more (15%) out of it? That doesn’t sound right to me…

Then I was offered his business card – he expect me to call him… Do you think he should hold his breath?

Ok, I had to get this off my chest. A rant every now and again is acceptable (I decided that).

Points to consider, if you want to protect your brand, and make more sales:

1. If you have an online form, make sure someone is following up within 24 hours. no excuses.

2. If you’re organizing a special event for potential customers – make it a real experience. Put some real thought into it – and people will notice. People also notice when staff are not excited about their job (“hurry up, I’ve got 9 of these today”).

3. take the time to get to know the people. talk to them. ask them about the reason they came to your event, and what they expect. You’ll be amazed….

4. Don’t just give away your business card – you’re contributing to land fill. make sure you have your prospect’s contact detail, and make sure you follow up with them.

5. OK, the prospects left, and you want to give them something to remember you by. NOT a business card!! I would expect to have something that I will keep, and will remind me of my experience… examples?

a. a photo – have a photographer for the duration of the event, taking pictures of the riders, and their DREAM machines. then email it to them, and post it on a special page on your website. Wouldn’t they fill proud?

b. Corporate merchandise (promotional products). a cap, a t-shirt, something I’ll keep forever, use and other people will see and talk to me about…

c. NOT A BUSINESS CARD, NOT A BROCHURE, NOT A CATALOGUE! Don’t contribute to land fill – it is not right.

Be customer focused.

Don’t break their dreams.

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  • http://magnoliasolutions.wordpress.com Nancy Georges

    WOW Raz – if this was made up I would say ‘great story’ but this is a real life experience, YOUr real life experience!!

    Every company wanting to elevate their brand and the customer shopping experience should take note of this post and heed the warning.

    NEVER rest on your laurels!

    Love the photo idea – esp with someone as savvy as you!
    it would be on blogs, twitter, websites, online social networks – instead of this pitiful story!!

    thanks for sharing!

  • http://andrewblanda.com/ Andrew Blanda

    Raz, I know how much you were looking forward to it..shame about the outcome.

    Here’s a story of perhaps how it SHOULD have run:

    Back in 2002 I went to Eastern Creek Raceway to participate to ‘test drive’ the new Holden Monaro. The summary below is almost the complete opposite to your list above!
    * There were 15 cars of all colours and configurations for us to drive
    * There were 3 ‘events’ to participate in (ABS Swerve, Traction Control demo & a drive around the circuit)
    * Lunch was supplied
    * No business cards, catalogues or sales pitch
    * A couple of laps the car with one of Holden’s top drivers (including the late Peter Brock) to round out the day.

    What did I takeaway from it?
    1) A hat (which I still have)
    2) Remembering the silly grin from the ride with Greg Murphy
    3) A photograph (physical print + digital copy) http://andrewblanda.com/Andrew_Monaro.jpg (sorry, need cut & paste as not sure links work in comments!)

    Needless to say I was wincing when I read your post at just how bad they treated the event :-(

  • http://robjam.es Rob James

    That’s a real shame!! I knew you were looking forward to the event.

    I have been on several Harley test rides, and I must admit, my experience has always been great. To the point that years later, I still get invited to the rides even though they pretty much know I won’t buy one (since I just got one off them). To that end, I have actually developed friendships with many of the sales guys and occasionally go on weekend rides with some of them.

    I think they take forgranted how special some of these test rides are to potential customers (people that have not ridden or even sat on a Harley before). Maybe they need to take a look at what they are selling; a dream, not a bike….


  • http://www.servantofchaos.com/2009/05/continuous-digital-strategy.html Gavin Heaton

    Nice rant, Raz. I think Rob’s right – sales people often forget that the product is just part of what they are selling.

  • Shandel

    Great example of how no matter how much you go into a “store” wanting something, if the sales person puts you off, that’s it, it is all over!

    The personality and attentiveness of the sales clerk is so important in the sales process. Products rarely sell themselves!

  • http://www.8oriente.com Nora Morales

    Hi I am teaching some narrative classes to my design students in México, and this is a perfect example of how it relates to service design!!! thanks

  • http://workplayexperience.blogspot.com Adam Lawrence

    I’m not surprised about the “standard” line. Harley do a lot of aftermarket business.

    I’ve not ridden a Harley for years, but back in the 1990s we used to say that they sold basically unrideable bikes at cost price, then made profit by selling you expensive Screaming Eagle spare parts (especially brakes – OMG!) to turn them into real bikes…

    I had hoped they had changed since then.

  • http://cafedave.net/cafedave/ cafedave

    Thanks for a great retelling of a terrible customer experience. Sorry to hear that your dream ride went so poorly!

  • http://www.alliedmanufacture.com Francis Cooke

    Yeah yeah – written by a marketing guru. But did HD build this brand on selling bikes to office people who sip peppermint tea all day?


    Were you ever going to be a customer? Maybe – but probably not.

    Although one should never judge a book by its cover, the sales guy probably thought you were not a good prospect. Or perhaps he could spot a Virago type chump a mile away?

    • http://www.razchorev.com Raz Chorev

      Fair points. Thank you for contributing to the discussion.

  • Trent Collins

    In response to the comment from Francis Cooke, I guess my question would be:

    Do you want to spend some time on a ‘potential customer’ or have him write a blog post like this that disuades people from considering the brand in the future.

    I do acknowledge that Harley Davidson is a unique brand and as such would not be greatly affected. it is also interesting to note that HD as with many other luxury brands (such as Ferrari) actually make substantial revenues on merchandise from consumers that are dedicated fans but would not be abel to purchase their products (bikes/ cars).

    Food for thought.

  • Chantel

    I had a similar experience today at Trivetts. Went in to buy a Fatboy and wanted a price with approximately $4-5000 in extras. They couldn’t give a price as they had to talk to the Service Department to get a price on the Labour for fitting the extras. Shouldn’t the sales department have these details as they are putting extras on the bikes every day. Obviously they just make up the price depending on what sort of customer you are.

    They asked about finance and we said no it would be a cash deal. The Manager came out and my husband introduced me and he just ignored me and walked away.

    I feel that they don’t care about the customer and this has put a sour taste in my mouth. I am having 2nd thoughts about buying from this company and have been searching the net to see if there are other dealers in NSW who will give us the service we expect I will travel
    interstate if I have to and have the bike shipped to us.

    My thoughts are TREAT THE CUSTOMER HOW YOU EXPECT TO BE TREATED.The customers are the ones who keep the sales people in a job and with out the customers the business will not survive.

    • http://www.razchorev.com Raz Chorev

      Chantel, I’m sorry to hear about your experience with Trivett. My original blog post was written 18 months ago, and still making waves.
      One thing is for sure – they are persistant with their approach to potential customers! I hope they would wake up one day, before it is too late…

  • Suzuki Man

    You won’t believe the super bad experience I had with Trivett Harley Davidson and it didn’t even involve a Harley!

    That company is the WORST I have ever dealt with in my 30+ years of riding. I will NEVER buy from them again and will warn all others who are considering going there.

    I bought a second hand Suzuki GSX1250FA from them. It was a trade in from another customer. It was low mileage, 2010 model and looked in great condition so I thought everything would be fine.

    First thing I noticed is that when i went to pick it up, the fuel tank had not been topped up as they had promised. No big deal,, but it shows they don’t keep their word.

    Took it for the short ride home, parked it in the garage and the next day took it for a 30-40 KM ride. Within 30 minutes it was seriously overheating! I stopped and noticed two things: oil level was way above full and there was no coolant in the bike!

    I rang them up and was told to take it to a Suzuki dealer! This was the day after I picked it up! Took it to a local mechanic who drained an excess 1.5 litre of oil out of the bike. It was still overheating so took it home, parked it back in the garage. Obviously the coolant had leaked into the engine, which is a very serious problem.

    That was Saturday.

    On Monday wrote a nice polite email to them asking them to pick up the bike and fix it. NO RESPONSE.

    Rang the Sales Manager. He told me he would organise for the bike to be picked up. No one picked the bike up and he never called back.

    Wednesday Sales Consultant rings after I emailed him and says he would organise for the bike to be picked up. No one picked the bike up and he never called back. His excuse: no staff to pick up the bike.

    Thursday waited at home for them to pick up the bike. No one turns up.

    Friday I finally realised that they were simply not interested and treating me like garbage, I sent them a letter demanding a full refund of the purchase price as who knows what is wrong with that bike.

    Finally the Sales Manager calls back and denies that he ever made a promise to pick up the bike but that they would now pick it up and argues with me as to whether I was capable of judging the coolant level! No word on a refund.

    So for my $10,000 what did I get: moved the bike from their showroom to my garage where it sat for a week then back to their showroom, with not one word of apology, an offer of a replacement bike or refund of my purchase price! Instead, I was shown complete contempt.

    Finally the General Manager rings up. Apparently, only letters making legal demands works with Trivett Harley-Davidson! Apologises but does not offer a refund or a solution.

    I have now lodged a claim in the Consumer Tribunal in an attempt to get my money back, to which I am entitled to under NSW consumer law.

    Perhaps that is the only think that will make Trivett Harley-Davidson realise that customers are not dogs, but human being who should be treated with respect.

    If you deal with Trivett Harley-Davidson, be warned! They treat their customers like garbage.
    Contrary to their claims on their website, their customer service is atrocious. The worst I ever experienced in the motor-cycle industry in my 30+ years of riding.

    I don’t know. Maybe they just hate Suzuki riders.

    • http://www.razchorev.com Raz Chorev

      Hi “fred”
      Thanks for sharing your story. This obviously shows a pattern in their behaviour, over 2 years after my initial post.
      If you’d like, I can send your story to the group’s general manager, who I’ve met recently, and he seems to be a very nice guy.
      Preferably with your real name and contact details, so he can do something about it.



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