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A Customer Rating System for the Motorcycle Business? No, Thanks

You’re being watched. Maybe you already know that.

The Retail Equation is a company that tracks and reports on customer activity for Best Buy, Home Depot, Victoria’s Secret and others, primarily tracking how often you return purchases. As you well know, returns are a hassle, and they are expensive. And for some customers, it’s routine practice. (So routine, in fact, that the concept of returning products is now part of the sales pitch. While purchasing a wide-screen computer monitor at Costco, my sales associate suggested that I could use it for my project and then just return it. I told him to stop giving that advice.)

While some returns are legitimate, others aren’t. It’s estimated that fraudulent returns cost retailers $17 billion per year.

At Best Buy, if you are rated as a frequent return abuser, store policy can prevent you from making a return for up to a year — much to the outrage of some consumers. One customer who returned three cellphones in a year reportedly said he felt he was “treated like a criminal.”

Not Just Returns

The ratings don’t just happen in retail stores. Ever taken an Uber? Just like you can rate your driver, your driver can rate you. Not at the pickup point? Make them wait on arrival? Rude? Make a mess? Slam the doors getting in and out? No tip? What does all this mean to you?

Well, if you’re trying to secure an Uber ride in downtown Chicago during a traffic surge, it could mean the difference between getting somewhere and not getting there.

Ever go on vacation? Have you ever rented from vrbo.com? If so, did you know that owners and property managers can rate you? Immediately after your stay, the owners receive an email asking them to rate you on your cleanliness, compliance with house policies, friendliness and availability? This internal rating is then shared with other property owners in the vrbo.com network.

Does the Motorcycle Business Need a Customer-Rating System?

Here’s a question to ponder: Should we, in the motorcycle business, have a dealer-only internal customer rating system that evaluates customers’ previous retail behaviors?

Did they keep appointments, for example? Did they return  calls and emails? Did they submit your customer satisfaction survey? Did they provide referrals? Did they grind you for discounts? Were they the nicest person on the planet?

Here’s what I think: Now is not the right time for a customer rating system.

Don’t get me wrong; I’m intrigued by the idea. I think it would be an interesting social experiment to see how dynamics change when people know there is an evaluation of the exchange or relationship.

I think renters are more conscientious knowing that others may not rent to them based on a vrbo.com score. I think many Uber riders are kinder knowing that their driver rates them, too. I just think in the motrcycle business we have other more pressing priorities.

Are some customers jerks? Yep. Do some make unreasonable demands of your dealership and your people? Of course. But this is one of the great aspects of living in a free society. You don’t have to do business with them.

I always tell people that I don’t want all the business; I just want the best business. There are some people I simply don’t want in my life. (You know the ones!)

I also believe in positive human intent. I believe most people want to be nice, reasonable and helpful. If they don’t, you can ferret them out quickly and respond accordingly.

“If you don’t give me another $1,000 off the price of this motorcycle, I’m walking!”

“I don’t care if you have to break that engine down to the Timken bearings. I want to go riding this afternoon!”

“I bought this jacket nine years ago and now the zipper doesn’t work. You should give me my money back!”

In these situations, simply do your best to stay calm and say: “You are making unreasonable demands of our business, and we simply cannot do what you’re asking.”

Here is the other aspect of human relations you should keep in mind: Everybody can have a bad day or a bad moment. I have, on occasion, because of too much travel or too little sleep, not been at my best. I have snapped at others. I have used a sharp tone of voice.

When I recognize this, I apologize immediately and move on. Maybe your customer will do that, too. But if not, cut them some slack. They may be dealing with something you’re not aware of: a sick child, an aging parent, catastrophic health news. Give them the benefit of the doubt.

Now, if they prove to repeatedly be a challenging customer, you may want to simply say: “I think it’s best if we part company.”

And then go find the customers who appreciate your efforts. And there are a lot of them.