Thursday, Jul. 31, 2014, 10:52 AM UPDATED 10:52 AMBy Nick Zulovich
DriveTime Automotive Group contends customer service always has been a hallmark of its business practices, especially since buy-here, pay-here can create such an intimate relationship between a dealer and a purchaser.
Now, the Better Business Bureau agrees with DriveTime’s assertions. This month, the company improved its rating to A+ after an official review of its file by the BBB.
“Providing the best possible customer experience has always been deeply rooted into our culture, and we are ecstatic that the BBB recognizes that,” DriveTime executive vice president Jon Ehlinger said.
“We decided 14 years ago that having subpar credit shouldn’t equate to having a subpar experience when buying a used car, which is why we don’t hire salesmen or women — only people experienced in customer support — and we keep all our customer relations staff in-house,” Ehlinger continued. “It’s important to be able to talk to employees who care about your situation, and our customers love that about our company.”
Businesses must adhere to BBB’s Code of Business Practices, a comprehensive set of policies, procedures and best practices, as well as having transparency in their business practices, services or products. Companies are graded by the BBB on a scale from A+ (highest) to F (lowest) on several different factors, including:
—Complaint history, seriousness of complaints and how they’re resolved
—Type of business and how products/ services are represented
—Length of time in business
—A clear understanding of the business and its practices
—The company’s commitment to resolving customer issues and compliance
—Ethical considerations; no government actions or licensing issues
—Responsible advertising and marketing practices
“We welcome DriveTime as a BBB Accredited Business in Arizona,” BBB vice president of communications Felicia Thompson said. “We applaud the company’s public commitment to uphold marketplace ethics and ensure customers know they practice BBB’s standards for trust in all areas of customer service.”
DriveTime’s Path to Top Honor
DriveTime assistant director of customer relations Joshua Bratcher explained to BHPH Report that the company’s journey to this summer’s achievement given by the BBB began in earnest more than six months ago. While the company has been accredited by the BBB for a couple of years, Bratcher noted that DriveTime made a concerted effort to get its status up to A+.
“We’ve always worked with them very closely. When we went in there, they even told us that they use us as an example with other companies on how we handle complaints. From my point of view, that’s very interesting because we’ve always done a really good job of handling complaints. Now we’ve just been more proactive in making sure that not only are we handling the complaints, but we’re also doing a better job of trying to prevent them,” Bratcher said.
“We’re also working with the BBB to gain some better knowledge on where our complaints are coming from. Particularly over the last six months, we’ve really been sitting down with them and having more conversations on what we need to do to obtain a better rating,” he continued.
Bratcher indicated that DriveTime typically handled complaints as they arrived. In the process of ramping up its customer service approach, the company made adjustments.
“Our strategy recently has been to be more proactive and educating our customers on exactly what their resources are when it comes to DriveTime. Unlike a lot of auto sellers, we don’t have a relationship with the customer for just a short amount of time. It’s a three-, four-, five-year relationship with them,” Bratcher said.
“What we started first was to understand where the majority of our complaints were coming from. The majority were mechanical concerns with a lot of vehicles. So what we did was preemptively went in and we call 100 percent of our customers within three days of purchasing a vehicle to educate them on the process of what happens when they have a concern, even if it’s outside the concern of mechanical,” he continued.
“If it was a situation where we did drop the ball in our reconditioning or we did make a mistake, we wanted to make sure that mistake was not passed on to our customer, and we rectified the situation,” Bratcher went on to say.
Staying on Top of Complaints
With agencies such as the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau using complaints as fuel to craft regulations that could impact the BHPH industry, Bratcher pointed out that DriveTime also monitors complaints that arrive outside of a company dealership or its customer service center in Mesa, Ariz.A team also is dedicated to watching online bulletin boards and social media outlets for when DriveTime’s name is posted.
Bratcher insisted that the extra attention that’s paid to complaints isn’t something new at DriveTime, especially since the CFPB came into the fray a couple of years ago.
“It has at least shined some light on at least the expectation. But honestly, Drive- Time has been well ahead of that,” Bratcher said. “I think if you look at us from an industry standard, we’ve been doing a lot of this well before the CFPB was even formed. We’re a very transparent company. We’re very customer service focused, and customer service oriented. In my opinion, we treat our customers better than any other auto dealer. I’d put us up there with any other company out there in the way we care about our customers.
“We do work closely with the CFPB if we do get a complaint. We respond in a very swift manner. We take all of the regulatory complaints very seriously. It hasn’t really changed the way we do business. It’s more just shined a light on their expectations, but our expectations are even higher,” he continued.
Whether it’s from the CFPB, the BBB or any other outlet, Bratcher emphasized that DriveTime is striving to be A+, or whatever the top of the customer satisfaction scale might be.
“It’s just constant dedication to customer service and customer relations. We very much pride ourselves in being customer service friendly,” Bratcher said.
“Obviously listening to the voice of our customers is huge. We want to make sure as we monitor these boards and reviews sites if we start to see trends, we want to adjust what we’re doing to what our customers are saying,” he continued.
“Being proactive has been huge. Anything our customers need from us, we’re going to do our best to respond,” Bratcher concluded.