Proprietary License Plate Holder Customer Service Odyssey

More every day, the most important process you can tweak in growing your business is honing your customer service. Not a little—a lot—with a laser focus on what’s working and what isn’t. Look at it every day. Improve it every day. And for Pete’s sake, don’t get caught screwing up your proprietary license plate holder customer service process.

Weird, right? Less than you may think.

Customer service is such a large part of well-executed business process that we created The Answer Guy’s Customer Service Wall of Shame to highlight when customer service is done especially badly. And while what Mazda did with a proprietary license plate holder on the car I currently drive doesn’t qualify, it comes close. See the map above? It’s the six-miles-on-a-side trip I took last week NOT finding a part I needed immediately.

Let’s be clear; I live in Brooklyn, so this wasn’t thirty minutes in the car. I spent half a day on five trains plus a trip in a cab to not find Mazda’s proprietary license plate holder for my vehicle.

“Proprietary License Plate Holder?!!?*!”, you ask?

Amazingly, yes. Take a look at this picture of a different proprietary license plate holder from Mazda:

Proprietary License Plate Holder for Some Mazda Vehicles

See the hole captioned “plate mount”? That pair of holes matches the standard width of a USA-based license plate. See the hole captioned bumper mount? That’s approximately where the holes are on the front of my 2016 Mazda. I say approximately because while this picture shows why I can’t mount a plate directly to the bumper, it isn’t exactly the same on all Mazdas. Had I been able to find the proprietary license plate holder you see here, it still wouldn’t have worked.

When a piece inside the license plate holder on my nine-month-old my car broke—from stress, not damage—my car instantly became illegal to drive. This is a big problem if you live in New York City; getting a ticket here is too easy. The problem was exacerbated by having a 1,000-mile trip through four states planned the day after it happened. I needed that proprietary license plate holder and I needed it immediately.

Finding the correct item in stock when there are multiple possibilities is not always easy. Finding it when it’s an under-twenty-dollar part is even harder. Unknowingly trying a new dealer with a parts and service department six miles away makes it worse. And then we’re left with the question of why Mazda bothers to have these proprietary license plate holders anyway. There’s no profit margin worth chasing; it simply makes no sense.

I’ll give Mazda a pass from a trip to the Customer Service Wall of Shame. I’m pretty sure they believe they are adding something useful by creating model-specific proprietary license plate holders.

A Proprietary License Plate Holder?

But this is 2017. We have the Internet, and a picture of the not-quite-right item. This becomes a story about everything, and why that matters in customer service.

I really like my car. In fact, I happen to like it better than any vehicle I’ve ever owned. But this proprietary license plate holder debacle gives me something new to consider the next time I’m car shopping. Imagine if Mazda loses a rabid fan/customer because of a proprietary license plate holder. And once again, over a no-margin-to-speak-of transaction! Nissan of Manhattan lost me when stole from me. But then Koeppel Nissan scooped me up by caring about customer service. And oh yeah, Koeppel Mazda sold me this car, but if I don’t buy another one because of a stupidly unnecessary proprietary license plate holder …

You don’t put up unneeded roadblocks to customer service, do you? Not sure? We’ll take a look at your customer service business process, free.

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