It’s not a bug, it’s a feature!

October 27, 2010

I’ve ranted about various customer service scenarios here on this blog. If you’ve been reading along for a while, you might remember the Honda service center that lost my job card and the Nokia “care” (don’t care) experience; the Handyman plumber saga; the Tata water purification fiasco; and, of course, the Hyundai car servicing episode.


If you have read any or all of these, or if you know me even slightly, you know that it doesn’t take much to make me lose my temper and start shouting. And once I start shouting, even strong men will normally take whatever action is required to get me to shut up and go away. I wish there were a simpler way to get things done, but usually there isn’t.


My car turned a year old in July. I sent it off to the workshop for the last of its free services. I’m generally quite happy with my car, it has mostly the features I wanted and it’s a sweet little thing – but I’m not blind to its faults. One fault that I was warned about before I bought it, is its relatively low mileage. The other, which nobody mentioned but I found out soon enough, is its brake. Initially, whenever I started the car in the morning, the brake would squeal loudly for the first couple of minutes. After that, it would simmer down and do its work without further complaint.


The service center didn’t do anything to fix the problem – they didn’t, in fact, even acknowledge that it was a problem – but somehow over time the problem went away. But it was replaced by a different problem. Now, the first time I use the brake after what is called a cold start (usually after the car has been resting overnight or longer), the car stops dead. The braking action is much sharper than it should be. After that first time, the break works ok.


When I mentioned this to the service center guys in July, they said, “ok, we’ll look into it.” When they brought the car back to me, all they’d done was to loosen the brake. This didn’t solve the first-brake-after-cold-start problem at all, but it meant that for the first couple of days I had several near misses because the brake didn’t act the way it used to before I sent the car for servicing.


About two months after the servicing, Hyundai called me to get my feedback about the servicing experience. It wasn’t a “hope your car is doing fine and give us a call if you have any problems” kind of call (which I’ve had way too many of already) . It was a “I need 20 minutes of your time because there is a questionnaire that has 40-odd questions on it” kind of a call. I agreed to give them 20 minutes of my time and patiently worked my way through the 40 questions. I didn’t think too much about it after that – I expected my answers would get compiled into some set of statistics, and the less favourable aspects might even be glossed over, depending on the objectivity of the organization collecting the feedback.


I was wrong. A couple of days later, I got a call from the service center wanting to know why, exactly, I’d given them a 4.




I was surprised and explained my grievance (calmly) at length. I was even more surprised when they proposed sending someone over to collect the car so they could check and fix the problem. I agreed to have the car picked up on Saturday.


I wanted the picker-upper to experience the braking problem, so I made Amit and the kids come with me to the tennis court (waking them up at the ungodly hour of 5.30 a.m. on a Saturday morning) so that we could go in Amit’s car (Honda Civic) and leave my car parked. After we got back, right on time, the picker-upper came and picked it up and promised to report the problem to the service technician.


So far, so good.


I was not so impressed when the service technician called me later that morning to say that my car’s brake was behaving as expected. The “It’s not a bug, it’s a feature,” line of defense is impossible to counter. My best response was, “Well, then, you should have told me so back in July, instead of just loosening the brake and sending it back.”


But, well. At least they took the trouble to look at my car and at no cost to me.


If this is, in fact, the way the brake is designed to work… it’s a strange design, is all I can say. I don’t think very highly of the level of technical service even now. In fact, I don’t think very highly of their technology, if they design their brake to squeal and behave erratically early in the morning. Besides, I don’t know what exactly the service technician did, but the brake seems to be quite a bit less abrupt in the morning now. But whatever brownie points that might have earned them, they lost it all and more when I found that the front cover of my reverse parking sensor has come off and been lost during servicing. Damn!


So on the whole, I’m still not very happy with the technical service, but, as far as customer service goes… wow! To go seeking feedback and then to actually listen to the customer and act on the feedback at an individual level? Wow. All those other companies have a lot to learn.


As for Hyundai – they really need to take as much care with their technical servicing as they do with their customer service.

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