It’s not a bug, it’s a feature!

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.

6 Responses to It’s not a bug, it’s a feature!

  1. Arun says:

    When the disc pads in the front wheel are new, they generally show some attitude..either sharp or sluggish! Regarding the engine switching off, try giving 2 mins warm-up time and trial braking couple of times before engaging gears! (though this sort of tips are generally given to Tata vehicles :D)

    brand new disc pads do show up some attitude..either sharp or sluggish! I do feel someone pressing the brake pedal for one time whenever i start my car. The reason should be the power brakes(front discs) which are coming to life! But if you observe sound while applying brakes, you must check for worn out disc pads! The engine switching off could be bcz its not done the 2 mins warm up and you applied over kill gas! Both with cars & bikes, disc brakes do have peculiar attitude..there are lots of interesting cases discussed.. would you believe a Karizma run for 2hrs non stop could make its disc pads expand and give a dancing feel while on high speed? 😀

  2. Doug Helms says:

    The braking problems you describe are very common, at least in my experience. Here they usually happend most frequently after the brakes have been exposed to moisture, such as a rain storm. (Although sometimes just a little morning dew is enough to produce the same effects.)
    The squeeling is normally due to a build-up of brake powder. You can have them blown out, but the probem will generally return shortly thereafter.

    Of course, in your area, I have no idea if it rains at all outside of moonsoon season, so I can’t say with confidence that your problems can be attributed to the same causes as they are in this neck of the woods.

    At any rate, I’ve grown used to them, and they really aren’t dangerous, just annoying.
    The one thing that WAS dangerous was when the tech’s loosened up the brakes. That’s just plain reckless.

    I also agree that it’s best to let the engine warm up for a couple of minutes before starting to drive. Once the choke kicks off, the car shouldn’t die. Also, driving right off from a cold start can shorten the life of an engine: it takes a couple minutes for the lubrication to fully disperse sufficiently to coat the pistons, rings, and other moving parts of the engine. Warming it up for a couple of minutes (even if you live in a warm climate, since the engine generally operates at around 200 degrees F, which is probably hotter than the temperature outside – I HOPE) gives the all the various pumps to thin out a bit and form a protective coating on all of those high-pressure parts under the hood.)

    Happy Motoring!

  3. Doug Helms says:

    correction: should have read: “gives the oil a chance to thin out and form a …coating on ….etc.”

    (It’s true that it’s the pumps are what circulate the lubricants, but that last sentence didn’t make sense due to a minor brain malfuntion.)

  4. poupee97 says:

    Arun and Doug: Thanks for the advice. Ok, I’ll try to warm up the car in the morning. Doug, you’re right about moisture/rain affecting the brakes. I did notice that, but that seemed to be connected more to the squealing. Nowadays, I don’t see the correlation; even when it rains, there is no squealing and even when it doesn’t the brake is still too abrupt the first time.

    BTW, did I give the impression that the car actually stalls? It doesnt; the engine keeps running, I only meant that the forward movement comes to an abrupt halt when I apply the brakes even lightly.

    Arun: Karizma dancing? At high speeds? Wow…

    Doug: pumps thinning out did have me scratching my head for a moment. But I blame it on nicotine withdrawal. Added to the fact that you gave up coffee so many years ago. What does your poor ol’ brain wake up to? 🙂

  5. supriya says:

    See the advantages of buying a used car? Everything runs smoothly since they have been running for years. As an aside I have only read your experiences of tata and hyundai. Must catch up on the rest. 🙂

  6. Prakash says:

    Warming up the car should certainly help agree with Doug. I am amazed at the feature business, thats a nice way of saying that car has a bad design..

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