Tag Archives: customer service

Audi, what ye reap, so shall ye sow

Audi TT Coupé
Image via Wikipedia

When a customer has a bad experience they complain. If the company doesn’t give satisfactory resolution what do they do?

In my recent post regarding my experience with Dell, I talked about how using social media can help the cause. I mentioned how a musician had posted a video to YouTube after an airline failed to compensate him adequately for damaging his guitar.

I now find myself in the position of having written an article almost two years ago about my experience with Audi after my Audi TT engine failed in a dramatic way having done only a reasonable amount of miles, costing lots to repair and all Audi could say was “Too bad too sad. If you had got your car serviced through us we might have been interested but as you didn’t we don’t want to know”

Well two years on and this little post has attracted almost 60,000 views! The article is found through people search for “common Audi TT problems” or its’ derivatives through search engines. Hopefully Audi might one day take note, as their devil may care approach to customer service has turned this into an example of how that now has potentially turned thousands of car sales into other manufacturers opportunities.

Of course, if Audi wanted to let me drive the new TT and give regular reports on it, I’d be more than happy to oblige 🙂

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One man vs Dell Computers – How you can avoid getting burned in CSR hell

Dell Hell
How Dell Computers makes its' customers work for it

I bought a Dell desktop (XPS 9000) and had some troubles with it that I wanted to share with you so should you decide you also want a Dell, you’ll know what to look out for.

Before I go any further, why am taking the time to write this?

Social Media is my friend

With the introduction of Social Media tools, it’s very easy for people to post their review or critique about a company’s services and products and millions of people to discover it. Having commenting systems, blogs and video sharing, etc at their disposal, the aggrieved customer can let others easily know of their dissatisfaction. Thus the voice of a single customer can have extensive influence to others, which can be far more damaging than the single issue they’re having.

United Airlines knows exactly what this is like; one of their customers was looking out of their aircraft window only to see a baggage handler throwing his guitar into the hold. When he reached his destination and retrieved his guitar, the instrument was broken. United offered little sympathy and a paltry $200 offer of compensation for a far more expensive piece of equipment. Consequently the customer posted a YouTube video of his experience and quickly became viral with over 9 million views. United faced a significant PR issue – which could have easily been contained if they had just been more sympathetic and taken the time to engage with the customer. Instead, 9 million people knew that United baggage handling wasn’t necessarily great all the time.

Dell – You failed to deliver but at least you were consistent

I bought a Dell XPS 9000 and within 2 weeks of receiving it the multi-card reader failed (used for things like camera cards and USB devices) . I was also hearing interference from the soundcard. I called Dell regarding the card reader and was informed that I would be sent a new part and that I should complete the repair myself.

Why make the customer do your own dirty work?

Being an old hand at repairing computers I could have done this but was annoyed that I had to replace the broken part myself. Turns out they’d sent the wrong cable and the instructions were incomplete. I called Dell again and they sent an engineer without question.

What should have happened
Either make the components fool proof to repair or send the engineer to replace the part in the first place.

Conclusion
Dell’s handling of the matter was good; there is clearly some learning to be had, but as Dell has been in the PC manufacturing business for some time now, you would have thought this type of incident would be resolved in an instant

“We guarantee this will fix it” – “If you job depends on it?” – “Well… no”

When I used the headphone port from the multi-card reader, I would heard electromagnetic interferance (EMI) . A quick Google found that a handful of people had reported it but no resolution was forthcoming.

I called Dell mentioning that the Dell engineer on his last visit agreed this was an EMI issue. Initial response from the CSR was “We don’t recommend you use the headphone socket – use the back of the soundcard instead”. Whilst this would resolve the issue, it wasn’t the point; You don’t supply a product to include features that are defective (as Apple discovered with the launch of the iPhone 4).

With the new motherboard, sound card and headphone connector replaced and the issue still occurring (hate to say I told you so…) I repeated my request to the Dell CSR that all we needed was either a shielded cable, or as we were now discovering, the power supply was also generating a lot of interference noise, so if they could send an alternate – not replacement – PSU.

Instead, Dell sent me a completely new computer promising “Don’t worry, we guarantee it will work no problem”. When asked “Would you say that if your job depended on it?”, the response was “OK, well, it should work”. The new unit  arrivedahead of schedule and with the exact same issue.

Therefore I can only conclude that the Dell XPS9000 is supplied with a defective configuration and therefore I do not recommend buying this model – or any other model of Dell until they can resolve this. Additionally Dell never followed up on my requests to resolve this issue – I’ve grown accustomed to using it now, so I live with it, but pass this knowledge on to you, dear reader.

What should have happened
Dell missed the “customer is always right” step and my requests through the CSR team were met with “We agree with you but there’s no process to help you” or “My manager will call you back”. These are not acceptable ways of handling a customer issue.

Conclusion
Dell followed the scripted process, rather than the pragmatic process in this instance. An issue that could have been resolved and (probably) cheaper remains unresolved because of that scripted process. Understandably this process is in place so that Dell can employ people who don’t have such high skill levels as the traditional engineer ($), however there are exceptions to the rule and a more skilled resource should have been engaged to resolve – including the engineer who was on-site and more than capable.

Where do we go from here

I’m using this blog post as a means to a) make people aware of the issue b) make people aware that Dell’s resolution and customer service process is below par (though I did speak to some very nice, understanding people who’s hands were tied by the process c) to use social media tools to make my point. Maybe Dell will listen this time….

(see also : CNET customer reviews of Dell XPS 9000)

Homage to the Audi TT – and an expensive lesson in owning a car.

Audi TT mark 1Those of you who know me, know my love/hate relationship with the Audi TT. I owned one for 2 years – originally a standard 180TT 4WD that I spent time making it the car it should have been – changing the ECU to bring the horsepower from 178bhp to 237bhp, changing the turbo inlet hose to allow better airflow, fitting twin exhausts from the single to improve exhaust gasses exiting, changing the 16″ allows to 17″… looked pretty much like the car you see here.

And then at 70,000 miles the engine blew.

A hate then love affair

Before I talk about that whole scenario, let’s just cover why I bought the TT and spent 2 years being ridiculed as owning a hairdressers car by my friends – who would all privately admit they really liked it. Yeah – you know who you are! 🙂

When the TT was first launched in 1999 I felt the design was aesthetically challenging to the point that I wanted to put a paper bag over every TT I saw. Those early TT’s did not have the rear spoiler, which was added later as a safety precaution but also (I think) improved the look.

The defining moment when I realised I wanted one was when I was being visited by one of my web clients – he turned up in a silver TT with red leather interior. I sat for 5 minutes in the driver seat and was totally hooked from there on.

In Denial

There’s a price to pay for everything – and when it came to looking for my next car it was between a Civic Type R (197bhp), Seat Leon Cupra R (180bhp) or a 180 TT. Thing is, the TT price was so much more that I would have to get a second hand car that was a little older than I wanted – at that time a new Civic or Leon ran to about GBP16-17k; A new TT ran to about GBP27k. You see my predicament.

So basically was I prepared to pay the same money for a second hand car that has similar attributes in performance to other cars I could buy new outright? Was it even worth putting myself in debt to get a newer TT?

Well, after much soul-searching I decided to suck it up – you only live once (except buddists) – and so my purchase of a year 2000 Black 180TT 4WD came to fruition in April 2003. I remember driving home full of excitement and grinning like an idiot, mixed with panicking that I’d just spent GBP18k on a car and was now in the world of debt (which I detest being in).

Living the Dream

Asides from being obsessed with keeping the car clean using quality products, I loved to drive the car. It’s not the fastest or most responsive in its’ field, but for me, I thoroughly enjoyed the whole driving experience. The car seemed to wrap around me and the positioning for a tall bloke like myself was just great – it was a goths dream – black car with black leather and silver trim (although I am not in the stage of life to yet appreciate silver trim…).

That being said, I did feel it could deliver more “oomph” – let’s face it, the 225 TT was the same engine but with (shock) 225 bhp, so I duly investigated my options to help the TT get the best performance – this came in the form of the modification I mentioned before.

Now I had a TT with kick and I *loved* the driving experience. However, that had come with its’ set of problems:

  • A knocking sound when going over bumps turned out to be something in the suspension linkage broken (10.00 for the part, 90.00 to fit it)
  • The indicator relay failed (150.00 to fix) – the garage (Audi garage in Kidlington) then broke the seat warmer dials, so those were replaced gratis.

Dead not dreaming

July 2004, around 8am; I am leaving my home town (Bicester) and doing 40mph – just letting the engine warm up before I open her up. I accelerate up and then ker-chug-chug-chug-chug…. chug. Long story short, the piston rods are going through the engine as the piston heads on two valves have shattered. This required a new engine costing GBP4k plus GBP2k for labour.

This car has been serviced in April by AmD and they had told me that it was immaculate and the engine was in great shape and should last many more miles, so needless to say, 3 months later and 3000 miles, an engine failure completely blindsided me. Prior to this AmD had serviced the car – every 6 months at least and it never needed anything major.

Here’s an except from their site about the Stage 1 remap:

Your vehicle will be checked for fault codes and then road tested to make sure that the car is in good health for the upgrade. The modification to the software is then carried to achieve the AmD remap. A final road test is performed together with full diagnostic test.

Up to + 30-35bhp and 30-40lbs/ft
Asking around on the UK TT Forum I suddenly realised (should have sooner!) that the Mark 1 TT is renowned for going wrong – if you compare that forum for problems with vehicles against say, the Ford Focus or Honda Civic forums, it’s quite ridiculous how much grief mark one TT owners go through.

Subsequently, a few months after getting the car back (and also back in more debt), I get more problems

  • Mass Air Sensor (MAF) failure – replaced with reconditioned unit for 150.00 under the Audi MAF exchange programme.
  • Bushes worn – cost to replace = 100.00
  • Anti-rollbars corroded – cost to replace = 240.0
  • Dashpod Failure – cost to replace = 1000.00

Subsequently it was acknowledged by Audi that the TT Dashpod can and will fail and they are now replacing them under an extended warranty (unless your car is older than 3 yrs). A video is available via this link : http://www.tt-forum.co.uk/ttforumbbs/viewtopic.php?t=56080
Needless to say I could see things only getting worse, so I dumped the car for a Ford Focus ST170 which required nothing other than regular servicing to make it work…. and then a Honda Civic Type R which was gret fun.

Audi Customer Service – an Oxymoron.

I bought the car from a non-franchise dealer (one of the UK’s larger Independent Audi dealers) and got the car serviced by AmD, who service Audi vehicles for Audi themselves. Calling Audi Customer Service and writing a letter of complaint that a vehicle’s engine life is 70k miles is unacceptable. Their response was “you were not loyal to our dealership (not servicing it through them) and we do not have the engine (that broke), therefore we do not consider ourselves liable” – Hands wiped clean. Even though AmD by proxy are an authorised service company… And even if I had a warranty (which I didn’t), it wouldn’t have covered me enough for this catastrophic situation.

Although they were polite at all times, my experience with Audi Customer Service was that they were not happy to engage in helping (a customer) in any discussion – unsurprisingly when the whole Dashpod fiasco kicked off (which Audi now admit is a quality issue only after the BBC show “Watchdog” hounded them (‘scuse the pun)).

Conclusion About TT’s

Needless to say, this all left a bitter taste in my mouth about the quality of Audi TT’s – no car I’ve had before or after has had such problems (Honda, Ford, Renault) and they’re not exactly top line marques that Audi masquerade as.

I since discovered that VW/Audi had build qualities between 2000 – 2003 that affected other models, so my advice in general is to avoid any VW marque between these years. If you think I’ve got sour grapes, check out the UK TT forum and see just how many problems people had – btw my username is p4ul, if you’re looking for my posts. Here’s a great example of such issues

To run a TT was obviously more expensive than the Ford or Honda; Audi garages run at a pretty penny per hour, but you don’t want to scrimp with that because not everyone knows the cars’ peculiarities – saying that many TT forum owners refer to them as “Stealers” instead of Dealers because there are dealers who think they can rip you off cause you can afford a TT – and some mechanics who work for dealers that haven’t a clue. So research your dealer is the watchword.

Insurance for me – at the time 32 yrs old, 9 years no claims, GBP17k value was about GBP650 – the insurance company let me get away with the modifications but I doubt that’d happen today. Servicing cost about GBP500 per year (using AmD – probably run to GBP700 if I’d used the regular Audi dealers). Fuel economy was around 26-27mpg highway before the ECU remap; around 30mph after. Common TT problems are dashpod failures, coilpack failures, indicator relay failure, oil burning, sticking accelerator, MAF air sensor failure… that’s from memory!

Do I still want a TT? Yes and No. “WHAT?!” I hear you shout as you put down your seventh glass of old tawny. Absolutely do because of the drive – it was the best I’ve experienced to date overall – I just don’t want the issues with reliability. It wasn’t the most practicle car going, but just like bagpuss, emily loved him.

A New Hope…?

Now Audi have released the TT mark 2 ( Audi TT Mark 2 ) , the jury is out as to what this means. I like it, but it’s lost it’s uniqueness and gained the Audi corporate look… good and bad.

Given my experience with Audi CS (and others documented experiences), I am still not convinced about Audi… not that I can afford one at those $45k prices especially.

Kudos to the TT Community

If you own or are thinking of owning a TT can I recommend the excellent TT Forum – http://www.tt-forum.co.uk/ttforumbbs/index.php – it’s a great community where a bunch of genuine car and gadget enthusiasts who have years of experience with the TT meet both virtually and physically and can offer lots of advice and words of wisdom.