Here's the scenario: In January I made the decision to finally give up my eight year old Solara convertible. I loved that car, but Toyota decided to stop making it. I liked the look of the new Buicks and decided to go American for the first time in at least fifteen years.
On Monday I took the car in for an oil leak. It was small, but nonetheless, not something you'd expect out of a new car. The dealership gave me a loaner. On Friday morning I was told because it's a new model, they didn't have the part. The part was on back-order with no confirmation of when it might be in.
The dealership is terrific, and this is NOT their fault. However, I called Buick's 800 line, which was answered in the Philippines by a customer service rep who was no help. I wanted to know when the part would be available and wanted to hear there was somebody who could expedite its delivery. I also wanted to speak to somebody in Detroit not another country. He didn't sound familiar with my Buick model either!
He kept me on hold an unusually long time, claiming to establish a case number for me, then he switched me to 'Detroit" - only it was a customer service center in Texas. I asked one simple question - how can I speak with somebody in Detroit at headquarters? I was told there wasn't a way. I asked to speak to her supervisor. She told me all supervisors were on other calls, but somebody would call me back in 24-48 hours. I refused to give up and said I'd wait for the next one to get off the phone.
I finally got to a supervisor and was told there was no number for headquarters. I gave up on the phone and went after @Buick on Twitter. After two hours I got a response through a DM. I gave them my phone number and asked to please call me since the problem couldn't be explained in 140 characters. I also sent an email to their Facebook page.
They took the rest of the day and evening to answer, but last night before going to bed I got the same message from both @Buick and Buick on Facebook:
From Twitter: As our team works primarily through GM’s social media channels, I kindly advise you to call 1-800-521-7300 if you would prefer to speak with someone. I hope this information proves to be helpful. Thanks again for reaching out, and for being a Buick customer.
From Facebook: If this is an urgent matter, please call us at 1-800-521-7300. Customer Relationship Specialists are available Monday through Saturday, 8 am to 9 pm Eastern Time.
Both of them sent me right back to the team in the Philippines. "CJ" on Twitter obviously doesn't have the authority to actually talk to a customer.
So, I love finding lessons from companies we all know and using them as examples of how not to run a business.
- Answer customer complaints as quickly as possible. When you get a "screamer" respond right away and simply say, "I can't blame you for being upset. How can I help?" Then just kick back and listen.
- Be a problem solver, not a parrot! An upset customer doesn't want to hear excuses, just some ideas on solutions. Everybody I spoke to told me there was nothing they could do. Even telling me they'd connect me with a national services manager or office would have helped. Instead, I was told the buck stopped in the Philippines and eventually Texas.
- Know your products. There's not a lot of security in having somebody at the manufacturing level not know the product or not understand your concern. In all my years of owning a car, I've never had a car kept for service for more than one day! This will wind up being ten days at best!
- Train your staff! Buick, like so many American companies we deal with today, has put Customer Service off shore. Often overseas staff doesn't understand the issues from the perspective of an American consumer. In fact, it reminds me years ago of coming home from Photokina and the Lufthansa rep when I reacted badly to being routed by way of JFK vs. Newark, where my car was parked said, "I have been in the United States, and they're very close!" For those of you outside NYC, they're at least two hours away, maybe three in rush hour.
Photo Credit: © BlueSkyImages