Branding Lessons

I have been driving around in my old VW Kombi for close to 8 years.  It was 11 years old, and although it had relatively low kilometres, I knew it was time to start looking for a new car.  This was a difficult decision, as I am of the opinion that a car is a running expense, something to minimise at all costs.

A number of friends recommended the Toyota Fortuner, while others suggested the Audi Q5. Both are good cars and have very reliable brands backing them up.

My decision? The Hyundai iX35! Why? Because it looks good and the manufacturer has succeeded in migrating from a low cost positioning to a best cost strategy over a relatively short period of time.  In addition, the Hyundai Elantra was just voted as the Car of the Year in South Africa (2012).

The first visit to Hyundai in Durban Road (Bellville) was not a good experience. The senior person (?) was condescending to say the least. But then I got referred to the branch in Brackenfell.  The sales process was superb, to say the least! This was also true of the financing process. I was (and still am) really impressed!

However, from the start there was a slight niggle . The car had a sluggish start, and the fuel consumption was high, both of which was not normal.  I originally thought it was due to the fact that the car was brand new. It did not improve over time. So I made an appointment and got asked to bring in my car for a quick check this morning (Friday, 4 May).

I dutifully reported at 07h50. I got asked by the service representative as to the complaint. I helped him translate the issue about the high fuel consumption, but got stuck on the sluggishness bit. He chipped in with “it’s got a flat spot”, which was exactly what was wrong.

I went inside to start working while I was waiting for the car to be fixed. I mean, it couldn’t be a big problem as it is a brand new car . Ten minutes later the service guy was back. At this time, the sales person who had sold me the car, and had arranged the service, was busy showing me a desk where I could work undisturbed. The service guy told me he had good news and bad news:

  • The good news was that they could do something about the fault.
  • The bad news was that it would take 2 days as it could be due to a number of faults, such as spark plugs etc.
  • In addition, he could not give me a courtesy car on today, as one would only become available next week and Tuesday.
  • Also, they had had a similar problem a while ago and knew it would take long.

A few things clearly escaped my young service representative:

  • It was not good news that they could fix my brand new car, which they had just sold me 1 month ago! It is to be expected that they could do something!
  • If they had done a proper pre-delivery service, someone would have picked up that this car also had a flat spot, like the one they had had to deal with previously! I mean, a simple test drive would have shown to an experienced mechanic that something was wrong.
  • In addition, given that a previous new iX35 had a flat spot, maybe they should have checked that this could be a problem. Maybe it is a recurring problem. I mean, two iX35’s (at least) at the same dealership?!
  • The fact that he did not have a courtesy car for me, was not my problem. He was now forcing me to drive around in a car, a brand new one, which was not properly functioning, which was due to their negligence/ incompetence.

I have come to the following conclusions (by no means new realizations!):

  • Building a brand requires a total effort from everybody in the company. It is no use the sales people are great and the technical staff stuff up the experience!
  • Expectations are important to manage. I have a brand new car and I expect my car to be 100% fully functional.  When something happens to disturb this expectation, deal with it carefully! Telling me that there is good news as he could fix my car, is not really good news and does nothing for my expectations.
  • Making his problem mine, is not good for my experience of his service offering.
  • It takes a number of small things to destroy a brand.
  • It is times like these that I ask myself why did I not buy the acknowledged high-end brands such as Toyota. People will tend towards the known brands, instead of experimenting.

This was not the end of the story, however. The sales person knew I was not impressed with my experience. She could have said to herself that she had made her commission and that whatever happened from here onwards was not her baby. She phoned me twice:

  • The first time was to acknowledge her understanding of my irritation and to notify me that she would not let the issue disappear.
  • She phoned me a second time to confirm she had taken up the issue with the dealer principle (DP) and that I had to bring in the car on Monday morning. The DP would take care of my courtesy car.
  • She apologised on both occasions for the inconvenience I had to go through.

When I left the dealership this morning, I was quite irritated. One does not expect this from a brand new car. To have your time wasted and get told the kind of stories that I had to listen to, did not make me feel any better.  I was really questioning my decision to buy the iX35 instead of the Toyota Fortuner!

Due to the great service attitude of the sales person, however, I feel much better about the whole exercise. I am still irritated but much less so.  I have been heard, and my problem is being addressed in a manner that I feel is appropriate.

Lesson? Branding requires a holistic and integrated effort of everyone in the business. It is frequently the small things that destroy the image and positioning you are struggling to bring about. It is possible that the selfless service of some of the staff can make up for the lack of customer orientation of the others, but it is at best a dangerous strategy. Branding is everyone’s job, and begins at home.

Well done Kim!


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1 Response

  1. Oloff says:

    Should have gone for the Fortuner …………..