If you aren't up for a long read, just skip to my last sentence. But if you want to get a full sense of one customer's recent experience with Patrick Subaru's Service Department, then get comfortable and read my tale of woe . . .
Brought my car in for service about two weeks ago to Patrick Subaru. I had 3 different problems to resolve: a recall fix of the wiper motor, a faulty ignition coil (the main problem), and an intermittent problem with my headlights. Although Patrick is a bit of a haul for me, especially from my job in downtown Boston, the recall was a recall, of course, so I had to go to a dealer for that, and my local mechanic suggested I go to the dealer for the other two items as well since they were likely covered under my extended warranty. Since I bought the car at Patrick, I’ve always thought it made the most sense to service it there, as well—figuring that I was more of a “customer” that way—not to mention always being a potential return customer, so I’m assuming they are going to take good care of me!
So I arrange for a family member to meet me at the dealer, get out of work early, and drop my car in Shrewsbury. I am told the next day that the car is all set and arrange to get another ride to the dealer to pick it up. It’s daylight when I pick it up so I don’t have a chance to test the headlights but the ignition coil issue is clearly fixed, and I can only trust that they did the recall on the wiper motor as well.
The next morning, I get up early to begin my Boston commute from the ‘burbs and my headlights are not only not fixed, but actually worse than they were in the beginning (more intermittent/flakey). So I call the dealer, a little perturbed that the issue was not resolved (even though they “charged me for it”--to the extended warranty), but whatever . . . stuff happens and people make mistakes. It's how we respond after we've made mistakes that matters.
This time, so I don’t have to inconvenience those around me, I arrange for a loaner. Soonest they have one available is a week and a half out—on a Friday. I tell the loaner person (Nicole, I think?) that I’ll take it. And then I even take the extra step of calling back the service dept to ensure they know I am getting the loaner on that Friday—just because I didn’t want to rely on their internal communications. (They always seem very hectic—even chaotic, when I am in there.). Okay. Now I’m thinking I’ve gone above and beyond and should be all set.
A week and a half passes . . . I, once again, leave work early, and head toward Shrewsbury from Boston. On my way to the dealer a voicemail pops in on my work phone. It’s the service dept at Patrick. They don’t explain why they are calling in the message but say “Calling about your appointment this afternoon. Please give us a call.” So, still en route in my car, I give them a call—at which point they tell me that I ‘can’t have a loaner on a Friday—for over the weekend’. I explain that I already arranged this with Brenda--a week and a half ago. They aren’t even apologetic as they inform me that she shouldn’t have arranged for that (and to be fair I’m not sure if she is to blame. She told me that she had told the people who are in charge of the loaners that it was a Friday—and to give me a call. But I never received that call—until 1 hr before I am supposed to pick up the loaner—and I am already well on my way!). They stress again that they have a firm policy of not letting people take loaners over the weekend. Okay. Well that's information it would have been nice to have a week and a half earlier when I made the arrangements. So I tell the guy that I am upset. I took off work early. I am only coming in because they failed to fix something they said they had fixed the first time, etc. He pretty bluntly tells me to come back for a loaner on Monday night. Again, there is no sense that this guy has any remorse in his soul. I am less than a number to this guy. I am a gnat, buzzing around his head and interrupting his day.
So . . . three days later I leave work early, yet again, and come back Monday night. They give me the loaner, and Brenda is rare among the Patrick crew for apologizing for the mix-up. Wishes she could make it up to me. Says all the right things. I say, “well, my car needs to be inspected . . .?”. She tells me they don’t do that—even for new car sales, but she feels bad and offers to ensure that it gets done anyway, even if she needs to do it herself on her lunch break. (Now that’s customer service, right?) So . . .
… The next day, Brenda calls me “Your car is done. But before we get it inspected we need to replace some bulbs—or they will likely fail it at the inspection station. Oh—and the tech here says you need new wipers, too.” I say, “okay on the bulbs, I guess” (thinking, what $5/bulb, and a little labor? So what, ~$20?), but I just put new wipers on it at my last oil change. So they are essentially new. (Was he trying to sell me wipers I didn’t need? Hard to know for sure—but now I’m skeptical.) In any event, I tell her “no” on the wipers, and she says they’ll need to keep it one more day because there is “nobody who can take it over to get it inspected”. I accept that. At this point, I have the loaner so at least I am not stranded. And . . .
. . . I come back the next day to pick up my car. Which is when they tell me that the bulb replacement cost $140. That’s right. You read that correctly. Half an hour labor per bulb. Plus the cost of the bulbs themselves. Now I work for a law firm. So I get the whole “bill by the hour” thing. And I even know how much of a pain in the butt it is to replace Subaru bulbs. I’ve done it myself! But they never even clued me in to how much it would cost! Here’s where I got really angry, though: they hadn’t even gotten my car inspected. So the bulbs that they had to replace so that it would pass the inspection . . . cost me $140 . . . and they didn’t even get the car inspected! Turns out Brenda was out sick. And it fell through the cracks. So . . . I don’t take it out on Jordan—the unlucky soul who drew the short stick and had to deal with me as my blood began to boil. But I tell him I’d like to talk with the service manager. So he walks me over to Louie Ferraro. Louie, it turns out, is the very same unapologetic guy who told me on the phone the Friday before about the “no loaners on weekends” policy. He is equally, if not more, unapologetic now. In fact, he is downright dismissive of my pain—and even a bit rude. He offers to take $35 off the cost of the bulb replacement because that was the cost of the inspection they didn’t do. And he asks if that is okay with me. I tell him no—my time is worth a xxxx of a lot more than $35! I left work early not ONCE, but FOUR times, in order to resolve something that should have been resolved on the first try. And that, no, $35 hardly makes up for the ridiculous circus that my service experience has become. But Louie is quite firm, and has nothing else to offer me...so . . . I take what I can get and pay the bill, minus the $35, and I tell Louie “thanks for nothing”.
Story over? Almost. And I’m shocked you’re still with me. But no, not quite over. I decide that I should let someone else at Patrick know that they have lost me for all time as a customer. So I figure the Sales Manager would be a good, logical next step. So I call Jeff up, fill him in on all of the details above, and ask him to please escalate the issue and let the "powers that be" know that I am incredibly dissatisfied and even insulted by my support experience. Jeff, to his credit, was extremely apologetic, said all the right things, etc. But in the end, when he called me back the next day, he had nothing to offer but additional words of apology, and a hope that I would reconsider and give Patrick another chance.
Not a chance, Patrick Subaru. Not a chance. Your organization obviously does enough volume that it has lost sight of the importance of retaining the loyalty and trust of your individual customers.