After Sales Service Failure: Skoda

In 2011 when I purchased Skoda Fabia, I was in love with the car. It is my first car. Two years down the line, the car is still a brilliant workhorse. 

Last year I called up Asset Auto in Pune informing them that my car was due for its first servicing, following information was passed on to me over a period:

  1. In the month of April I was informed by Asset Auto that their workshop is being renovated, so I will have to wait. I said okay.
  2. I called up in the month of May asking for a booking date - I was told that their two workshops in Pune and their showroom is under renovation. I never have heard of something like this before.
  3. In June I walked into their renovated showroom on Bhandarkar Road demanding some answers. The manager apologised and told me that the workshop will be ready in July.
  4. In the month of July there was no response.
  5. I called up Skoda's helpline with the intention of launching a complaint - to my surprise I was given an option of sending the car to Asset Auto's competition - Pashankar Auto. I gave up and said okay for an appointment in August 2012.
  6. Pashankar Auto's sales executive came to my then office in Aundh and picked up the car. I duly informed him about smaller niggles in the car.
  7. When the car was delivered to me, those niggles were not solved. I called up Pashankar Auto's relevant executive who kindly informed me that " in order to solve such problems, you have to personally come to the workshop".
  8.  In this process I tweeted, posted on Facebook asking for help. Many of my friends tried but no luck. 

With this backdrop, earlier today I called up Skoda (Asset Auto) again. This time I was hoping for a smoother process for the second free servicing. 

Following conversation took place over the phone:

Me: I wish to book my vehicle for its second servicing.

Skoda Lady (SL): Certainly. What is your vehicle number?

Me: It is ___________

SL: Let me check our records. <pause> It appears that your second servicing has lapsed.

Me: Last year because of your problems and unending renovation at your facilities my car was looked at by your competitors in August. You see lady, I do not want to deal with Skoda anymore. I am not even going to buy a Skoda car after this. So let's just get over with this?

SL: Let me book a date for you. <pause> Here's the number of Service Executive at our facility please speak to him about your car's current problems if any.

Me: Thanks. I will do so. I appreciate it.

After the call was over I called up the Service Executive (SE).

Me: My vehicle number is ________ and I have booked an appointment for this week.

SE: Is your car facing any particular problems?

Me: For past 2-3 weeks I have been regularly checking the tyres. Something does not feel right. Could you check on that?

SE: Are these tubeless tyres?

Me: Yes. Haven't changed them since I purchased the car.

SE: Sir, why don't you take it to the near by car tyres vendor and check with him. We don't offer that service.

Me: Wow! Are you serious? <laughing> Thanks for letting me know this beforehand. I am definitely not buying anything from you guys.

SE: ........

Me: At the time of purchase I opted for Caska's touchscreen display for the car. It is not working properly. The rear view camera isn't working either.

SE: Sir, why don't you take the car to the Skoda showroom and tell them that the Skoda workshop will not work on it. They will help you out.

Me: Why can't you do it - either solve the problem of the console or speak to the concerned people at the showroom and get it done?

SE: .......

Me: Alright. I'll leave the car at the showroom one day in advance.

Let me make it clear that Skoda Fabia (Diesel) is a brilliant piece of hardware. It is almost perfect - the air conditioning is mediocre for a top end car.

In all likelihood, Skoda will say that the problem is because of the dealers and their after sales service. I am saying that Skoda has done a great job of selecting horrible partners and offering post sales service which lacks common sense to the core. 

Many a times, companies have great products and great ideas. But the likelihood of them succeeding depends on how they manage their service delivery and post sales services. In mileage driven economy, longevity of a product can be mostly decided by the support it gets form the vendor. My experience with Skoda can be summarised as follows:

  1. Amateur treatment to post sales service mechanism
  2. Skoda tries a lot to enforce "soft spoken" approach - it does not mean I am being impressed by the quality of your service delivery
  3. Car is not the same as wheat or rice purchased from the corner store. Customer expects special treatment. This special treatment implies understanding what your customer is looking for and answering accordingly. Customers do not want structured call centre quality service.
  4. If you are going to say No to a particular demand your cranky customer has, then try and make his life better by solving another problem. If you are going to say No to everything, I am not sure what sort of customer satisfaction one would be dealing with.

Like any other company Skoda can improve upon what they are doing. If any of the thoughtful Skoda executives are reading this then I would love to hear their thoughts, problems and questions. 

And if Skoda feels so, I would like to be there with them to solve this problem. I firmly believe that simple criticism is boring and it does not solve anything.