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A Quality Conundrum – High Expectations

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There wasn’t much to the consumer decision making process when it came to me selecting a new car. I skipped a few steps and knew I wanted a Subaru WRX. I’m a ridiculously brand loyal individual and support organizations that represent my values and operate in ways that support quality and social responsibility.  Also, this particular car was consistently the one I liked at the auto shows, had owned one before and just thought it was the perfect choice to bring me much happiness.  Driving should be fun after all.

I waited a few months on the Subaru because it was the end-run of the 2014 before the style change and I wanted the hatch that wasn’t going to be offered in 2015.  No worries. Don’t good things come to those who wait?

A few weeks after taking delivery, a knocking noise appeared that required a new short block. That’s big.  But, I took it back to the dealership and they extended the warranty and made the repair.

Here’s where the conundrum gets started…

1) The car was the last run in production.  Could the short block issue be a result of poor quality control or other transitory issues related to the changeover? At a macro level, has Subaru’s increase in popularity (production) made it more difficult to control quality? Maybe it was just “one of those things.” 

The husband picks up the car after the repair and notes all kinds of obvious quality issues with the workmanship, including missing bolts and other parts. I recall him describing it as “laughable.”  The technician shrugged it off and put a little more love into it to pacify us.

2) The quality of the dealership service is a concern. My thinking was to let this go as a fluke and be satisfied that they were cool about it and did their best to make it better.  But, as a quality person, why did the tech not do a better job? Was it that particular person? Training issues? Why isn’t there a process of a quality check before the work is presented to the customer?  What about customers that don’t even bother to check? Here’s the dealer claim: 

“When your Subaru needs service, get the outstanding support you deserve from the expert mechanics and skilled customer care representatives at xxx.”

*I don’t want to name the dealer. The professional in me doesn’t want to turn this blog into a company bashing platform. 

Fast forward… A few months after the short block incident, a tear starts happening in the carpet by the pedals and the rear view mirror compass just stops working. I take it back to have repaired under warranty. I do consider my time valuable, so there is a cost associated.

When I dropped the car off, I expressed my particular obsession with quality and I asked to be assured that removing the interior to replace the carpeting would result in a car that reassembled exactly how it was and that nothing would rattle or otherwise not function. Multiple times, I was assured of this and even told he would personally double check it.

That afternoon, I picked up my rowdy kids and sat in rush hour for an hour to pick up the car. When I questioned if it had been double checked, the friendly service account manager moved the car four parking spaces, opened the door for me to get in, and declared it was perfect.  With rowdy kids, I took his word for it.

Get home… discover parts just laying there, pieces missing, scratches, etc. Husband declares I have “aged the car four years” and the “I told you so” came shortly after. Foiled again!

3) How in the world did the car go through so many touch points (service tech, manager, car wash people, customer service guy) without someone indicating a problem with loose parts all over the place? This particular dealership positions itself as “quality” and services “luxury” brands. Dissonance much?

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I wait 24 hours before constructing an email asking these questions and making them aware of my issue.  With 100% service quality issues at this point, I felt it was my duty to make them aware.  I had to call the place to get the email address because the website had no email listed.  I suppose I could have used the live chat feature.  Either way, one of the two addresses I was provided bounced.

When no reply came after a day, I felt the need to be more public.  So, I tweeted. I’d say less than a minute later, I’m contacted back on Twitter. A few minutes later, I get a call. The individual owned the problem as a representative of the dealership and sounded sincere. But, I’m in marketing and sound that way too when mistakes are made and I’m trying to keep a customer. But, is that enough? To me, there are a multitude of potential issues with their processes (hiring, training, quality, etc.) that should be addressed.

The real conundrum… Are my expectations too high?  Do I live in a quality bubble because of the industry I work in?

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