Browsing the archives for the subaru tag.


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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The importance of focus and a clear vision…

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‘If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.” ~Ben Franklin

This is a quote I regurgitate often, and it seems to be somewhat of a theme in the latest View from the Q post as well.

ASQ’s new CEO, Bill Troy, is asking about having a clear vision, and he uses three examples and takeaways from the European Organization for Quality’s 58th Annual Congress this past June.  

Within the functions of management, planning is first.  Strategic planning starts with identifying a vision and mission for the organization, with the ultimate goal to make sure that all subsequent actions are consistent and communicated effectively to all stakeholders.  In my management class, sometimes we’ll look up a company we all know and check out their vision and mission statements. Students can quickly pick up on whether or not it’s just marketing content, or if it’s something really consistent with their experiences as a consumer.  Unfortunately, it’s all too easy to identify those that don’t match-up.

Troy uses the examples of Ikea and Volvo in his post and indicates he was “moved by the power and clarity that vision can bring.” I too have felt this.  In that respect, I have to identify one company that I believe truly exemplifies their vision and mission… Enter Subaru:

  • We will strive to create advanced technology on an ongoing basis and provide consumers with distinctive products with the highest level of quality and customer satisfaction.
  • We will aim to continuously promote harmony between people, society and the environment while contributing to the prosperity of society.
  • We will look to the future with a global perspective and aim to foster a vibrant, progressive company.

“The principles of good corporate citizenship have always been an integral part of the Subaru business in the United States. It is evident in how we relate to our employees, our customers, and our communities. But, we believe in the principle of Kaizen, or continuous improvement, too.”  Tomomi Nakamura, Chairman and CEO Subaru of America, Inc.

I have experience both as a consumer of several Subaru vehicles, and I also have the pleasure of working with them as a client of Pro QC.  As someone passionate about marketing, I also follow their campaigns and other performance indicators as well.  It’s all clear and consistent with the vision and mission.

ASQ recently shared a quote on Facebook regarding the proof of the pudding is still in the eating…

  • 95% of Subaru vehicles sold in the last 10 years are still on the road today.
  • Subaru represents one of the highest repurchase-loyalty ratings in the U.S. market. 
  • For the fourth consecutive year (2010-2013), the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has recognized Subaru as the only manufacturer with a Top Safety Pick winner for all models.  The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has recognized Subaru with more 2014 Top Safety Picks than any other brand.
  • American Customer Satisfaction Index Ratings are not so shabby, as comparatively listed here. (I could also make a reference to Troy’s experience with Noriaki Kano’s presentation regarding Deming if you look at the top 5 in the index.)
  • The zero landfill plants… Bill Troy mentions visiting the Volvo manufacturing facility, but Subaru sure does impress as well.

How do they do it?  Why Subaru? 

To tie this back to the Volvo mission Troy references as the “clearest organization vision statement he had ever come across,” I see it as more of a marketing positioning strategy.  I have doubts as a consumer that it’s even possible, and I wonder how other consumer (stakeholder) concerns are affected by this.  Granted, I did not do further research beyond the ASQ post, and I have nothing against Volvo. 

It states simply, “by 2020, nobody shall be seriously injured or killed in a new Volvo.”  Think about that for a minute. They are saying that by the year 2020 (not that long away) you cannot be killed or seriously injured if you are in a new Volvo, no matter the circumstances of the collision.

Per ASQ, “A clear vision helps in aligning everyone towards the same future state or objective, providing a basis for goal congruence.” Considering this definition, is Volvo a victim of Levitt’s marketing myopia?

Troy closes out his post asking about ASQ.  In regards to whether or not ASQ has the right focus and whether it’s communicated well or not, I’d say we’re moving in the right direction.  My takeaway from the recent World Conference, in addition to my 15 years as a member say that it certainly does.

ASQ’s Vision

By making quality a global priority, an organizational imperative, and a personal ethic, ASQ becomes the community for everyone who seeks quality concepts, technology, or tools to improve themselves and their world.

ASQ’s Mission

To increase the use and impact of quality in response to the diverse needs of the world.

If you’re interested in Pro QC’s mission, we recently went through the strategic planning process as well.  I wrote a blog post about it, of course. 

“The Pro QC Global Team enables our customers to project their interests in quality and conformance. Anywhere. Anytime.”

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