Friday, March 18, 2011

Roland vs BMW

I own a reasonably top end electronic drum kit made by Roland, the Japanese company, as well as a reasonably top end car made by BMW, the German company. I say this not to brag, but to give you, my valued reader, essential background information.

The electronic drum kit is the second one I've owned though the first was not a Roland one. The car is the second BMW I've had. The first BMW, a five series, I adored and look back on with affection. This five series, the newer type, is one that I dislike rather intensely. It would be too strong to say I detest it, but only just.

Yesterday I took my car in for a service to the dealership at which I've bought the last two cars and who have done all the required servicing and other bits and pieces. I also had a need to call Roland UK and order a cheap and simple part for my e drums.

The following is a story of the very thin line between outstanding and poor customer service and the effects of the two.

First, the car.

I've ordered a new car, an Audi. For a number of reasons. Firstly because I don't want to be seen as a fellow who always drives the same marque, a chap who is due his next BMW next March. Secondly because the level of service I've received from both the dealer and the car hasn't earned any more loyalty from me. This current car is built to a price, the last five series felt as if it was built to a standard.

Thirdly, well I managed to fit my bass drum into the new mystery car, so the order has been placed.

So the new car is on order and I have to wait about three or four months for the other load of Germans to build the thing, though I'm not sure if it's built in Germany at all. During these months I have to service the existing car and generally keep it in decent condition so I get the part exchange value I was promised.

I contemplated booking it in to a different dealer but, figuring this is the last time and I'm better off maintaining the consistency of having the full service history at the one place, I stayed with the devil I know. And hate.

I arrived and was met by the patronising service woman. She displayed a certain attitude of arrogance and aloofness as she took the car in and completed the paperwork.

"So it's a standard brake fluid service and this problem with the CD player?" she asked, after putting the key into the key reader thing with all the drama as if she was playing a major role in the latest Harry Potter film with magic and swords.

"Yes, as I explained the CD changer goes back to the first disc at track one each time I restart the car, I suspect it might need rebooting or something." I said.

It's a problem that has come up out of nowhere, for the last five years the CD changer would pick up at the track and the CD at which it left after restarting the engine, but this has mysteriously changed. It's not a big deal though, as the car is going and I didn't want to pay for an expensive repair.

I'm all for technology, I like the way it can speed things up, make us all more efficient and propel us forward. What I don't like is the application of technology that appears to slow things down and help the supplier but not the customer. Which is what BMW seem to be using. Every time I have a problem with my car, which has been way too often, it has to be plugged into a mysterious computer that only Professor Brian Cox knows how to use, then I'm charged a fortune merely to be told that I'm going to pay another fortune for the privilege of some oink pressing BMW's equivalent of ctrl alt delete.

The next generation of car mechanics are people who have all the diagnostic equipment, who do what the main dealers do, but charge their customer far less. They're beginning to come through now and, as far as I'm concerned, the quicker the better.

I trundle off, not confident that I'm going to be pleasantly surprised but fully expecting they're going to attempt to fleece me, just not sure exactly how.

The call came through about four hours later.

"Hello Mr Diaspora, it's T from BMW"

I won't bore you with the details but she starts to tell me that the CD player has to be plugged into a big computer for the fault to be diagnosed and that it will cost me £98.94 for this, whether it's fixed or not.

"No thanks" I say.

Then she tells me that it might be because the battery is a bit low and what the car does is to shut down various components when this happens, so they could charge the battery overnight and see if that makes a difference. I pause for a few seconds. The pause is because there have been no signs of a weak battery. The car starts perfectly every time, all the bits work properly and, most importantly, I had the battery checked about six months ago and was told that it was perfect and I didn't need a new one. At a car battery place!

"Well the thing is, if you pardon the technical explanation" says T. "That the car is like a body and the battery's like the heart pumping blood around it. Well the CD player is like...., well I don't mean technical explanation, I mean laymans' terms, that's it"

Oh Jesus, I thought. One thing that gets me is when people underestimate a chap's knowledge. I don't have the faintest clue about how to work on a modern car, but I know the basics. I used to dismantle the carburettors on my MGB Roadster, I know what the battery does. If I wanted a woman to patronise me to that extent there are daughters, mothers and C to choose from. One of the tenets of selling is to underpromise and overperform. Don't assume your customer is an idiot, pretend you think he's really clever and then come down from there as you discover otherwise.

So I listened for a bit then stopped her.

"T, what voltage is the battery putting out?" I asked in my most expert like tones.

"Err, well I don't know, he hasn't written it down here." she said.

"Well it was tested a few months ago and was kicking out about fifteen volts when running, so I'm surprised that you're telling me it's low now." I'm not expert enough to be sure on that fifteen volt thing, it might have been a million volts or half an acre that the chap in the battery place told me, but I sounded confident enough for her to falter and splutter like my MGB Roadster after I'd dismantled the twin carbs.

She moved on to talk about illegal tyres, which I rejected, and other rubbish. I told her I'd pick up the car at five o'clock, look after the tyres myself and get the battery checked by my regular place.

Dodgy bastards, that's all I can say.

Roland UK, that's another story, and a very fine one at that.

I rang a chap there yesterday to order a small part for the e drums. He was so helpful on the phone, checking everything, talking me through it all and then taking my details and placing the order. It came to a princely sum of £18. Within about ten minutes of the phone conversation I had an email thanking and confirming it, with a screen shot of his internal ordering system showing me the details.

Now £18 can't really make much difference to a company like Roland either way. But, when my current electronic kit dies or needs upgrading, I'll buy another Roland one. It will be partly because I like their products. It will also be because, on a couple of times when I've called them they've treated me as if they value my custom and they've done what they've promised.

And the first story is why, after about ten years of driving BMWs I've just ordered a slightly high end Audi.

Different companies and different products but great customer service is the same the world over. And it's why we, the customer, go back time and time again.


Scrumps said...

You know - it's surprising you say that. When I was looking for my new car, I really wanted a convertible but was looking at the Audi A5 convertible. I went to their store off of Finchley Road and was blatantly ignored. So after wandering about for 15 minutes or so, I walked out. Becuase it's such a small showroom, I tried again and went to their showroom off of the A4 and after taking in all floors, oooh-ing and ahhh-ing at every car, I still waited for some service. About 20 minutes later, I approached somebody who led me to their used car salesman. Which is fine. But the way he spoke to me and the lack of disinterest he showed me (maybe it's because I'm somewhat young) made me walk out of there somewhat peeved. So peeved in fact that I actually wrote an email of disappointment because I'd really wanted an Audi but their poor customer service had let them down.

So in my bid for a convertible, I went to BMW, and the service I received there was impeccable in contrast. I sat there with the salesman for about an hour as he showed me the car I wanted, looked at my car (as part of the excchange), explained the options available to me and patiently listend to all the questions I asked (let's be fair - I am a girl!). And I probably won't go back to Audi now.
But it goes to show how important customer service is.

Just thought I'd share!

Rhythmic Diaspora said...

Hey Scrumps - Yes I think it's often about the service that the individual dealer can provide more so that one marque giving great customer service across the board.

I too got really poor service at the Audi West London dealer, but then went and bought it somewhere else where their level of service was first class.

In my case, with my BMW though, I felt that the product I had bought as well as the service from the dealer didn't earn my brand loyalty. It was a combination of the two and, had I been pleased about one, I'm not sure what I would have done.

Hope you're happy with your car!

Magerata said...

Good choice on Audi :) I drive around in one (but no dealer stuff as it was a hand me down :) ) and my mechanic drives an Audi and loves Audi! So mostly it is oil changes as I hit the 3000 mile mark pretty frequently. Audi don't like tires, with high torque and all wheel driving, Audi tend to eat them fast :(
Roland man I love my Roland gear, I carry around a V studio which is ancient by the terms of music gear and I never have trouble getting parts or support for it. I really want to get a new recorder as my V-Studio has an old hard drive interface (ATA) and hard to find newer drives (Not the Roland but I/we regularly crash drives by banging it while recording.) So I am saving for a V-Studio 100 :).
I did not know drummers had taste!
Ha, just kidding.

Rhythmic Diaspora said...

Magerata - I never knew you were musically inclined either!