We are all brand builders or brand destroyers, so are the 1000s of small gestures we make

Andrew S - 15 th July 2016

VW and the cheating device experience.

I recently received a letter from VW informing me it was time to get their emissions cheating device sorted out on my car. I will over looking the ridiculous addressing of the letter to me “Without building Nam The Hurst” – I live in Wisteria Cottage on The Hurst but I was a little peeved to say the least that they expected me to take the car to them in my own time to get this fixed. My time is obviously not worth that much, but it is to me.

Of course, this is one of the issues with outsourcing your brand and putting it in the hands of a 3rd party, in this case Inchcape the dealership.

I managed to book it in alongside a standard service so that wasn’t too bad and all went well on the day and my car was sorted in a very credible 3 hours, which let me do some work in their waiting area.

On handing me back my keys the chap at reception, with a great flurry, handed me a box which apparently marked the celebration of me bringing my car in to have their cheating device fixed! It contained a key ring, pen, insulated cup and a business card (see pictures for details). I asked how come US consumers were having their cars brought back and compensation offered but this question fell on very deaf ears.

To be honest, an apology given sincerely from VW for the inconvenience this had caused to both me and the planet would had sufficed and the “gift” merely served as a  rather sad gesture, especially as there were two bits left unfilled in the box, they were probably for posher clients with bigger VWs!!

All was going well after I left until I got a call from the dealer asking me to take a photo of my mileage, with no explanation as to why. This was followed up by an email and 3 further calls hassling me to send the picture over. Looks like they are more interested in their own process rather than the customer experience. 

What is the outcome of all of this… this whole episode has meant that I have lost confidence in the brand, but the car works and does what I need it to do so may well buy another one.

In my eyes the dealer looks stupid and tokenistic and only interested in minimum effort on most fronts but then they are only a 3rd party in all of this and not the brand owners. But they do make their money from the brand and customer repeat purchase.

What would I have done differently?

  1. Apologised for the real cost to me of inconvenience and my time.

  2. Made sure all the brand basics of the customer journey where right, especially as the brand is under so much pressure to keep its customers. It’s the 1000s of gestures that need to be right.

  3. Kept it simple and not over elaborate, who thought that a key ring, thermal cup and a pen in a hugely expensive and not very environmentally friendly box was the thing to do.

  4. If you have an idea test it with some tame customers to see their reaction because getting this wrong means my money is most likely, at the very least, go to another dealer.

Andrew is the CEO and the other founding partner of Brand Vista. With over 30 years of brand experience both on the client and agency side, what gets him up every morning is a passion for helping clients grow through building genuinely differentiated brands that deliver a customer experience that becomes irresistible.
Find out more about Andrew S