Operations Case Study: I Should Have Fixed The Car Myself Instead Of Going To Gaudin Ford In Las Vegas

Remembering a number of bad experiences with getting maintenance services at a car dealer, I tried to make the case to my in-laws that it would only take five minutes and ~$25/strut for two struts to fix the hatchback on my 2007 Ford Freestyle. There was likely a gas leak in one of the struts that was preventing the hatchback to stay up when I opened it. Simple fix, even for someone who knows practically nothing about cars. My in-laws said that the broken part should be covered by warranty and that I should just take it into one of the local, Las Vegas dealers. I resisted a bit, really for no good reason.

The real underlying reason why I didn't want to take my car to the Ford dealer … I didn't want to be embarassed in front of my in-laws with poor customer service.

Unfortunately, Ford Motor Company did not disappoint me.

Actually, I should have heeded an initial warning from the one-star rating review out of five stars for Gaudin Ford. Nevertheless, Gaudin Ford is one of the largest dealers in Las Vegas.

Here's the play-by-play and the key events. See if you can find the operational process problems (if not, I suggest consulting Reengineering the Corporation from my crash course consulting reading list):

  1. I call service department to see if they can take me at 9:30am
  2. Phone operator for service department says "yes"
  3. My father in-law and I drive the car 45 minutes or so to the dealer.
  4. I get car there a little early, and the service manager does a casual inspection of the hatch issue as well as a walkaround of the car (e.g., to check depth of tire treads)
  5. I get a printout saying that service is covered by the normal warranty and that I'll get the car back by the end of the day
  6. Should be a quick job (my father in-law remarks). When will the car be done? Answer: something to the effect of probably late afternoon.
  7. I ask whether they have the part to fix the hatchback. Service manager says that they should have it. If not, the parts warehouse should have it.
  8. Well we don't want to hang around for 5-6 hours, so we ask if there is way to get transportation back home.
  9. Gaudin Ford provides us transport back home, although we have to wait 30-40 mins longer than the original projection. Net-net ok so far.
  10. No call back of status by mid-afternoon, so I call into service center to see where are things at.
  11. Service manager says that there were a number of cars still in queue from previous day so my car hasn't been processed yet. Could I leave the car until tomorrow?
  12. Thinking about transportation logistics, I say "ok", but I think to myself that they shoudn't have taken my job in the first place if there wasn't time to complete the job on time.
  13. Next day comes – no calls by early-afternoon.
  14. I call service center to see where things are at.
  15. Service manager says that my car is just getting looked at.
  16. I ask when will car be ready. Service manager says by 4:00pm.
  17. I ask whether it can be done any earlier because I am in the area now (by chance) and it would be inconvient for me to have to come back much later. Service manager indicates that 4:00pm is the earliest.
  18. My father in-law and I make the decision to drop me off at the dealer while we are in the area.
  19. I arrive at the dealership and let the service manager know I'm there.
  20. Thirty minutes or so pass, and the service manager tells me that they don't have the part and could I come back another time so they can order the part?
  21. A bit frustrated, I'll tell him that I cannot since I have to leave town. I'll just take the keys and the car.
  22. He says that he has to close out the job and that I'll be checked out at the cashier desk.
  23. Forty-five or so minutes go by, and I wonder what's going on.
  24. I visit service manager again, and he says that he'll check as to what's going on.
  25. Thirty minutes or so pass, and I go to cashier desk. Cashier desk says that the checkout notice hasn't come yet.
  26. I visit service manager again. He is surprised to see me. He says that he'll check what is going on.
  27. I visit cashier desk again. Still no checkout notice.
  28. I don't know what's going on. I'm baffled, and I'm trying to decide if I should go look for the car myself on the dealer premises. Could I be charged if I tried to steal my own car back?
  29. I decide to stand there cluelessly for ten to fifteen minutes more, when the printout finally gets spit out of the printer.
  30. I checkout with the cashier (no $ charges, just signature), present the papers to someone to get my car, and head off.
  31. Dejected, I mentally prepare for when I will have time when I return to LA to have my car looked at.

So Ford disappointed me. Wasted my time. On top of it, the episode of poor customer service was in front of my in-laws (who have typically not bought American car brands, whereas I have practially always bought Fords).

The thought crossed my mind as to whether I should make a viral video about poor customer service, like was done with the video United Breaks Guitars.

That's shooting too big. Plus it's past my abilities as a musician.

My in-laws told me to Twitter the whole episode. They said that companies hate when you do "that sort of thing".

I'm not malicious, but I think a mini-case study is OK for a blog post.

In any case, I pose the question, "where did things go wrong?"

4 Replies to “Operations Case Study: I Should Have Fixed The Car Myself Instead Of Going To Gaudin Ford In Las Vegas”

  1. I’d say there is no incentive to provide great customer service on the account of being one of the largest dealers in Las Vegas.
    Put it another way, people will come into their shop any way since they are big – and since people will come in any which way, they don’t have to provide great customer service.
    Two things can change the incentive structure – one, competition of some sort (I assume there is no competition, else their behavior wouldn’t be so shoddy) and two, if Las Vegas customers boycott the shop (which I guess is going to take a lot of effort considering the number of moving population that comes in, who’d care only for a quick fix, if not a permanent one).

  2. Great perspectives. I was thinking more of the micro-level operational process issues, but there could be macro-level issues at market- and dealer-levels.
    At the macro-level, I’m no expert in automotive dealers. That said, I would think that the service centers need to be profit centers. People are not nearly as tied to the dealers for maintenance services as they are for purchasing cars, so the services market should be more competitive. The dealer service centers should also be incented in part by the corporate offices, which do things like administer customer satisfaction surveys and reimburse dealers for service work provided under warranty. As for the competitive structure for Ford dealers, I am not sure how the proximity of next nearest Ford dealer compares to that of other manufacturers – in this case, I could have gone to another dealer that would have been closer.
    I also wonder whether the service I received was “less” since I tried to get my car serviced outside of my home area (e.g., I live in LA and was visiting Las Vegas). The service manager may have made the assumption that the possibility for me being a repeat customer was less than other customers …

  3. Sayings travel far and internationally I see. 🙂 Having grown up in the Midwest, it’s a hard habit for me to break by purchasing a non-Ford …
    Truth be told, it’s a nice car, and it probably saved my family’s life from another motorist. I hate servicing cars though.

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