Blog posts in English

"A demain!" – story about dealing with a sales-focused vendor

Have you worked with a service vendor which consistently did not meet dealines, yet you still kept buying services from them?
This is a story about a car manufacturers’ service organisation being geared towards sales – not service. I’m sharing it here because it has analogies to what’s happening in the software industry. So I hope you’ll stay with me:
My Renault Espace broke down on a vacation in France. It’s a great car, usually very reliable, but like anything else, it has its weak points. The gearbox is one of them: I’ve seen numerous reports on failing gearboxes. Mine did 277,000 km before failing. Not bad, considering…
I delivered the car to a large Renault operation in the city of Frejus on the Côte d’Azur. I was well received, there was even a girl speaking English. I felt comfortable, and got a chance to look at the new cars.
Repairing an automatic gearbox is a specialist task, but replacement gearboxes are available. I started looking at the various options for repair – and for getting the family home to Denmark before our vacation ended.
So I asked the manager at the garage two questions:

  • How much will a repair be?
  • When will the car be ready?

Now, I’ve done a bit of work on my cars over the years, and I know that unplanned things can happen, so I was happy that he gave me a conservative time estimate that would allow for delays in the process. I was most worried whether a new gearbox was in store somewhere in the Renault network, but there was one in Paris, so I accepted.
And with the replacement gearbox arriving from Paris just a few days later, I was happey. When I checked with the garage, they told me they’d start working the same day, and I could have the car two days later. That would be one day earlier than promised.
”Sounds good, we’re ahead of plan,” I thought, and since buffers are always good to have, and I felt I could accept the optimistic estimate. I still trusted them.
But I was in for a surprise when I called two days later to ask about pick up. The answer was ”a demain!” – tomorrow. Any problems?, I asked. No, no problems, they said, ”a demain”.
I went to see the car later the same day, and the picture here shows what found: Note that the old gearbox is still in the car. The mechanic had obviously not started working on my car the day they said he would do it.
”C’est possible,” they claimed next day when the mechanic was still busy reassembling the car. I didn’t trust that, as the car obviously needed more work than was available on that day only. A sound test drive, for example!
As I’m writing this, I’m waiting for my car, sitting next to the service counter, where cars are registered for repairs. There’s a large poster showing the people working in the garage – and then there are all the new cars here. I like the electric vehicles Renault is offering, and everyone here is smiling and polite, even the service people. I feel comfortable here.
Renault’s business model is 100% sales oriented: They want me to buy services, buy a new or newer car instead. They smile and tell me all sorts of apparantly good reasons why the repair was delayed – they have even apologized to my family.
But there’s one thing they haven’t told me yet: They prioritized someone else’s car over mine, and they didn’t start working on it until there was no slack in the plan anymore.
This could be an example of french ”laissez faire” attitude, but I don’t think so. I’m not at all worried about the quality of the repair itself, as I saw the mechanic several times while he was working on the car. I know how Renault train their mechanics, and it was obvious that he was doing a really proper job.
No, It’s the planning that sucks. they didn’t know when they’d be done, so they didn’t call me to let me know the plan was in jeopardy. They just hoped. Even today they said: ”Dix heures”, and it’s now 09:59.
The interesting thig is that this is supporting their sales! It’s obvious that Renault has tuned even their flawed, but kind service organisation towards new sales.
How is YOUR vendor tuned?
PS: I’ve got the car now, and it’s as great as ever. Ready for at least another 150,000 km!