It’s Official….. Customer Service Is Dead [UPDATED x2]

Frequent readers of my blog will recall that over the last few months I’ve come across my fair share of customer service issues. One with APC (where one of my customers was involved), another with D-Link are the ones that come to mind quickly. Now I’m in the middle of a third. This time it’s not with a company that makes computers, it’s with a car company. Toyota.

My wife and I bought a 2009 Toyota Matrix last March and it was working fine until the AWD, VSC (Vehicle Stability Control), Traction Control Disable, and Check Engine lights popped up onto my dash last October, all at the same time. We took it into the nearest dealer and reset the computer as the part the computer was pointing towards was perfectly fine. The problem returned less than a week later  and the dealer replaced the “A” vehicle speed sensor. That was fine, until the problem returned again in January. They replaced the “B” vehicle speed sensor. That was cool.  Too bad the fix only lasted a week when the problem returned again. This time it was worse. The car would now rev to 6000 RPM and surge forward randomly. My wife almost rear ended a E class Mercedes Benz the first time it happened. While my wife was en-route to the dealership, I phoned the service manager at the dealership and described the situation to him. I also made it clear to him that I wanted it resolved. The car spent a week in the dealer while they waited for an ECU as they thought that this was the issue. This was great for three days until the lights returned. The car is currently sitting in the dealership waiting for parts since Monday. The only info that I have from the dealer is:

  • It is waiting for parts. That may take “a few days.”
  • The parts that they ordered were on the advice of Toyota Canada whom the dealer is consulting with.
  • They are not sure if these parts will fix the issue as they’re not sure what’s actually wrong with the car.
  • There is no timeline as to when I can expect to get the car back.

Oh yeah, I’ll also point out that we have called Toyota Canada on the advice of our lawyer and have a case open with them. However, it will take “a few days” before somebody even calls us back as they apparently need time to investigate our case.

The dealership gave us a loaner (a Toyota Yaris). I shouldn’t complain, but after being in the Matrix, the Yaris is several steps down the food chain. Having said that, Toyota Canada dealers only have to give loaners to people who purchase their extended warranty. We did not so we’re guessing that because we’re up to our fifth visit to the dealer about this issue and I have complained to Toyota Canada, that’s why we have a loaner.

Here’s why my wife and I are ticked off:

  • Toyota claims to have the best quality in the business. According to the Toyota Canada website: “You purchased Toyota because of our reputation for quality – and because you have better things to do than worry about vehicle reliability and dependability.” Clearly the quality is absent from this vehicle.
  • Having to wait for days to get parts in this day and age is unbelievable. It’s inconceivable to me that there isn’t a parts warehouse someplace that allows them to ship parts to dealers for next day delivery.
  • Not having an idea what is wrong with the car and simply throwing parts at it seems a really lame way to try and fix a problem. According to the Toyota Canada website: “The philosophy behind Toyota Quality Service is the provision of accurate, efficient and reliable servicing at every Toyota Dealership in Canada.” I haven’t seen this in action to this point.
  • Any updates that I’ve received about the car have been from me calling the dealership and not from the dealer calling me. Being reactive to your customers issues is not a great way of making them happy customers. I guess that because they gave us a loaner, they feel that they can just ignore us.
  • The fact that it takes “a few days” for somebody at Toyota Canada to call me to discuss this issue shows that there’s a real lack of customer focus. If I were in their shoes, I would call the customer back within one business day or less to not only get their side of the story and flesh out the details, but to also explain what the next steps in the process are and to set the expectations of the customer.
  • The closest that anybody representing Toyota has come to apologizing for this circus is when the service adviser at the dealer said “You are justified in feeling frustrated” which is a textbook response from most customer service courses that I’ve taken. Now I understand why they won’t say the words “I’m sorry” but I did write in this posting the following: “One of the things that I’ve always believed is that you have be upfront by providing the public with information and apologize when you screw up. You need to express regret and sympathy or you just come out looking like you’re protecting your backside.” They could try that with us and see how far it gets them.

So, where do we go from here you ask? First we’ll wait for Toyota Canada to get back to us and see if they step up to the plate and deal with this. If they don’t resolve it, our lawyer has advised us that our next step is to apply to the Canadian Motor Vehicle Arbitration Process to deal with this issue. But it doesn’t have to get that far. All Toyota Canada needs to do is to step up and put the resources in place to get the car fixed correctly in the shortest amount of time possible. That’s what I would do if I were in their place as an unhappy customer is one who tells their friends about their negative experiences with a given company, which affects their sales and public perception.

It’s too bad that customer service seems to no longer exist. Perhaps major corporations will learn that it’s easier to keep customers happy than to go find new ones, and customer service is the best way to do that. After all, there are going to problems with stuff that you sell, what puts you at the top of the heap is how you deal with those problems. In this case, this is not being dealt with very well. That’s too bad because this is my first experience with Toyota, but given how this has gone thus far, it may well be my last. Of course that can be avoided if Toyota Canada does the right thing sooner rather than later.

I’ll keep you posted as to what happens next.  Oh, if anybody from Toyota Canada is reading this, please fix my car.

UPDATE: I recieved a call from the dealer saying that they’re still waiting for parts and I’ll be called again tomorrow with an update. Also, I should just keep driving my loaner. This is the first time that the dealer has called me with an update rather than I having to call the dealer to get an update. Interesting….

UPDATE #2: A reader sent me this story that Toyota is recalling 1.3 million Yaris cars worldwide. Apparently in severe front-end collisions the mechanism that tightens the vehicle’s seat belt expels a gas that could cause a sound-insulating foam pad nearby to ignite. The recall covers 2006 and 2007 model years. We have a 2008 as a loaner so we’re safe (I hope). But this news doesn’t exactly make me feel any better. Thanks for the tip!

2 Responses to “It’s Official….. Customer Service Is Dead [UPDATED x2]”

  1. Cindy Ramsey Says:

    Call the dealer back and ask for a loaner from Honda!

    I have an 09 Matrix, which has not been as bad as yours. The only oddball malfunction I’ve had is in the radio. Since day-one it has randomly jacked up the volume, then will not respond to the volume knob. After that it started running giberish across the screen in place of the radio station.

    I took pictures of this, took it to the dealer and requested that it be replaced, since they couldn’t duplicate the problem. The first response I got was that “anyone could photoshop that.”

    After I pointed out that I’d be pretty stupid to go to all that effort, then request that the put the same, low level radio back in the car. They replaced it, but it’s started to do the same thing already. It plays, not worth the hassle right now to try and figure it out. I’m always watching for other electrical issues though.

    • Now that you mention it, my radio will sometimes increase in volume for a split second and then return to normal. I always assumed it was due to the ASL (automatic sound leveling) feature, but now you have me wondering. It’s never done anything else that you’ve described. I think I’ll turn off ASL and see if it makes a difference. If it doesn’t, I’ll take it in.

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