Dreadful customer service

  • BrianG's Avatar
    On Monday, continuing to today, I have been on the receiving end of terrible RAC customer service. As I waited five and a half hours in a motorway sevice area for a subcontracted recovery service, two AA recovery vehicles passed through the car park, to tend to their members. Which service, I wondered, puts the customer first?

    I have emailed the RAC today (as it takes about half an hour to get a phone call answered). Below is the text of that email. I will keep you up to date with the response I get.
  • 17 Replies

  • BrianG's Avatar
    On Monday night, whilst travelling from my house in Hull to my flat in London, my car broke down on the M1 - the oil pump began to fail. I limped to Leicester Forest East services, and called the RAC.

    Things started very well. Within little more than half an hour, a service mechanic (from VW Audi Service, working for the RAC) arrived, and having diagnosed a likely oil pump failure, told me that I would soon receive a phone call to tell me when a recovery truck would arrive, and that within an hour and a half a recovery truck would take me to London. As I was staying in London for two further days, I intended to book my car, and Audi A4, into my local London Audi dealer and have them repair it.

    After almost an hour, a phone call came to tell me that the recovery truck would be another hour. That hour passed and no truck arrived. I telephoned back, so I phoned back. Each time I called, it was taking between 15 and 30 minutes to get the phone answered (at standard rate phone charges).

    Eventually, I spoke to a representative, explained the situation, and he told me he would speak with the garage. Placing me on hold, I expected him to come back and tell me what he had arranged. He didn't, but rather abdicated all responsibility by putting the recovery garage online to me.

    They explained that they couldn't take me to London at all, and instead they wanted to take my car into their care, and give me a replacement car.. Indeed, they had no idea when they could deliver my car to anywhere. I felt that this was unacceptable, and really did not facilitate me getting my car repaired, but I shouldn't have been debating it with the garage, Arthur Jones Motors of Coalville, as my contract is with the RAC, not them.

    After much waiting I was transferred back to the RAC. No other options were available to me: the question was, did I want the loan car, or did I want to be stranded. The only concession was that Arthur Jones would let me keep their loan car for as long as it took to fix my car. After some discussion we agreed that the best thing to do was for me to take the hire car, and for Arthur Jones to deliver my car to Hull Audi on Thursday, when I had returned from London, so that they could at that time collect their loaned car.

    I had no option but to accept, and was told that the recovery driver was on the road and would be with me in half an hour. Over an hour later he arrived (I found from his report that he had travelled 20 miles - the assertion that he was on the road had been a lie).

    The loan car he had for me is a wreck. It is a Y registered Hyundai Acccent. The bodywork is dented in various places. More importantly, the engine management warning light is on permanently ("Has been for years," they told me), and the car makes loud and unusual noises, which it's clearly not meant to. I doubt that it is roadworthy.

    I struggled down to London with it. I expected that yesterday I would get a call from Arthur Jones to arrange the delivery/collection in Hull. No call came. I phoned them this afternoon. They told me that they could not guarantee delivering my car to Hull tomorrow, or indeed at any time. The woman to whom I spoke told me, with evident pride, that they had cars in their possession which had broken down on 21 December.

    I found this unacceptable, and made them aware that if they kept my car beyond tomorrow, they are holding it without my permission - which is theft.

    I then decided that I need to sort the situation out, as I know that neither the RAC nor Arthur Jones (to whom you have now entrusted your brand integrity) would. I therefore arranged for Leicester Audi to repair my car. This means that, of course, I will have to travel to Leicester to get it back (one of the main reasons for having RAC membership is that one doesn't have to travel around the country should one's car break down) but at least I will get my car back.

    I phoned Arthur Jones to offer them this solution (which seemed to suit everybody). Initially, they still refused to guarantee that they would deliver my car to Leicester Audi tomorrow. After some persuasion they accepted.

    Is this the kind of service you expect to give to clients? It's not what I expected to receive, when I paid you my reasonably expensive membership fee.

    Does this kind of service meet the values that underlie your brand? Or is this your new brand?

    Should I stay with you next year? I wonder.

    At least a couple of times in this process I have been told that it's all terribly difficult because more cars have broken down in the bad weather. How many more cars, for heaven's sake? How can it take FIVE and a HALF hours to pick somebody up in Leicester?

    What would I do if I was in your shoes?

    Well, just a few weeks ago, a client expressed displeasure with the service they had received from my company. It really wasn't our fault - it was a subcontractor who was looking after them. Furthermore, we aren't sure that the subcontractor did much wrong (the problem was a technical one, online, and may actually have had its source in my client's server). But they felt that they weren't listened to, weren't taken seriously, that the customer service was poor.

    On that basis, I immediately gave them a credit note for £200, as a sign that we take their view seriously, and that I don't think they should be made to feel like that.

    So, if I was in your shoes, I know what I'd do. I'd refund the client's membership fee for this year, in the hope that the demonstration of concern might just keep him as a member for last year, and might just about recover a little of our tattered brand.

    That's what I'd do. I know it's the right thing to do. I suspect that in your heart of hearts you know it's the right thing to do too.

    But do you have the courage, the boldness, the care for both your clients and your brand, to do the right thing. I'm waiting to find out.
  • Mike Gray's Avatar
    Thanks for the feedback BrianG though I'm sorry to hear of your experience. I've forwarded your comments to our Customer Care team and a Manager will contact you in due course
  • Snowball's Avatar
    I read this thread with interest, since I am a VW owner, and have the car under a manufacturer's service and maintenance warranty. My interest is that the RAC is linked with the rescue part of the contract.

    I live in Leicestershire and, in the event of a serious failure, would prefer my car to be transported back to my regular dealership, or at least my home address for collection from there.
    I wonder if that would be a problem.

    As it happens, I also , through the Caravan Club, am a member of Green Flag. I have only used them once about six years or so ago (I put petrol in my diesel car; idiot! - but I didn't start the engine), and we were in Cornwall. I called out Green Flag, and their service was excellent.
    So, reading the above horror story, at least I do have the peace of mind of having an alternative option. They are freephone, too.
  • smudger's Avatar
    I suppose its just like a post code lottery really, as to how many breakdowns are reported in the area you broke down.
  • mills705's Avatar
    If i remember there are different levels of membership within the RAC and other organistations.
    This differing level means that there is differing ways in which people are dealt with.
    Sometimes the RAC takes people hundreds of miles on one trip but then they go from one service station to another. Does this make sense?
  • Snowball's Avatar
    If i remember there are different levels of membership within the RAC and other organistations.
    This differing level means that there is differing ways in which people are dealt with.
    Sometimes the RAC takes people hundreds of miles on one trip but then they go from one service station to another. Does this make sense?

    The different levels of service is a different matter. If you are entitled to a particular section of service (e.g., roadside rescue), then another driver isn't entitled to be given priority for that same section simply because he/she pays for a greater range of services.
    The only exception is the lone, female driver; and perhaps a disabled driver.

    I thought the service station-to-service station was the AA Relay system.
  • Rolebama's Avatar
    The 'service-station to service station' system was only used relevant to the amount of driving hours available to a driver. Sometimes it was quicker for the member to be recovered in this fashion rather than waiting for someone to start a shift with their 12hr availability.
  • BrianG's Avatar
    Just to clarify, my RAC service level does include transport of my car to anywhere I want it after a breakdown (eg a garage anywhere I choose, or home).

    I promised you an update. It's now 1pm next day after I emailed customer service, posted on this board and posted on the RAC Facebook site.

    Mike Gray replied for RAC above, telling me he had referred this thread to RAC Customer Care, and a similar message appeared on the Facebook group. It's interesting that those two replies, in the most public forums that I chose, are the only response yet.

    Despite the email from me, and messages from MIke Gray and the RAC's Facebook adminstrator, Customer Care haven't been in touch.

    Leicester Audi are due to contact me when they receive my car from Arthur Jones. No call yet. Given that Audi dealerships usually hav really good customer service, I think it more likely that the car hasn't been delivered than that it has. I'd better contact the RAC's agent, Arthur Jones Motors.

    Two things worth noting here. I am now facilitating my own recovery, the RAC are effectively out of the loop. Secondly, they have completely entrusted their brand to Arthur Jones Motors. My experience of the RAC brand is now totally within the control of a garage in Coalville, not the RAC themselves. So you have to ask, do they actually care about their brand image any more? Their lack of action would seem to indicate that they don't.
  • Snowball's Avatar
    This thread is developing worrying connotations.
    My VW is serviced and maintained by my local VW franchise, and I would wish it to go direct to the nearest VW garage wherever I required assistance that meant recovery of the vehicle.

    Should I need assistance in the Leicestershire area, would that automatically mean Arthur Jones Motors being involved?

    As an owner/driver with a VW service contract that includes possible reliance on the RAC, I would not hesitate to formally refer my concerns to Volkswagen UK if I feel that there is a real risk of the RAC not being up to the job.
    So far, the dialogue gives me reason to be thankful that I have kept my Green Flag membership.
  • BrianG's Avatar
    Snowball, to clarify, Arthur Jone's involvement is limited to transporting my car, there is no question of them repairing it.

    However the problem is that the service level offered in transporting it is such that I can't know that my car will be repaired by the garage I want, or in a timely manner. In fact, I am having my car repaired in a dealership I have never dealt with, I will have to travel to Leicester to pick it up, and four days after my breakdown, I am unsure if my car is even at the dealership, let alone when repairs will start.

    In all honesty, if you break down in Leicestershire, and the RAC subcontract your recovery to Arthur Jones, it'll probably be fine, because you will only be a few miles from where you want to go.

    However, that said, there are no guarantees. And in my case, having broken down some distance from either home or my intended destination, the service offered has been very poor.

    I think one has to question the service levels that are agreed between Arthur Jones and the RAC.
  • BrianG's Avatar
    Some good news at last! My car is at Leicester Audi (I just called them to check).

    Still not a peep from RAC Customer Don't Care.
  • Snowball's Avatar
    BrianG, the fact that you were broken down near to Leicester, and your car is now at Leicester Audi, and they still managed to conjure up several days of grief for you, doesn't exactly inspire me with confidence if I needed asistance and Arthur Jones were sent out to the call; even if I do reside in Leicestershire.
    I think that anyone who has contractual arrangements with the RAC, should make it clear to the RAC that this type of abismal service is totally unacceptable; and not wait until the worst happens.

    I sincerely hope that things go well for you from this point on.

    Regards, Snowball.
  • BrianG's Avatar
    Thanks for the sympathy Smowball! Whilst very clearly the service has been awful, I really don't want to be unfair to them. think that if, on Monday evening, I had asked them to take my car to Leicester Audi, that's where it would have been by Tuesday morning.

    However, the agreement at that point was that my car should be taken to Hull by Thursday (as they could not undertake to deliver it to London on Tuesday, which was my preference).

    So, it was only yesterday that the question of taking my car to Leicester Audi arose, and actually it was my idea (because I realised that the sooner I got my car out of their hands the sooner I'd get some service).

    Even then, though, Arthur Jones were saying that they couldn't guarantee delivering it today. That was only reslved when I made it clear that this awkward customer was about to get even more awkward if they didn't accept the compromise I was offering.

    I agree that we should all let the RAC know that their service is unacceptable right now. I think I am a long way from being the only member to be treated so badly.

    The fact that Customer Care have yet to respone to either my direct complaint or either referral (from the web admins here and on Facebook) can only indicate one of two things.

    Either they are overwhelmed with similar complaints, or they just don't care.
  • Snowball's Avatar
    BrianG, how is your Audi Roadside Assistance set up.
    For my Volkswagen, I received a letter from VW in May 2007. I'll try to condense it without losing the context:

    "Since 27th March you will have the opportunity to benefit from an improved Roadside Assistance service offered by the RAC. They will deliver an exclusive service for all our customers to ensure that they receive the best possible roadside assistance solution in the event of a breakdown, road traffic accident, or vehicle off-road situation. ..........................
    First line support will be provided by a team of 95 fully trained Dedicated Technicians, carrying the latest diagnostic equipment, specialist tools and parts. Their customised vehicles even carry a trailer should your vehicle have to be recovered at the roadside. To provide the greatest benefit to our customers, these Dedicated Technicians will be allocated to the most complex and technical breakdowns.
    The Dedicated Technicians will also be supported by 150 Accredited Technicians, on call 24/7, equipped with vehicles carrying specialist tools and parts".

    It goes on to mention additional support from RAC patrols, their own recovery vehicles, and approved contractors.
    What I am getting at is, wouldn't you expect Audi to be similarly set up; it is the same group? And the VW write-up indicates to me that it is a specialist service largely independent from the standard RAC service. If the Audi breakdown service is based on a similar principle, it suggests to me that the correct protocol was not followed.

    Regards, Snowball.
  • BrianG's Avatar
    Some good news

    Snowball, my recovery contract isn't an Audi Roadside Assistance one (my car is a 2003, and out of warranty), but rather an RAC membership, set up directly with them. The fact that a VW/Audi technician responded to my initial call was because, in this instance, he was providing overflow back-up to the RAC.

    However, late yesterday I had a call from RAC Customer Support. The person who called was very helpful. He had already been in contact with a director of Arthur Jones Motors to ask them to respond with their views on the situation.

    His initial expression of concern was that as an RAC member I should be able to expect that if I break down and ask to be taken to London, that should happen, and he wants to know why it didn't.

    He asked me to explain the entire sequence of events and listened carefully whilst I did. The summary of a reasonably lengthy conversation is that he feels that, on the face of it, the RAC did not deliver the service levels that I should expect. He wants to investigate the details more, and has undertaken to call me back today.

    So far, good. I liked what he said, I felt he was genuinely concerned, and I felt that his view of service levels would be similar to mine. Obviously, what matters now is that he calls me back, and what he says when he does so.
  • Snowball's Avatar
    BrianG, very pleased to read some positive action on the situation. In the grand scheme of things, we have to expect things to go awry occasionally; it's then that organisations have the opportunity to show their worth.
    Strangely, on occasions when a glitch occurs, and is dealt with in first rate professional ability, it can actually enhance an organisation's image.

    Regards, Snowball.
  • JRS's Avatar
    It used to be good but not today.
    They already changed appointments 4 times today from morning 11 am now their rescue team coming Between 5-8 pm is it joke? You don’t have proper service in London area. What willl happen to somewhere outside. It looks like they have very limited rescue vehicles. May be one is doing all jobs lol