How Volkswagen turned an angry customer into a happy one

Every now and again, it’s nice to post a “good news” story. This one’s about great customer service. You see, I’ve criticised Volkswagen before because of the problems with water-based paints on their cars, so it’s only right to call them out when they see sense and give great service too. Unfortunately, there is a sting in the tail for one dealer, who will never see my credit card (or any other method of payment) again…

Indeed, one afternoon last week it was a minor miracle that I didn’t tweet my anger and frustration at Volkswagen’s attitude to repairing a known issue on my wife’s low mileage car. The only reason I didn’t was because one of my friends had asked earlier in the week if I needed a “virtual hug” as it seems I’ve been very grumpy on Twitter recently!

A known issue

Our family Golf, which is just over 4 years old (so out of warranty) but has only been driven around 14,000 miles and has a full Volkswagen service history (it’s only just come off a Volkswagen service, maintenance and tyres agreement) was showing a warning lamp for the Electronic Stability Program (ESP). According to the handbook, that means the Anti-lock Braking System (ABS) isn’t working either (normal braking will be fine) and that’s not so great with standing water on the roads and ice to follow later this week.

I booked the car in with a local mechanic, who very kindly, diagnosed the fault and advised me to take it to Volkswagen instead, as the “G201 brake pressure sensor” issue is a known problem on Mk 5 Golfs and Tourans (indeed on a number of other VAG, BMW, and even Citroen cars). Whilst he could take my money, he thought I might be able to get Volkswagen to contribute to the cost on such a low mileage car, as it’s not really a service item and shouldn’t wear out or get damaged.

Furious with the Volkswagen dealer’s response

So I called the local Volkswagen dealer, Wayside Volkswagen in Milton Keynes (Jardine Motors Group), from whom I have purchased the last two (new) cars for my wife and one company car (with a previous employer) as well as placing almost all of my Volkswagen servicing business with them since about 2003. I didn’t even get past the service reception. In fact, I hung up the phone in frustration at the unhelpful, obstructive Service Manager who wanted around £90 for someone to take a look, couldn’t carry out the diagnosis whilst I waited and wasn’t even prepared to discuss the possibility of any goodwill repairs on a car out of warranty*.

Perseverance

After taking a few deep breaths, I tried another dealer, My Volkswagen in Northampton (Parkway Motor Group) who were sympathetic to my problem, explained they would have to charge a diagnostic fee of £69 (including VAT) but that, depending on the outcome, they would speak to Volkswagen UK on my behalf to see if there was any goodwill available. And they could look at the car only a couple of days later (usually I have to wait weeks to get some time with a technician at Wayside).

Good news all-round!

I took the car over today and was delighted to hear a short while later that Volkswagen UK had looked into the circumstances and would carry out the repairs free of charge. Even better, the technician was working on the car and it would be ready the same day. Clearly this won’t happen for everyone – I was really lucky – but this is excellent customer service from a brand I trust, with a car that shouldn’t exhibit this issue (indeed, my Tiguan has been driven more miles in 7 months than my wife’s Golf has in 4 and a half years).

Furthermore, rather than using an independent garage (although I do feel bad because of my local mechanic’s honesty and that might swing things) I’m considering entering into a service contract with Parkway now, which sees the next five years worth of servicing go their way. Oh yes, and my (leased) company car is due for a service in a few thousand miles too, so guess where that will go… and guess where it won’t? So, a part that should cost about £132+VAT, plus labour, and some brake fluid (probably about £400 in total) has cost Wayside Volkswagen a lot of goodwill, together with thousands of pounds worth of servicing and parts over the next few years, maybe even our next family car too.

Customer service matters. Thanks to my local mechanic. Thanks to MyVolkswagen. Thanks to Volkswagen UK. And to anyone reading this blog in the Milton Keynes area, I’d avoid Wayside Volkswagen if I were you…

*I also had cause to complain to Wayside Volkswagen in Milton Keynes when I was choosing my last car, as the pre-sales service I received was so bad – but that’s another story.

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