Thursday, July 21, 2011

Minor flaws in service miscommunicate the brand

To prove the headline and lead to a suggestion of more proactive involvement of PR execs in setting up services, I would like to present to you two recent cases involving me as a humble customer.

Case 1. An insurance company affiliated with a retail subsidiary of a major Russian commercial and investment bank. I have been a client for that company for a quite a few years. And yet, each year there are surprises when it comes to renewing insurance contracts for the car and property.

My main concern - they never call first to propose a renewal. I bring in altogether about $ 1,000 in cash every year - isn't that good enough for a call or two? So it's quite annoying to waste time on calling those hotline numbers when people take in your request and don't call back. Then they can't find some of your personal details so you have to spend even more time explaining and searching in your own archives.

The slogan of the company, as featured on the website, could be translated as “From acquaintance to perspectives”. Well, we’ve been acquainted for a good number of years – where are the perspectives if each time I’m treated like an anonymous first-time shopper?

Case 2. A Hyundai car dealership and service in the quiet Western outskirts of Moscow. I have been servicing my Tucson SUV there ever since it was first repaired some five years ago by the insurance company mentioned above. Nice and cozy, not too crowded, friendly advice and good quality service. One thing however spoils the whole experience – paying the bill.

It’s not a simple cash desk at the dealership – it’s a cash desk branch of some obscure bank. A bank which accepts only its own cards. To pay for a repair job you have to wait for the cashier to fill in applications for cash transfer between you and the legal entities representing the dealership. Yep, to make things even more slow, there are two legal entities – one for the repair service and the other for the spare parts and expendables, such as engine oil and other liquids.

There are two applications that need to be filled in, in two original copies, requiring my passport and signatures. Plus the inconvenience and even danger of carrying moderate amounts of cash. Now, why should I suffer because of this internal optimization of cash flow? Which may be good for the dealership and improves the balance sheet of the obscure bank. All, at the expense of my time, convenience and even safety.

The dealership’s website boasts the corporate slogan of “New Thinking – New Possibilities”. I would say with a settlement service like that, the dealership requires some fast rethinking to sync with Hyundai.

It's clear to me that such minor flaws in the service can easily undermine PR efforts my colleagues put into their respective brands. PR executives should therefore participate in sign-off of any service procedures just to make sure their efforts are not diminished.


  1. Valery, I think you're being very generous by calling these "minor flaws", especially in the latter case where, as you point out, it's not just a question of convenience but customer safety. I understand that it might be hard to provide feedback to the faceless insurance company, but have you tried sharing your views with the dealership?

  2. Thanks, Kristen. I was naming them "minor" because I believe that's how they are perceived by the management. The idea was to motivate PR execs to take part in signing off the business procedures - not something they would normally get involved in.

    By the way, the "faceless insurance company" recently got my good colleague as the head of business development, and I already provided him the feedback, so a follow up is imminent.

    At the dealership I complained to the cash desk operator and she suggested to address the management. I think it's useless to complain to the dealership's manager. However it may help if I address the representative office of Hyundai in Moscow.