How my Swindon Inchcape Audi meeting destroyed my faith in the brand, or at least that specific dealership. - Friday 17th January 2020
To set the scene, I'm 3 years into a 4-year PCP. this is the first Personal Contract Purchase vehicle I've owned, so its all a new experience, and as it's a premium brand, I'm was expecting an actual 'Experience' rather than a basic journey through facts and figures. With that in mind I booked an afternoon appointment to go through figures and options for a 3-year-old PCP, Audi A4, and look at booking in a set of test drives for replacement vehicles.
Our appointment was with a salesperson that we didn't have a previous relationship with, as ours, Richard, left a few months after selling us the car. Let's call the new chap Lee, that was his name, so let's use it. We sat down and had a brief intro, I asked him if he was having a good Friday, as typically people find Fridays to be a happy day of the week, to which he replied, 'it's another day, at least its not the weekend'. So not a glowing start, and a slightly weird beginning to the conversation.I explained to Lee how I'm 3 years into a 4-year deal, and I'm interested in how the figures look on changing out the vehicle now, Vs at the end of the term. Also, that I'm keen to try out a few different vehicles, as I love the A4, but quite like the look of the A5 and A6.
As added info, I made a poor choice initially when signing up to the deal, as I thought I'd be doing a lot more mileage. So, I'm paying for 20k miles a year, but doing a lot less than that. I've only done 28k over three years, so I'm 32k miles in 'credit' in terms of payments. Based on this, I was expecting the numbers to be positive, that I'd be in a decent amount of credit on the overall balance, based on how PCP works.
Our dubious start sank slightly lower when Lee informed me of an impending MOT and that I was overdue on a Service. When I enquired as to whether anyone from Audi Swindon would have contacted me on those actions, I was informed, quite bluntly that those vehicle maintenance activities were the responsibility of the customer. No one from Audi was responsible for informing me of MOT's and Services.
In one way this makes sense, as after the initial sale was complete, I've never been actively called by any account managers from Audi for any accurate reason. Twice I've had a call about an unnecessary service, so good to see that keeping accurate records is paramount. In another sense I'd expect a premium brand to actively manage an account, calling you up when there's a recall or a significant event in the life of the vehicle.
So, after being told that no one there would call me to inform me of events on my vehicle, Lee took the keys and went to inspect my A4. He returned after 10 minutes or so and had the demeanor of someone trying to tell me my puppy was sick. The impression given was all very low key, low energy including phrases like 'well there are a few scratches, and its obviously done some mileage'. Not great indicators of how things would go.
At this point Lee disappeared into another room for 20 minutes with a colleague, to determine the vehicle value. Which looked more like having a chat about football than anything scientific about vehicle pricing. My wife and I were puzzled as to why the value had to be 'determined' since the vehicle came from them, and they had insider knowledge on its service history and every other aspect of its life.
Using the wait as an opportunity to book my MOT but didn't meet with any success as everyone in the Service department was in a meeting. There were three or four customer service agents stood in front of a seated gent in a suit, who I initially thought was a slightly stressed customer. It wasn't until I heard phrases such as 'We've got to get back that 'can do attitude' and 'we need to start thinking of the customer first' that I realized it was a team meeting of some sort. I waited for 15 minutes or so, until the team dispersed, and ended out going back to the Sales area as Lee reappeared from the office before a service person decided to 'think of the customer first'.
We went through vehicle figures, while lee put together some excuses as to why my current vehicle wasn't worth as much, including the fact that there was a new model imminent, diesels aren't holding their value, and that it's a sale period, so prices have dropped. Good news though! It is currently an Audi sale weekend! So instead of only 3k off the price of a new Audi I can get 6k off, which offsets the poor financial performance of my current vehicle. He then jumped straight into discussing an A4 test drive, despite me having explained on the setup call that I wanted to explore A4's A5's and Q5's.
Lee's overall energy was one of someone who didn't really want to be there at all. His delivery was poor, and his ability to talk to customers was in question. My wife in particular felt mildly insulted by pretty much everything he said to her, due to the way it was delivered. In fact, the whole room that that lack luster feel about it. We had plenty of time to wait, look around, and absorb the atmosphere, and it was a pretty drab experience. Everyone in the sales area looked like they'd had a bad lunch or missed their quarterly target. Except for the receptionist, she was cheery, friendly and gave the impression that we were welcome in the showroom, rather than an inconvenience.
Audi Swindon was a thoroughly disappointing experience, from a premium motoring brand dealership. Aside from the poor figures, which later, on checking were three thousand less than 'we buy any car', there was an overall attitude issue, and a lack of concern on the customer experience. After this visit, I won't be revisiting this branch, I'd rather drive a further 30 minutes away to the next nearest dealership. I'm also seriously questioning whether I'll be renewing to another Audi, which is a shame, as I absolutely love my current A4. Also, we never even discussed test drives, which were the first thing on the agenda.
Lastly, the staff there used to request an NPS (Net Promotor Score) survey at the end of each interaction. This was obviously to drive bonus values, so there was a focus from staff on making sure everything customer facing went smoothly. This practice seems to have stopped recently. I have not been approached for a survey from this meeting. I can't help but feel that my experience here, and the removal of customer surveys are linked in some way.