A Volk on the Wild Side

Tuesday 27th August 2013 at 3:58PM

Over the course of the last three weeks I have heard the phrase ‘your call is important to us’ over 200 times, while only twice managing to get through to speak to someone in less than 30 minutes (from more than a dozen attempts, some lasting over an hour). I’ve tried their automated service, which tells you they’re very busy and you should email. So I email, but they don’t respond.

This company has written to me regularly to ask me urgently to get in touch to advise them of my intentions now that our finance agreement is reaching its end. So I continuously endeavour to call them and confirm our decision – at different times of the day – but they don’t pick up. The day I started this record of events, I finished a meeting in Doncaster, started calling the company hands free, stayed on the line, travelled 45 miles back to Bradford, parked up, waited a further ten minutes (until I had spent more than an hour waiting) and eventually, in frustration, hung up.

Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to VW Finance, a company who hates customers. On the face of it, that seems unfair but I think it’s a reasonable conclusion based on my experiences over the past three weeks.  Read on …

There are 5 options when you call to discuss a finance agreement:

(1)  Card payments. You’re told this is an automated service and that you cannot speak to a representative. However, if you go through this route, you are eventually transferred to one (but no one picks up)

(2)  Automated balances. This is an automated service and no matter how abusive you are to the recorded voice, you can’t reach a human

(3)  This is to change DD details. If, as you would suspect, having such an issue may result in them failing to collect money from you, they’d be quick to answer. Er, no.

(4)  This is the general enquiry line. Don’t go there. Then again, at least you can console yourself with the fact that they are ‘experiencing very high call volumes’ at the moment. They’d like you to think it’s a temporary issue. It isn’t. This is a default message for anyone, any time

(5)  You can email them (they don’t respond)

If the penny has dropped by now, you’ll have concluded that they’ve conspired to prevent you from contacting them, even when they’ve asked you to get in touch

The one occasion I did get through, I spoke to a lady who was very helpful, who only very slightly acknowledged that they might have a problem with phones.

In fact, I’m guessing that those responsible for this mess are probably sitting in splendid isolation somewhere, congratulating themselves on having a remuneration package free of any incentives based on customer service levels and somehow convincing those even further up the chain that everything is fine.

They probably think that VW Finance doesn’t matter to customers, since it’s true that anyone buying a Golf with finance, is only interested in the car and not what goes on in the background to secure the purchase. And that’s true. Can’t argue with that. However, when it comes to the end of the finance agreement, the customer has options. And customer options, for a company like VW Finance, represent a problem, because with options, comes contacts and with contacts come expectations and, according to the service experienced, perceptions. Perceptions that are shared (in their millions via social media) and which form the external (national) perception of the organisation.

For VW Finance, one of whose key processes is getting customers to contact them to clear their finance, having a phone system that actually allows you to get through is somewhat essential and, not only that, probably a minimum expectation given that they are financing a product based on sophisticated leading edge engineering.

VW Finance’s executives clearly have little idea of what it’s like to be a customer.  If only a VW executive could have accompanied me on the trip from Doncaster to Bradford and heard that God-awful piano music over and over again (and ‘your call is important us’ over 60 times just on that one trip), then perhaps they might have put up a message on the website explaining the problem and advising customers that they’re likely to have a long wait before anyone picks up the phone.

To update the story, I finally got through a second time on Friday evening last week (after waiting more than half an hour). Again, the lady I spoke to was helpful. She also explained why things were so bad. They’re having to open a new contact centre and recruit more staff to deal with demand. Telephone systems have let them down and they acknowledge things are unacceptable for customers.

To her credit she immediately offered compensation for the amount of time I’ve spent on the phone (it was promised that it would reach my account today but it hasn’t). She apologised, which was nice of her, but, again, it’s not the customer-facing staff that are causing this problem. Earlier that day I’d called the local VW dealership to see if they could offer any help in getting through. The man I spoke to said he’d email the local VW Finance Area Manager and ask him to contact me as a matter or urgency. 4 days have passed and I’ve heard nothing.

At this point the problems with VW Finance and BT Broadband overlap, since the latter’s inability to function properly has meant that we have not been able to work online recently. This meant that using online banking to settle the finance with VW from home was going to be impossible. So when I spoke to the lady at VW Finance on Friday evening she confirmed that we could make an immediate payment on the premises of our bank on the Saturday morning and, adding a little value, said that even though she wasn’t going to be in today (Tuesday 27th August) she’d ask a colleague to email me first thing to confirm that our account had been settled.

I received the email this morning telling me the money hadn’t arrived, but with no name attached, no contact number – and you know what’s going to happen when I try to explain that NatWest confirmed it WAS received immediately by VW’s bank? Nothing. Because VW Finance don’t answer phone calls or emails.

Some of you will have some sympathy for VW Finance, no doubt acknowledging that from time to time, businesses have operational challenges. Fair enough, but the lack of an explanation on the website, the lack of honesty about the current situation and the lack of alternatives for customers who have urgent requirements seems to suggest to me not only that they’re just not bothered but also (suggested by a follower of mine) that it's easier on the balance sheet to leave customers to sort out their problems rather than intervening yourselves.


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