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An unfortunate customer complaint I need to respond to in detail

Working with cars and other vehicles can be tricky sometimes. After all, they're a collection of thousands of parts all joined together. Some will eventually fail, be it in performance or aesthetics, and for all sorts of reasons. When they do it can cause all sorts issues and distress for the motorist. When we work on a vehicle we automatically become 'the last person' to work on it and this can sometimes make us somewhat of a target either for the totally innocent naive motorist or occasionally someone who may chose to attempt to force us into accepting responsibility.

I have been trading as a mobile tyre technician across the Chester and The Wirral area for over five years now and have a very large repeating and referring customer base and a totally unblemished record. I am a franchisee and therefore operate under a collective brand - Hometyre - but it is my business and my reputation I work for.

I absolutely rely on this reputation to ensure that I can continue to work, provide for my family and of course, grow. I take immense pride in my work and have never damaged a wheel or vehicle during the course of my operations. If ever that reputation has been placed in any doubt I have immediately responded to ensure that the situation is resolved and I once again leave a happy customer behind - without fail.

Recently me and my employee Stuart attended the vehicle of a young lady in Warrington. Her husband, a new customer to us, had booked us in to replace two rear tyres. The car was a nine year old Vectra with around 75000 miles covered and in good all round condition. The wheels were unsurprisingly aged and had very clearly recently been painted but it appeared to be somewhat of a DIY job. There was also signs of a good kerb scrape across the spokes of one of them.

Now we work on vehicles ranging from old builders vans with heavily rusted steel wheels right through to a McLaren MP4 and quite a number of Premier league players luxury cars like Bentley and Ferrari etc. We are always very aware of wheels and, where appropriate, always point out issues with wheels where we may deem it important to do so. On this particular vehicle we did not consider the wheels to be of sufficiently good enough condition to need to point out either the quality of the paintwork or the many flaws on them. We removed the wheels, fitted new tyres and valves, balanced them, cleaned off all soap and finger mark residue and refitted them to the car looking better than when we arrived - as is our standard procedure and one which all of our clients are accustomed too.

It was a week later that I received an email from the wife of this customer stating that I had caused damage to the alloy wheels on their car.

Hi Dave,

You recently came and did a tyre change on my car XX06 XXX Vauxhall Vectra at XXXXXXXXXXXX, Warrington.
I am writing to you today as the refurbished paint work has been damaged on my alloys around the area where the wheel nuts slot in.
I am very disappointed and shocked to have found this. I would have wrote to you earlier but this has been my earliest convenience.
I would like to know what will be done about this as the damage was done by yourselves.

I hope to hear from you soon
Jasmin dawson


Naturally I immediately contacted her to discuss the matter and requested that she send me an image of the damage to view.

Jasmin,

Thanks for your email, can you send me a picture of the damage, we pride ourselves in our work and I've never had a damaged wheel before. If it is clear that the wheel has been damaged during the fitting of the tyre, then I will have no problem in ensuring you are recompensed for that damage.

Regards Dave Wright

Upon reviewing this image I politely informed her that what she was looking at was the result of a really poor paint job where the lug holes (the part of the wheel where the wheel bolts sit) had not been prepared prior to painting but had simply been dusted over. It was later suggested that she should contact the people who supposedly refurbished the wheels as this clearly hadn't been done properly but this was ignored.
The remainder of the wheels both internally and at the rear had never so much as been touched and showed nine years worth of dirt, brake dust and corrosion on them still.

There was no way that this could firstly be considered as damage, and secondly that by removing the wheels and fitting the tyres that we were responsible for how these looked. If the work we carried out on these wheels accelerated the failure of the paint, there was absolutely nothing we could do about it other than to totally refuse to work on the car in the first instance. If we did that for every wheel that looked like this one we'd be pretty short on business!

As a matter of courtesy when completing the job we informed the customer that their locking wheel nut key was also aged and was starting to round at the edges (again completely normal for a vehicle of this age) making it challenging to remove and that this should be addressed by them soon. This she took as a means to then accuse us of damaging the wheels in the process of their removal - that is not what we had stated.

Below are the images she sent in of the 'damage' we caused. As a means of a response to her complaint and because I don't have the facility to upload imagery on third party review sites I would like to invite you, the viewer to form your own opinion. I know without any doubt in my mind if I show these images to any bodyshop or professional wheel restorer that they would all give exactly the same answer - that the paint has fallen off because it has not bonded to the walls of the wheel due to the poor preparation and painting.

Vectra2 Vectra3 Vectra_1

The images all show where paint has simply fallen off the walls where the preparation was poor. On the second image you can actually see on the spoke above how the paint is cracking there too. The discoloration shows where new paint has been blown over brake dust and road residue then eventually simply lifted off to reveal the original colour.

Having had the conversation with her she totally refused to accept what I was trying to explain and insisted on taking the matter further. I then offered to put her in touch the Andy Lawrence - the managing director of the group wide brand. Having seen the imagery he completely backed me up and spent 10 or 15 minutes on the phone to the customer. Andy has built this brand on his customer service and will have tried his best to deal with this lady in the most professional manner. Unfortunately though it seems that both his and my refusal to back down or take responsibility - and give money back - which was clearly the end game, she has elected instead to start a campaign of negative reviews about me, Stuart and Andy. The latest of which to via our website which we show below:

"The tyres where the only good thing to come from Hometyre. The two guys who did the job scratched the paint work off my refurbished alloys and when speaking to Andy lawrence all he had to say was " you have no proof my staff damaged your alloys" . The customer focus of mr.lawrence is disgusting. He is not fit to run a business that is supposed to be customer focused, when all he did was belittle me, insult me, call me a liar and try to intimidate me. I am in the process of reporting the company to trading standards! Absolutely disgusting!!"

If we are in the wrong, we admit it. There's absolutely no sense in us wasting precious time over something so trivial as flaky paint. I certainly have much more productive ways to spend my time than writing a lengthy response. When we know we are not guilty of causing any damage however, and that we carried out the work diligently and professionally, we will stand our ground and take the time to do so. Giving in just to appease a someone just to dust the matter out of the eye of the public is totally self defeating.

If these wheels had indeed been refurbished professionally just 8 or 9 weeks prior to our replacing tyres, they would not look like this. We are prepared to speak to Mrs Dawson and would be more than happy to take up the matter with the garage that 'refurbished' them on her behalf. The recourse lies firmly in their court - not ours.

It is very unfortunate that Mrs Dawson has elected to take a path of vitriol online. She refused however, to speak to us in any other way than with accusation and would not listen to what we had to say at any level. It is also totally unnecessary and a little sad and without thought as to the possible effects and consequences of her actions.

Customer service is about getting it right and putting it right if we get it wrong. We completely stand by our decision.

Thank you for taking the time to read this response.

Dave Wright - Hometyre Chester and The Wirral


 


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