Wednesday, March 31, 2004

Plan of Attack -- Part I

As I expected, my wife Erika accused me of being a spinless wimp for not giving the Honda dealership a bigger piece of my dissatisfied mind about the low miles. She's probably right, but then again I'm supposed to be the guy promoting temperate, rational, considerate, and win-win interaction between consumers and companies. Anyway, after sleeping on this a bit, I've decided to go after the Ad Agency. (Don't know their exact name yet.) My guess is that the VP of Honda sales will express polite concern but probably punt to someone else. The ad agency, however, bears a special responsibility for ensuring brand communication matches up with product reality. Indeed, woe to the advertiser that sets the wrong expectations with consumers. Nothing begets negative word-of-mouth than mismanaging expectations. Plus, the entire car industry is about to unload a deluge of "buy hybrid" advertising, so I'm probably doing everyone a favor by calling out a big achilles heel in the messaging. Lexus just placed a two-page ad in the WSJ touting an upcoming Luxury Hybrid Model. Ford's got one coming soon (Hybrid Escape). I'm still holding out hope for my Honda Civic Hybrid...but the relationship is getting shakier every day.

Tuesday, March 30, 2004

Honda Speaks: But No Results Yet

The saga continues....with no satisfaction yet. Not even close. After shooting a reminder note to Honda late last week, I finallly heard back from the dealership. The GM of the dealership suggested I bring the car in for a "diagnostic" to see if there might be anything irregular with the car. And so today (the same day I was quoted in the Wall Street Journal commenting on corporate reputation and later delivered a 'webinar' on word-of-mouth), I brought the car in for a diagnostic, which found, remarkably, that nothing -- technically speaking -- is wrong with my Honda Civic Hybrid. (Except that it only gets 32-33 miles per gallon while it's advertised as 48-50 MPG.) I'll grant the general manager points for being considerate (he even made a call to another Honda manager to better understand issue while I sat in the office) but a nagging thought just kept running through my head throughout: this dealership isn't going to fix this problem...they've checked off all their boxes of obligation to the dissatisfied consumer. And speaking of the dealership, I must admit that there were a few awkward moments when the original sales folks (and the "finance guy") realized I was back in the office because of a mileage problem. Who would have guessed when we all laughed (with joy) about my purchasing "Mo Miles" license plates that it would come to this. The irony of it all...

What's next? Well, we still have a dysfunctional low-mileage car, and my wife is still giving me endless grief for driving around with a license plate that reads "Mo Miles. And so I'm dialing this up a notch. My next appeal is to the VP or North America Sales, Richard Culiver. I also intend to share my concern with the ad agency as well (which I think really needs to be sensitized to how the mileage is being positioned in advertising and communication.) Stand by....

(Oh, one more thing. My time consuming visit to the dealership wasn't a complete loss. The general manager was at least able to provide some guidance on how to hook up my trusty iPod to my Civic.)

Monday, March 15, 2004

Customer Service Frustrations

OK...another week passes, and no response whatsoever from the folks at the dealer. Recall, I sent an e-mail to the nice guy who sold me my car (Dave). I never heard from Dave, but I did hear from someone at the dealership, who said they were going to send my note and concern to other folks at Honda. No response. So tonight, I went to Honda's "Ownerlink" system (remember, I gave this raving reviews in an earlier blog entry) hoping to find an easier way to reach someone who might be able to help me. While Ownerlink boast just about every bell and whistle you could imagine from a vehicle info and payment tracking perspective, it seemed to be missing the most obvious feature: a simple feedback button. Not even an e-mail link...nothing! Yes, lots of FAQs (which I often appreciate), but nowhere was there any guidance on what to do if you want to provide feedback. So then I skipped over to and clicked the "contact us" button. Out of order! Seriously, the page actually said it wasn't working. How frustrating!

Saturday, March 06, 2004

No Response Yet From Honda???

Hmmm....been about ten days now since I initially heard from my Honda dealer (who said he'd "escalate" my initial inquiry about my Honda Hybrid's low mileage to more senior levels), and NO response. Big Bummer! Not a day goes by when my wife doesn't give me grief for driving around with hybrid car with a license plate that reads "Mo Miles" that only gets about 60% of the advertised mileage. You'd think SOMEONE from Honda would at least give me a hanky. But listen, I'm no consumer terrorist. I'm hoping and praying Honda will do or say something that will help resolve the unbearable cognitive dissonance I feel over driving this car. I'm not ready to give up on the hybid revolution, but I honestly feel like a bit of an imposter. I'll feel even worse if I find out someone I know drops $21K on a hybrid based on by my "trusted" (albeit misleading & erroneous) recommendation about the car's low mileage. Talk about keeping one up at night. Honda, would you at least offer to check out the car? Maybe my experience is atypical. Maybe my odometer is missing a wire. Maybe I forgot to push the a critical button or something. I'm waiting on the wings -- don't let me bail! You want me as an ambassador. I'm serious.