Is Your Customer Service Exemplary or Is It Like Tesla?

Customer Service

Most small businesses realise implicitly that their customers are vital to their organisation and do everything in their power to provide an exemplary customer service experience when dealing with them.

Sloppy customer service is the quickest way for your business to turn sour.

But sometimes, if you’re large enough and rich enough, you’ll try to get away with customer service that leaves little to be desired.

Case in point: Tesla.

After reading the biography of Elon Musk by Ashlee Vance I was impressed and found myself on the Tesla website watching the launch video for the S and then signing up to test-drive an electric car.

This was an impulsive move on my part given that I live in Brisbane and there is no showroom here but I wanted to explore what it was like to deal with Tesla and how they handle customer inquiries.

One word. Disappointing. They are doing so many great things with the design of the car and the functionality (and I should point out I’m most definitely not a car person) that I expected they would have their marketing and customer experience sorted. Unfortunately, they don’t.

So what was it about the Customer Service that was so much of a letdown?

Apart from no US to Australia website customisations (e.g. miles vs kilometres, gas vs petrol, US prices etc.), I discovered that their customer service was indeed rather sloppy.

For example, after requesting a test drive I received a call to arrange a time. I called back but the number rang out. The next time I tried, I couldn’t leave a message.

Then more recently, around 2 months after my initial call, I received an email announcing the launch of the SUV in Australia that finished by saying ‘You will be contacted by a Tesla representative to confirm your booking.’

Then there were links below to organise a test drive or place an order. I was confused about what was going to happen next.

Contact details on the emails were Palo Alto in California, there was no Australian contact number.

I was surprised that such an innovative product wasn’t matched by smart implementation of their communication with potential customers. So I did some online research and it seems I’m not alone in receiving poor customer service from Tesla.

One customer, Toni Sacconaghi, a respected Wall Street tech analyst who had bought a Tesla car, rated the company’s service as “less-than-stellar” and not as good as other luxury carmakers.

Another, Alain Cohen, a successful Washington entrepreneur and engineer who has three Tesla cars, took the company to court for product issues and a lack of responsiveness to fixing the said issues. Interestingly he says he hasn’t gone off Tesla entirely and would even buy a fourth car but only if they improve their customer service – “I simply want Tesla to get it right and not to all but abandon early and loyal consumers.”

It was recently reported that Tesla is making drastic changes to address customer service issues by building 100 new service centres. It seems to have sunk in that communicating with your customers and making it easier for them to contact you needs to be a top priority, especially if you want to avoid being sued.

Meanwhile, I look forward to a Tesla representative contacting me about test driving the SUV….
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