Monday, August 23, 2010

Excellence in Customer Service: Thule

Last winter I purchased a car that I am rather fond of. One of priorities in outfitting my little race wagon was fitting 4 bicycles and 4 front wheels on top of the car. After doing a bit of research, I stuck with Thule and purchased a set of feet to mount to my factory racks, 2 new bike trays, extra long cross bars and 4 front wheel mounts.

I installed the rack per instructions in the early spring and didn't use the new trays much, as I had mounted my 2 leftover Rocky Mount trays in the outside spots, which caused me to use these more often as they were more accessible.

My third time using the driver's side bike tray my carbon fiber Fuji SLM 2.0 popped out at highway speed on Route 1 North, leaving the city (lower deck of the Tobin in Chelsea). I hit a bump hard. The bike did a dramatic end over end tumble before skidding to a stop in the middle of a traffic lane. A box truck had to lock up its brakes and swerve to avoid the carcass, complete with smoking, squealing tires. I came to a similar squealing stop in a traffic lane, as there is no breakdown lane on the lower deck of the Tobin Bridge.

I considered leaving the mess on the road, but thought better of it and jammed in reverse and squealed the tires some more. There was a distinct smell of burnt carbon when I opened the car door, but that may have just been Chelsea. I collected my bicycle, my spoiler and as many pieces of the tray as I dared gather.

The frame was toast. Other parts of the bike were in various states of damage. The bike didn't look terrible, but it is carbon fiber and close inspection indicated that the frame was cracked badly in more than one place. Also, the bike ripped my spoiler off of this car that I am very fond of.

Here I am, with a broken race bike and a damaged car. Initially, I cursed my own stupidity for misusing the rack. I backtracked to figure out where I went wrong and the more that I thought about it, the more I was convinced that I had used the rack properly. After mulling the issue over for a few days, I spoke with Mark Vatour at Landry's who immediately called his Thule rep (I didn't purchase the Thule equipment from Landry's) and told him the issue. I was put on the phone with the rep; I briefly told the rep what happened. The rep put me in touch with Thule's claims department within minutes.

The Warranty Claims Specialist, Travis Stevens, patiently listened to my story, while asking clarifying details. Hyper sensitive to lawyerly questioning, I got the distinct feeling that Mr. Stevens was only looking to understand the issue as opposed to finding reasons for denying my claim. At no point did Travis ask any questions or even imply that I may have misused the bike tray.

After clarifying what happened, Stevens offered me a clear, simple and logical protocol for submitting a claim. While the required documentation was thorough, nothing was superfluous, obstructionist or deliberately difficult. He was clear on the time tables and the procedures that Thule would follow in evaluating the claim.

I mailed Thule both of the heads of the bike trays for inspection. After a few weeks of dithering, I got my act together and gathered the receipts and documentation and submitted the claim. Days later, after some phoning and emailing back and forth to clarify and explain details, Stevens contacted me and asked that I mail him my bicycle.

Within 2 weeks of submitting a complete claim, I had a check that covered the complete cost of repairing my car and the complete replacement cost of the bicycle (the bicycle was team purchased, so I was given an amount that covered another team purchased bike including shipping costs). Furthermore, Thule sent two more robust (and more expensive) bike trays to replace the two I sent back.

While some of you are reading this as a post about a failed product, I am writing this to point out how great Thule was in handling my issue. Most companies will replace a failed product while under a warranty. But usually, getting a company to pay what is essentially an insurance claim is adversarial and contentious. I got none of this feeling while working with Thule and Mr. Stevens. Thule was straightforward about making the situation right and get me on my way quickly. Some of you know that I can be pushy at times. I want to assure you that I never even felt the desire to become pushy with Thule, they were just so clearly trying to do the right thing without being pushovers (and their not being pushovers makes me respect them even more).

For this, they have earned a heartfelt thank you and a customer for life. It feels really good to report on a company that attempts to fix a situation that didn't go right instead of shifting blame and trying to evade responsibility. Thank you Thule.

BTW, the new trays are pretty sweet.


Outsource Call Center said...

In my opinion, Excellent customer service must have excellent customer service skills, a clear speaking voice. Excellent customer service also must have an enthusiastic and positive attitude. I believe that treating the customer so politely makes them so comfortable with your services.


JamieStrol said...

did you file a police report at the scene of the incident or within the days following? who did you submit your claim to - thule or to your car insurance carrier?

Ilya G. said...

I just had to Deal with Travis Stevens at Thule after my rack fell off my jeep with two bikes on it which were totaled. Travis and Thule were extremely professional and helpful. They replaced my bikes and gave me a new rack within three weeks. It made a terrible situation (the loss of two bikes) much better.

J said...

I have had the exact opposite experience with Thule and more specifically Travis Stevens. I had a similar incident in which my Thule rack system failed (metal ripped through metal) causing about $3000 worth of damage to my vehicle and about $700 to my bicycle. Right off the bat Travis was hostile and didn't believe my description of the incident (Im sure the rack was installed properly). I submitted my claim package to him about a month ago and have heard nothing from Thule. Repeated attempts to contact him have failed and the people who answer the phone at Thule seem to be completely un-knowledgeable and unable to help. I may have to file a small claims court case with Thule. DONT BUY THULE RACKS THEY ARE CHEAPLY MADE AND THE COMPANY'S CUSTOMER SERVICE IS APPALLING!

j said...

Did they try and lowball your original claim? Going through with them right now and they are offering money to cover my insurance deductible for the car damage and then basically half the replacement cost of the damaged goods because they think it can be repaired and sold

justin said...

Oops, different J between the guy above me. Going by Justin now!

JT and Amanda said...

I had a horrible experience with Thule customer service after I purchased a $1250 double child trailer.

It is an awesome child carrier but has a design flaw and Thule has horrible customer relations. I bought this stroller last month. Exactly 30 days from receiving it I noticed two holes in the fabric above the reclining lever/handle. It looks like there are two screws (or two pieces of plastic – I can’t tell which since I can’t move the fabric out of the way to see underneath) pushing through the fabric. I contacted the company I purchased it from and they gave me Thule “dealer service” number call. I contacted the dealer service number - Samantha wanted photos of the entire carrier. I took 20 photos and emailed the photos to Samantha. She emailed me and said it wasn't covered because it could have "rubbed against something". My $1250 carrier stands upright in my living room and I've only had it for thirty days. Even if it had rubbed up against something (which it hadn’t) a $1250 carrier shouldn’t get a hole in the fabric in less than 30 days. Also how can it have “rubbed up against something” or been abused when there isn't a scratch or any sign of wear on the entire carrier except for those two holes caused by some badly placed screws? I'm sorry that I saved money for three years to buy a carrier manufactured by a company with such horrible customer service. I thought I got what I paid for and I paid the highest price and absolutely did not get what I paid for. DO NOT WASTE YOUR MONEY. I wish I’d rather have bought the cheap walmart brand – at least they will return just about anything.