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Crazy Story Involving A Buyer, An Inventory Car, & Elon Musk Suggests That Tesla Has Some Work To Do On Customer Service…

While most Tesla owners have reported that the purchase process is a rather enjoyable one (especially as compared to typical car dealership experiences…), that assessment obviously isn’t universal. On that note… There’s a story going viral currently involving the buyer of a Tesla “inventory car” and what can only be described as terrible customer service (if the story is entirely accurate).

The story almost strains credibility, but has apparently been verified (to some degree) by Tesla itself — making it clear that while the company is clearly doing a lot of things right, it certainly isn’t infallible. And perhaps has some (a fair amount of) work to do improving customer service.

Tesla Model S Rainbow

Without further to do, here’s some of the recent blog posting describing the situation:

I began calling my local Tesla location and choosing the “New Vehicle Delivery” option, but it would only ring and go to a voicemail that hadn’t been set up. I called repeatedly and no one would answer. Frustrated, I called and chose the “sales” option and spoke with an representative there that took my message and assured me someone would call me back. Still, I got no calls back. Since the car was coming by January 8, I was starting to get concerned. I had to coordinate the car, the power installation, disposing of my old car in a sequence of events that I couldn’t start until I knew when I would get the car.

By Wednesday, I was emailing my delivery specialist and calling. I didn’t know what was going on. By Thursday I was showing people at work how they don’t answer the phone or respond to my email. I was very concerned that I was paying over $100k for a car, and if this was the new sales process how terrible would the service be? Should I just cancel? How could I cancel if no one would even talk or communicate with me? Was there a problem in transit? Basically, I was stuck and frustrated, plus I had already paid for a deposit which covered the non-refundable transportation cost.

Exasperated, I called the local Tesla dealer again. This time, no one answered and my call was transferred to Tesla HQ. The representative asked for the 6-six digits of my vehicle VIN. Tesla offers a “my Tesla” portion of their site that new buyers login in to, to sign electronic paperwork, upload copies of driver’s licenses as well as proof of insurance. In addition, it shows a model of the car and some advice on how to power it. Most importantly, after you make your initial payment, the reservation number for your car is replaced with a VIN (Vehicle Identification Number) which signifies the specific car which is allocated to you. This is done shortly after you send in your initial payment. Therefore, I was able to provide my VIN information to the Tesla representative, who promised me Kevin my original Owner Advisor would call me back.

On the evening of January 7, the day before I was to receive my car, Kevin called me to explain he had a call in with the Office of the CEO at Tesla and was working with his team in Tesla to resolve a problem that had come up — their CEO, Elon Musk, had taken my car and was using it as his personal vehicle to test a new version of autopilot. Even worse, he said he could see all the calls I had made into the Orlando delivery center this past week, and no one was taking my calls because no one knew what to do.

Tesla logs every in-bound call to their centers, and stores all of this in a national database. This is most likely tied into a CRM (Customer Relationship Management) system, to provide better service. So, for example, Kevin in California saw detailed records of all my attempts to connect with someone in Orlando. Since no one knew what to do, they were deliberately avoiding taking my calls or communicating with me.

I was floored. Not only because my car had been taken by their CEO, not only that no one bothered to reach out or communicate with me, but they were actively trying to avoid me. I called and reached Kevin again on the evening of Jan 8. He explained my original car was so aftermarket at this point there was no way I would get it. Kevin began suggesting a different car that didn’t match what I was looking for, then suggested another car for $20k more.

Quite a story. And not a situation that seems to have been handled well. (There’s quite a bit more to it — those interested can click the link before the except posted above.)

It should be noted here that Tesla did end up making a statement on the matter, after enquiries were made. It went like this: “Unfortunately, due to human error, a car from our test fleet was offered for sale. We apologize that this led to a frustrating experience. We are working to ensure that it never happens again.”

One has to wonder, though, why exactly the customer service was seemingly so poor. Just a matter of those directly involved not having the authority to make their own decisions? And thus having to wait on responses/communication from higher-ups? Nobody wanting to take the blame for the situation, and an attempt being made to sweep it under the rug?

(Tip of the hat here to “Dutchie” on the Tesla Motors Club forum for this.)

 
Written By

James Ayre's background is predominantly in geopolitics and history, but he has an obsessive interest in pretty much everything. After an early life spent in the Imperial Free City of Dortmund, James followed the river Ruhr to Cofbuokheim, where he attended the University of Astnide. And where he also briefly considered entering the coal mining business. He currently writes for a living, on a broad variety of subjects, ranging from science, to politics, to military history, to renewable energy. You can follow his work on Google+.

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