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Part 3 - Reminding a Lexus Dealer Network why Standardised Work matters (#51)

Updated: Apr 29



Almost done now. If you missed Part 1 click here, Part 2 is here. If not, here's the final scuffle with the UK Director.


30 October I wrote:

Hi [Brand Director],

You're expecting my email I assume and I hope [Dealer Principal] has briefed you in advance. For your ease I have invested time collating the email exchanges between myself, [Dealer Principal] & [Service Manager].

Before I move onto Lexus UK and start to talk shop with them about Standardised Work, the Lexus shokunin/takumi ethos & it's apparent lack of penetration through the dealer network, I'd appreciate your thoughts on the attached email trail in terms of:

1) How a loyal Lexus/Toyota Customer has been handled  

2) The resolution thus far

We are on Day 41

Thanks

Russell

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30 October [Brand Director] replied:


Good afternoon Mr Watkins,

I have spoken to [Dealer Principal] earlier today & read your attachment of emails. With regards to the way this has been handled apart from [Service Manager] not coming back to you on the occasion for 48hrs I’m not sure what [Service Manager] & [Dealer Principal] have written has seemingly caused offence or poor customer service? Could you be specific regarding this please?

With regards to the resolution I know you were planned to visit & meet [Dealer Principal] but due to work commitments you couldn’t attend, what is the resolution you are seeking because we do value your custom. 

[Dealer Principal] would like the opportunity to meet & sit down with your regarding this as opposed to discussing this on the telephone or by email.

Many Thanks

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30 October I replied:

Thanks for the reply? Why do you think I’m unhappy, take a guess in your role as brand Director. I’m interested in your empathetic skills. 

There is no point now in me sitting down with [Dealer Principal]. He has made it clear that his Lexus dealership will not be making a financial contribution to this unexpected cost. If you re-read his reply, should I be unhappy with this I can go to a conciliation service, a rapid escalation. I have neither the time nor inclination to sit down for comforting words. 

My experience in the Lexus Motomachi plant earlier this year was very different to this. 

Russell 

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31 October I wrote:

Hi [Brand Director],

24 hours on. Your thoughts?

Russell

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31 October [Brand Director] replied:

Good evening Mr Watkins,

My thoughts are that every customer is valuable to us, you mention empathy, we are empathetic with all of our customers, but also have a duty of care to ensure their vehicles are checked by trained technicians & faults identified are brought to the customers attention allowing them to make the decision with regards to getting these faults rectified. This happened with your vehicle & the work identified was authorised.

You mention a financial contribution, why do you believe that we should offer this when we are providing a service?

Many Thanks

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31 October I replied:

Ah ok thanks [Brand Director]. No problem, I understand the unfortunate tone of your email. Could I have the name of your boss within X please. I need to discuss this with somebody who understands Toyota/Lexus Way. 

Thanks

Russell 

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1 November [Brand Director] replied:

Good morning Mr Watkins,

Apologies if you have interpreted my tone in a negative way, that isn’t my intention, I am merely trying to understand what we can do to appease this situation. With regards to financial contribution I would gladly like to discuss this with you.

Although I appreciate you are busy & a site visit is difficult to fit in, conversing over email can sometimes be misconstrued. That said, if you would prefer email & agree to a contribution from us, would that suffice & restore your faith in us?

I am in meetings most of the day but will be back online around 6pm.

Many Thanks

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1 November I replied:

Thank you for your reply this morning, I appreciate the change in tone. For clarity, I had asked you "Why do you think I'm unhappy [Brand Director]?" and when I prompted you for a reply 24 hours later you chose immediately to defend your position rather than seek to understand...but we're in a more productive place now I think. No need to answer before Monday as you're in meetings until 6pm. I'm happy to wait.

Here is the source of my unhappiness.  There are TWO problems. ONE problem for Lexus as a manufacturer and ONE problem for you as the dealership. Both are significant and are connected. We’ll call them (a) and (b) and take them in order below.

For Lexus (a) the premature deterioration of the OSR and NSR trailing arm assembly through the bush debond. On a premium vehicle, driven on UK roads, this should be a non-serviceable lifetime suspension item. The fact that it failed 3 months outside but 9000 miles inside of the warranty period is worrying for the durability of Lexus vehicles. Expert colleagues I have consulted indicate that there is a material issue at work resulting in this forced deterioration. I'll be taking this up with Lexus as you have been unable to make any ground here on my behalf.

More seriously for you is (b) the fact that I’ve incurred a cost of £1000 on the basis of a subjective technician judgement that has taken me from a 40k service condition of GREEN to a 50k service condition of RED. On the basis of this RED I authorised the work and I challenge you to find a customer who wouldn’t authorise recommended work on RED suspension items. The problem is that the judgement is not adequately standardised and relies on a skilled Technician having a good day. I had to ask [Dealer Principal] multiple times for the information relating to how the check was carried out. You'll note also that the removed parts were not kept or offered to me before being scrapped. They were scrapped rather quickly as I phoned the dealership asking them for the removed assemblies the day after. Before I clearly lay out the problem for you let me say that, in my mind, your service Technician bears no blame. He was just following a weak standard and interpreting based on his non-standardised skill level.

MY QUESTIONS ON THE TRAILING ARM BUSH ASSESSMENT STANDARD:

a) the length of the bar

b) the force applied

c) the method of evaluation of the outcome by your Tech

d) the standard measurement he was comparing to 

e) the actual measurement he derived from my NSR and OSR that led to the judgement of a "red" condition 

[Dealer Principal’s] EVENTUAL ANSWERS

A, there is no specified length of bar or tool to measure wear on a suspension joint.

B, Impossible to provide information regarding force applied as no 2 technician are the same in strength or stature. That said, you only need light pressure to check for movement

C, To flex a suspension joint is the only true way to test

D , E, There is no measurement taken or stipulated regarding and wear and tear suspension bush. That said you can clearly see that the bushes on the vehicle have clearly delaminated, that is the reason for the ”red” alert as these will only further deteriorate.

THE CONCLUSION

A is a problem

B is an admission that "it depends"

D and E is a problem as the "it depends" pressure applied is then NOT compared to a standard 

It is clearly not a binary "bonded or not bonded judgment" as the service tech in the video says that the one side is completely debonded and the other side is "starting to" but both should be replaced.

The problem for the dealership is that the subjective weak standard means that I as a Customer cannot be sure when the RED condition was reached (as the RED condition is not defined as a clear measurable standard). The vehicle was 40k serviced in Jan 19 and the suspension was noted GREEN. In March 19 the 3 year warranty expired & in Sept 19 both sides were RED, costing me close to £1000. The weathered automotive cynic in me concludes that the subjective judgement suits your dealership as it allowed the deteriorated bushes to come to light after the warranty period had expired. Let's consider the AMBER stage on the service schedule. We drove our vehicle on first world UK roads and within 10,000 miles serious deterioration had occurred. What is the purpose of the AMBER condition in this respect if the Lexus standard wear profile for these parts is to go from GREEN to RED within 6 months? 

The Toyota Way is thus: A Lexus Japan dealer would be thanking me for creating the opportunity for them to kaizen the standard. For highlighting your weak standardised work [see a) to e)] that I refer to repeatedly in the emails] I would be thanked and reimbursed. Lexus and Toyota Japan understand something that you and your dealerships appear not to. Even when the standard is strong, it is never completed because kaizen is always possible. Instead of celebrating the kaizen I am offering your organisation, your energy is spent fending me off. 

So, I’ll happily accept your offer to meet your people if they’d like to reimburse me for the full amount of circa £900 & if I can walk the process with [Service Manager] to understand a stronger standard. Then my faith will indeed have been restored and we can talk about the future.

Thanks

Russell

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1 November [Brand Director] replied:

Good evening Mr Watkins,

I take on board & note your detailed points & apologise for the time these emails have taken between yourself, [Dealer Principal], [Service Manager] & myself, [Service Manager] will be able to answer these technical questions along with the Master tech far better than myself or [Dealer Principal] & the offer to meet them at the centre & discuss is still on offer should you wish to.

I have tonight instructed [Dealer Principal] to reimburse you for the repair which will take place early next week & he will confirm to you by email when this has been processed.

Have a good weekend.

Many Thanks

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2 November I replied:

Thank you [Brand Director]. I look forward to receiving £991.44p from Lexus dealership. I would like to visit the dealership to offer advice on standardisation of the process and would encourage [Dealer Principal] & [Service Manager] to contact me directly when they're ready. It's unfortunate that I had to invest so much time and that you had to become involved in the escalation process. 

Have a good weekend

Russell


My closing thoughts? A plea to Lexus & Toyota to penetrate the Dealer Networks. You truly are snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.

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