Audi lets dealers OK more free repairs
Program allows $5,000 in out-of-warranty fixes
To improve customer satisfaction, Audi of America is letting dealers authorize more free repairs.
Dealership service managers can authorize repairs of as much as $5,000 on out-of-warranty vehicles at no cost to customers. Audi rolled out the goodwill program nationally last summer after a pilot in the Southwest, said Peter Donnellan, director of aftersales.
He said the program is similar to one at Lexus, his former employer. When Donnellan joined Audi in the spring of 2011, dealers told him that repair approvals were taking too long, he said.
"We had a goodwill policy that was difficult to use. We put in too many controls. We were too concerned with controlling the expense," Donnellan said. "The unintended consequences were that it delayed the decision for the customer.
"What we are trying to do is minimize the time so that the customer is amazed even if they had a failure."
Donnellan: Faster decisions
Audi defines goodwill repairs as those done after the four-year/50,000-mile new-vehicle warranty has expired. Generally, such repairs are done on vehicles "perhaps a year out of warranty," Donnellan said.
"Other goodwill [repairs] could be a bit looser. Say something happens where Coke is spilled on the multimedia interface on the dash. That would not be a warranty item, but we would help a little bit [with the repair cost] because the customer was upset."
Audi's new program aims to win over customers, improve loyalty and boost scores on annual surveys such as the J.D. Power and Associates Customer Service Index Study.
In 2012, J.D. Power ranked Audi sixth and below average among luxury brands in the index, up from 10th in 2011. Lexus was No. 1 both years.
Previously, Audi wanted "to be involved in all the decisions" and approve each goodwill repair, Donnellan said. That meant either the zone representative or the Audi Customer Experience Center in Auburn Hills, Mich., had to review the request and get authorization to proceed. That often took four to seven days.
The procedure "was very cumbersome," Donnellan said. "Our CSI was dropping and we found we were aggravating customers in situations where goodwill money was spent. We were trying to do the right thing but the unintended problem was we were delaying a decision."
Donnellan said Audi's 276 dealerships average five or six goodwill claims a month. If a dealership has more claims than normal, Audi area sales managers review the claims and "make sure the service manager used good logic," he said.
The area team will counsel a dealership, Donnellan said, but, "we do not take the claim back if we don't agree with them."
You can reach Diana T. Kurylko at email@example.com. -- Follow Diana on