The Customers’ Revenge

February 8, 2008 BY danariely

ariely_audi_small.jpg A few years ago I got a new Audi A3. The car was great and I loved driving it, but about three months later, while I was driving down the Mass turnpike (trucks on my right and left), the transmission stopped responding and the car lost speed, fast. It was very dangerous to maneuver to the right shoulder, but eventually I made it.

Over the next month or so I had multiple “chats” with the Audi customer service representatives, as well as with the Audi repair shop where my car had become a permanent fixture (I think they were trying a new experiment on how to best annoy their customers and they were getting better and better at this with every passing day). About 5 weeks after the transmission died, I drove my rental car back to Boston, and took my Audi back to Princeton. But this was not the end of it for me.

Every time I saw the car I was reminded how rude and unhelpful the people at Audi were, and I wanted them to feel some of the frustration that I felt during this experience — I wanted some revenge. I considered making a YouTube video about my experience, but at the end decided that there was a more complex and interesting point in all of this. I decided to write an HBR case that describes my experience in a general way, and the dilemmas facing companies when consumers have access to YouTube, e-mail, and blogs. What should companies do? How should the availability of such technologies change the way companies treat all, or perhaps their most “dangerous,” customers?

Here is a link to a description of the the case study

And to the case study itself

More...In addition to the dilemmas facing companies, it is also interesting to consider why I got so annoyed and wanted revenge. Cars break from time to time, and this is just the way things are. So why was I so annoyed? I think it was because no one at Audi seemed to care that my life was in danger, that I was stranded far away from home, or that so much of my time was wasted trying to figure out what was happening with my car and when I would get it back. I don’t think there is any way that I would have enjoyed the experience, but I suspect that if the people at Audi were more attentive and understanding, much of my current dislike of Audi would not have been an issue.

Now that I’ve written all this down, I do feel better about it.