An Editorial Opinion from The Nittany Turkey
This post will give you an idea of what to expect from Tesla if you order one of their cars, from on-line ordering through delivery. While Tesla produces some excellent technologically advanced motor vehicles, the customer experience leaves much to be desired. Hoping to save some of you readers the exasperation I dealt with, I want to let you know what to anticipate. By the time you read this, I hope that Tesla gets the message and you can tell me I am all wet.
Ordering and Delivery Scheduling
Ordering is simple. There are few options, and everything is fixed price with no negotiation bullshit like the typical dealer experience. You order your car, and you are given a projected delivery window, which in my case was October 4 – 24. I was able to get my Model Y Performance Edition on September 30, which I’ll explain below. If you order now, depending on which model you choose, delivery windows are currently (as of October 3, 2021) being scheduled out to March or April of 2022. Yes, I got lucky.
We Found You a Car
I received a call from the local Tesla store on the afternoon of September 29 stating that a new Tesla Model Y Performance edition with the same configuration as the one I had ordered was available because the original buyer decided not to go through with the purchase. The sales associate, who I’ll call Joe Blow, told me that the buyer “had insulted [him]”. I asked what the buyer did. The response was odd, as I didn’t consider it an insult, just ordinary purchasing tactics (which don’t work with Tesla). The buyer ordered the trailer hitch but didn’t want to pay for it. That’s an insult?
September 30 is the end of the calendar quarter. If you know anything about purchasing cars, that’s when good deals can be had, as it is a sales reporting period for shareholders, salesmen’s commissions, and so forth. In Tesla’s case, they’re interested in the end-of-quarter numbers, but as I’ve mentioned, they don’t do deals. So, I was getting early ownership of a car I had expected sometime the following month. While on the phone, I made a delivery appointment for 5 PM with the associate.
Thus, I’m doing Tesla and Joe Blow a favor. What can they do for me? Having to arrange financing in one day and getting them their money requires a lot of work. Nevertheless, I paid in full by the morning of the 30th. I asked the associate whether they could install my HomeLink (which, alas, is an extra cost item you must order separately and you cannot self-install) while I finished whatever paperwork was necessary. The answer was no. I suggested that they owed me a bottle of scotch or something for my trouble in helping them meet their sales goals.
Setting Up the Delivery Experience
When you order a Tesla, you review the paperwork online and accept it. That’s very cool. When you have a nice, new car waiting for you, you don’t want to be sitting in some dingy office reviewing and signing paper. Big plus for Tesla in that area. I reviewed and accepted half a dozen documents. While I was doing so, I noticed that my appointment had been moved to 4 PM from 5 PM, but no one had personally communicated that change to me. Not a big deal.
A friend who is also a Tesla owner offered me a ride to the Tesla store, which I gladly accepted. Arriving on time for the delivery experience, my friend and I saw my new car parked in one of the customer delivery slots, so we could inspect its exterior before going in to see the sales associate. As you might have heard about Tesla, many new vehicles have issues with fit and finish, so with that in mind we discovered that one rear door needed adjustment.
Inside the lobby, I noted that the furnishings and decorations were spartan to the point of being unwelcoming, unlike the usual auto dealership experience, where they try to make you comfortable while they extract your wallet. Tesla doesn’t see the need for that, I suppose, and they also give their solar power sales desk a prominent place in the lobby. Back in the service waiting room, there are few amenities and the upholstery on the chairs is ratty and needs to be replaced.
We walked up to the guy at the desk who was looking down at a laptop with stickers all over its shell. I told him who I was and who I was there to see at 4 PM. Turned out to the be the guy I was talking to. He cracked a couple jokes about the bottle of scotch I wanted, saying that is what his boss drinks and some other nonsense. I wanted to get on with the delivery. So he said he would get the keys set up.
Where da Keys?
Tesla’s “key” for the Model Y is a plastic card. They just must program the car’s ID into the card, much like a hotel programs your key card for the room. My friend and I went outside to wait by the car for the guy with the keys, because who the hell wants to hang out in that crappy lobby for any length of time? We waited. And waited. And waited. Steam was coming out of my ears. Enough of that was enough.
We went back inside and were glad-handed by another employee asking if we had been taken care of. Showing my pique, I said, “No. I’m here for a delivery. Joe Blow (again, not his real name) was supposed to be getting me the keys and he disappeared into the back room. Did he die?” She directed us to sit and wait for him. I wasn’t going to sit in that place. We stood and waited.
Fix My Damn Door
Shortly thereafter, Joe Blow emerged, cracking jokes as usual, saying his boss and he got a laugh out of my question about whether he died. I said, “You aren’t dead so you must have been on vacation,” as we walked out the front door. More jokes, for which I was in no mood. “What the hell is so f________g funny?!?!?” I asked. “I got here at 4 PM and you’ve been farting around for 20 minutes.”
I proceeded to show Joe Blow the door issue we had found. He said he would have the service people take care of it. More delays as he took the car back to service. We went back inside the barn to not melt in the 90-degree Florida sun. That’s when I noticed how crappy the service waiting room is.
About 15 minutes later, he came back with the car, handed me the keys, and said, “All you have to do is sign off on the delivery and you can get in your new Tesla and drive away.” I asked if I could do that with the app on my phone. “No, you have to do it on the website.” We’re standing outside with the sun glaring on my phone screen and he wants me to navigate to the Tesla site with a web browser? I was already annoyed, so I said, “Just bring me something to sign!”
He did. I signed it. And then he went back inside. Whaaaaaaat?
Here’s Your Car. Bye.
Having purchased many cars during my lifetime, the one thing I have come to expect is an orientation to the features and systems in the vehicle as the salesman sends the happy customer on his or her way. Some people need more of this than others, but it is a good customer experience touch, and it is a suitable time to cement the relationship between the customer and the dealership. The salesman usually leaves his card and, whether sincere or not, says, “Call me with any questions you might have.” Tesla gave me none of that.
With Tesla — at least with my local Tesla store — there was no such experience. “Here’s your keys.” That was it. Fortunately, I needs no orientation, as I had watched nine million YouTube videos and read the entire owner’s manual long before accepting delivery. But it was not even offered. What if I was a new Tesla customer (which I am) who had absolutely no idea of how a Tesla works?
I got the distinct impression that Joe Blow was more intent on making jokes back in the office than creating a smooth and pleasant customer experience. The old Bahamian saying that the fish must stink from the head on down certainly applies here, so I’ll assume that Tesla needs a company-wide customer experience manager who might straighten out these brusque and arrogant local operatives, in time. Smoothing out the delivery and communication experience should be the first order of business.
You know, I did them a favor, in return for which I was made to wait and then pushed out the door without so much as a thank you. But wait — there’s more!
Driving Home and Seeing Red
I drove home with my friend following. I love this car! While all the delivery nonsense cannot be forgiven, in time the shitty delivery experience will fade into a distant memory, albeit one I will recount to prospective Tesla owners. Yeah, the joy of a new car can heal many customer relations wounds. Ahhh, but the screwups did not end when I left the lot. There was one more thing…
Having pulled the car into my garage, I wanted to charge it. I have a J1772 power delivery unit in the garage, which I purchased in anticipation of owning an EV. I looked in all the storage areas of my new Model Y. Wait, what!!?!? No charging cable and no J1772 adapter, which were both included in the car deal! I blew my cork. “Now I must return to that damn place in 5 PM traffic to pick up something they left off?!?!?!?”
My friend, who owns a Model 3, offered me his adapter, and further offered to stop by the Tesla store on his way home to pick up the charging kit. I’m grateful to have such a generous friend, who I would be seeing the following Saturday, when I would pick up the kit and return his adapter. However, if my ire over the earlier delivery experience had been softening in the exhilarating wake of driving a new car, it just developed a further hard edge. From a customer relations angle, Tesla sure suuuuuuuuuuuuuuuucks!
Tesla, Get Your Act Together!
In recent months, Tesla has “cheaped out” in a few areas. They eliminated the referral program for new car buyers, who previously would get 1,000 free supercharger miles as would their referrer. They also eliminated the adjustable lumbar support on the front passenger seat of the Model Y because they said their data suggested that it wasn’t being used frequently. They do not include a SiriusXM radio in Model 3s and Model Ys, and it is an extra cost option on Model Ss and Model Xs. And what’s with the HomeLink option requiring a separate order and installation?
Tesla needs to work on their customer experience. They get a lot of latitude from their “save the planet” cult-based customer base, but if they are wanting to expand beyond the geeks and the tree-huggers, they’ll have to do better. Some of us old farts have a limited tolerance for bullshit.