On a warm sunny June day along the appalling roads of the far north Kimberley region of Western Australia, a lot of bad things can happen. And usually do.
Our camping holiday was suddenly cut short, thanks to an overheated shock absorber in some of the most remote country in outback Australia. But as always, it’s never the problem that’s the problem, it’s how you fix it. And thanks to some amazing customer service, an equipment failure that could have been disastrously expensive (for me!) turned into a triumph of public relations for the company that made my car.
As a business owner, you’ll likely never be asked to ‘make-good’ to this extent. But the way Land Rover went about salvaging what could have been PR disaster and turning it into a great success story is worth studying. I’ll explain.
My wife Michelle and I had set out from Broome to explore some of the most spectacular, rugged and remote landscapes in Australia. The Kimberley region is vast – big enough to fit the entire United Kingdom 7 times and still have leftover room. We’d travelled parts of it three years ago, and this time we wanted to visit the majestic Mitchell Falls, on the west coast. But to get there, you have to drive hundreds of kilometres over some of the worst roads anywhere in the country. All had been going well, until we hit the track into Mitchell Falls itself. It was then I discovered that the violent shaking had disabled the rear suspension of my near new Range Rover.
(We weren’t alone in this. The roads up that way are littered with four-wheel-drives of all makes, disabled with blown shock absorbers, broken springs, snapped axles and shredded tyres.)
Fortunately, my Rangie was still under new-car warranty. And therefore subject to Land Rover’s ‘recover you from anywhere’ policy in case of vehicle break-down.
Over the next few days, using borrowed satellite phones (no mobile coverage here) and an ancient pay-phone when we eventually reached a cattle station 100 kilometres away, Land Rover Australia came to the rescue, in one of the most logistically difficult, expensive and remote recovery operations they’ve ever had to mount.
Land Rover organized and paid for:
1) a truck to drive from the nearest town – over 400 kilometres away – down the Gibb River Rd to Drysdale River Station, retrieve our car and take it to Broome – another 700km away – then return to pick up our camper trailer and deliver that to Broome as well. It took four days to complete the job.
2) the charter of a Cessna to fly Michelle and me to Broome.
3) Our hotel accommodation in Broome.
4) A replacement part to be trucked from Melbourne to Perth (3,500km), while our car was trucked down from Broome (another 2,500km) for repairs.
5) Our flights back home to Perth.
Just a rough guess, but I’m putting the total bill for Land Rover at north of $25,000. Now there’s no way the average salon or spa owner will ever need to match that, but the structure of the process is illuminating. By bending over backwards, Land Rover
1) turned an ordinary customer (me) into a raving advocate for the brand.
2) ensured I’d be buying another one when mine was due for a trade-in.
And thanks to the ‘bush-telegraph’, our story spread like wildfire around campfires throughout the region. “Ya mean the company did all that?”
Here’s the lesson: It’s never the problem, it’s how you solve the problem that matters.