Archive | Emma Butcher’s Blog

Speeding delivery vans are not good pr

Bit of a rant today, I’m afraid.

Just three months after getting my car back after my last encounter with an idiot driver, it felt almost like déjà vu when, on the same stretch of road, it almost happened again!

On my way to work this morning, yet another Dukes of Hazard wannabe came speeding down the outside lane and swerved left in front of me, narrowly missing my car before cutting back out, forcing the guy he’d undercut to slam on his brakes.

As that lane of traffic slowed up to the imminent roundabout, I drew alongside the vehicle and glanced over.

And I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised to see someone with such little regard for their own or anyone else’s life with a mobile phone clamped to their ear. Priceless.

What makes it worse though is that vehicle in question bore the branding of a very well known parts supplier. Not good pr, I would suggest.

I know of at least one parts distributor that tracks the speed of its vehicle fleet in real time with dangerous driving a firing offence. Sounds good to me.

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Happy birthday NGK Europe

I was lucky enough to be one of the UK delegation of journos invited out to Dusseldorf in Germany to celebrate NGK Europe’s 30th birthday last week.

Founded in 1979, four years after NGK UK, NGK Europe today:

  • is technical partner for 52 OEMs
  • supplies 526 aftermarket customers
  • is represented in 38 European countries

They’ve got a lot to celebrate – and boy do they know how to throw a party!

There were journalists from all over the world, and as anyone who has ever spent time in the bar with a hack will know, everyone was up for a good night.

No one was disappointed.

We were fed mammoth joints of meat (not of the woolly variety, although they were big enough to be from one) in true Bavarian style – delicious. And watered with locally brewed beer, followed by probably one too many Maltesers (not the chocolate sort).

With NGK UK’s Brian Childs and Gez Irving on top form as our generous hosts, the British crew was well looked after – and well entertained!

Now what takes place in the bar stays in the bar, so I’m not going to elaborate. I will say, though, that there were a few sore heads the next day – and it wasn’t all down to the booze…

But before I give you the wrong impression that life as an aftermarket journalist is one long party – we did do some work!

It was an absolute pleasure to be given a tour of NGK’s fascinating technical centre in Ratingen by the charming Stefan, who is always very gracious in spelling out the complex science bits – even to a hungover rabble.

It really was a great trip, so happy birthday NGK Europe and thank you. A fantastic company with a great heritage and, I’m sure, another successful 30 years to come.

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How to use the web to baffle your customers

The internet. As social animals we’ve embraced it fully, merrily twittering, blogging and facebooking away. But has the aftermarket really got it?

My recent experience with a bodyshop, which I won’t embarrass by identifying, tells me not.

Sorry guys, but you know the truth is that the circumstances that bring motorists to your door do not predispose us to enjoying doing business with you.


The particular circumstances that brought me to the door of this particular bodyshop were thrust upon me courtesy of the maniac driver (I use the word loosely) who ran me off the road at a speed of what must have been close to 60mph in a 30mph zone.

After cutting me up, he then proceeded to veer back across both lanes of the dual carriageway, bounce across the central reservation and screech to a halt facing the oncoming traffic – nice work, if you’re DCI Gene Hunt in Life on Mars.

Not so nice when you’re minding your own business and already running late to catch your plane to Italy for the Autopromotec show – made it, just!

Thankfully no one was hurt, although I had to use all my reserves of restraint as he shrugged his shoulders, got nonchalantly back in his car and drove off!

Despite him bumping conspicuously along on a badly buckled wheel, the police didn’t manage to bring him in. But that’s a whole other saga best saved for when I’m feeling calmer.


But I digress. Back to the bodyshop.

Having written countless words in the past about the good sense in garages getting online and making the consumer experience as pain-free as possible, I was delighted to find that this workshop had done just that.

Its “exciting new service” – and I have to admit, not getting out much these days that I was pretty excited – allows you to track your vehicle’s repair online!

Fantastic, I thought, no more waiting around for someone to answer the phone and dig out my vehicle’s details to update me.

It didn’t quite work like that. The first time I logged on, I was greeted with words to the effect: “There’s a possibility that your car could be a write-off”. That was it. Nothing else. No explanation or reassurance.

And it was a Sunday, so speaking to an actual, live, human being was out.

On Monday I tried again, and this time the status had changed. It seemed the car wasn’t a write-off after all and – great news – the repair was now 30 percent complete!

On Tuesday it was 50 percent done and by Wednesday it had reached the staggering readiness of 70 percent!


But what did it all mean? Who knows, certainly not me – it took another week before the car was back on the road.

And it seems that the customer service team was rather too excited about the effectiveness of the system because no one was answering the phone either.

The whole experience left me feeling even angrier than when my car was trashed in the first place.

What made it more frustrating was that this was a bodyshop clearly trying to do the right thing but at the last minute seemingly getting carried away with the technology and forgetting about the most important thing – the customer.

The web is a wonderful thing when it’s used properly and a vehicle tracking system is, in theory, the best thing you can do for your customer short of telling them you’ve fixed their motor for free.

But you’ve got to give them information that actually means something. And sometimes, a conversation with someone who knows what they’re talking about is the only thing that will do.

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