Glass half full – Better Place transforms station error into customer service case study

February 19, 2013 - 5:15 PM by
The message reads "Error in process...please wait"

The message reads “Error in process…please wait”

Hey Better Place electric car aficionados: ever wonder what would happen if you pulled into one of the company’s fully automated battery swap stations and it didn’t work? Well, I’m here to tell the tale. It’s a classic glass half empty/half full situation. Half empty: the station broke down and we weren’t able to get the fresh battery we needed at midnight. Half full: Better Place has really great customer service.

The full story: we were driving back to Jerusalem from a bar mitzvah party in Rehovot. We left relatively early because we knew we’d have to swap batteries before climbing the hill home. We asked OSCAR, our electric car “operating system” and friendly GPS where the most convenient swap station was. Anava Junction, it replied, near where Highways 1 and 431 intersect.

We’ve swapped at Anava before and, in the past, there’s always been a station attendant present. But Better Place is phasing out that staff (they had mostly been doing quality assurance anyway as the stations run on their own). No problem: we pulled up, the station “recognized” our car, the gate swung open without a word, and we were guided through the process via the stations’ electronic signage.

The car was hoisted up as normal, allowing the Better Place robot to slide under the vehicle to remove our battery and insert a new one, a process that takes all of five minutes. And then, a yellow warning sign appeared. It read takala – a word that first year ulpan students quickly learn to dread. “Error.”

We waited a couple of minutes, but the yellow warning remained. So we called Better Place Customer Service.

Now, I’ve written before about Better Place’s attentiveness and professionalism towards its customers and Dor, who picked up the call, was no exception. He calmed us down and tried various fixes on his end. The yellow warning would disappear, the process would resume, but then the takala alert came back.

We went through this quite a few times over the course of about half an hour before it was clear that the ever patient Dor had exhausted his ability to remotely fix the issue. Unfortunately, it wasn’t just that we couldn’t get a new battery. The robot now would not release our car to go find another station (we could have driven back a few kilometers to Nesharim or tried our luck at continuing on to Beit Shemesh or Hemed on the charge that remained).

Incredibly apologetic, Dor made us an offer we couldn’t refuse – especially one at 12:30 AM. He pressed a button on his call center console and the door to the station manager’s office magically opened. There on the desk was a set of keys to an identical Better Place car sitting in the station’s parking lot. “Take the keys,” he said, “and drive home with our car. In the morning, we’ll bring your car directly to you.”

Which is what we did. And since Better Place only sells one model of car, our replacement vehicle was identical to our regular one: just as powerful up the hill, same comfort we were used to. We made it home with plenty of juice to spare.

In the morning, our car was delivered as promised. Alon, the driver, was ecstatic at having the chance to visit Jerusalem. “I’ve only been here once in my life,” he said, “and that was to the Old City and the Kotel” (the Western Wall). Apparently, Better Place is operating a clandestine employee Birthright program on the side.

My wife Jody pointed out positively Zen-like that these things can happen in any kind of car. “We could have gotten a flat tire in our old Toyota Corolla,” she said. And it’s doubtful we’d have had such cheery Customer Service.

Bottom line: sure, we would have rather stayed at the party and danced for longer than explore the insides of a Better Place swap station. But it gave Better Place a chance to prove again how it has mastered the art of keeping the customer satisfied even under unexpected adverse conditions.

Comments

One Comment on Glass half full – Better Place transforms station error into customer service case study

  1. Electric Parade on Mon, Jun 10th 2013 11:57 AM
  2. [...] My wife and I were there, too – we bought our electric car last September, just days before founder Shai Agassi was ousted and the whole operation became a desperate cat and mouse game of buyers vs. burn rate. I’ve written about it extensively – here’s a link and another. [...]

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