A Very Broken Flywheel

Posted by John Middlebrook on Oct 13, 2021 2:04:57 PM

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Just like most of you, I interact with many businesses on a day-to-day basis. Some of those experiences are amazing, but at the same time, I've had experiences with business where I scratch my head and ask myself "how can they be as big as they are, with so many issues on customer delight"?

Being in the business, of business, I am hyper-focused on when they get it right, and when they don't. As a HubSpot partner for almost 10 years now, I've watched the evolution of the customer funnel become the flywheel and I've done my part to help my customers embrace that approach to their businesses. After all, we win together!

I wanted to touch on a recent experience I had with a startup company and walk through the many areas of the flywheel that completely failed my expectations of basic customer service. My goal is not to drag their brand through the mud, but more to learn from those experiences and hope that other businesses put solutions in place to eliminate this friction.


The Purchase


As we round almost 2 years of COVID fatigue, we've seen many parts of our global supply chains fail. From the smallest parts (computer chips for autos) to the biggest like lumber for new homes, boats, and other luxury toys. In my case, it was for a golf cart for my family. I live in a planned community and golf carts are very common. The average age of the full-time residents is 65. We have a large neighborhood with many amenities and a golf cart really fits big and small families alike.


ICON EV i60L 6 passenger electric golf cart** | GolfCartMax


I am a very organized shopper and always do research, create spreadsheets and look at reviews before making "capital" purchases. In this case, I narrowed down brands, features and who had golf carts available locally. That list was short, remember supply chain? Anyway, one company that a friend referred me to I decided to visit as I had exhausted my spreadsheet and was ready to make a decision. I drove 20 miles to their local brick and mortar and low and behold, they had 2 brand new carts out in front of their store, both still covered with factory wraps. I immediately fell in love with the look and features of the carts but I had never heard of the brand. This presented a quandary. I took a quick test drive and was sold on the product but I needed to do some research. I jumped into my truck while still at the dealer and hopped on Google for reviews. I could not find anything negative about the new brand, Icon Electric Vehicles. The reviews were short but good. Their Dun and Bradstreet page showed they were based in Florida and at the time, did a mere $125,000 in sales.


The Dealer


On the last weekend of May, I made the decision on this spot and handed them my credit card to secure the cart. I was given a receipt for the sale and that was it. We had to arrange for a free delivery date and that was all. I did understand that in my neighborhood, carts had to be street legal and have both insurance and state tags. I asked the dealer about this and the manager explained to me that the "kits" for street legal were back-ordered for about 30 days. I went on my own and became an Icon customer.


After getting the cart home I started the research on what it would take to make is street legal in my state. Again, needed insurance, tags and a title. I contacted the dealer several times over the following weeks. In each case, I can sense dragging feet was becoming a bigger issue.


Now, I am in this business. I know the flywheel. I know how critical it is to make customers part of the flywheel and happy. I was not getting this from the local dealer so it was time to reach out to the mothership. Icon corporate.


The Breakdown


I first left a message on the customer support number at the Icon web page I did not hear back from anyone. My next step was to look into social media groups and see if they existed.  To my surprise, I found two groups and joined them immediately. Within a very short time of posting my dissatisfaction over the dealer, I got a response from  Lana on Facebook. Her profile says she's the "office manager" at Icon corporate and she asked how she could help. I explained my issue to her and she said she would see what she could do. That went nowhere. A few weeks later, I got a voicemail from another employee at Icon who's name was Jennifer and she explained her role as business development with Icon EV. Perfect, right?


She and I had many calls and spoke via text several times. She was very open to my feedback and frustration and did take my issues to heart. However, she could not do anything. My last text to her went unanswered.


The breakdown here was that the dealer was not an official dealer for Icon Ev. I am not positive but I think there was an application process and cost and they had yet to pursue this. Also, the dealer was not an authorized "vehicle" sales business, so they could not issue titles in my state. Nobody explained this to me.


So I was sold an Icon cart, from a non-Icon dealer in a state where they could not get titles for the cart. Part of the reason for purchasing this nearly $20k cart was the fact that it included a 2 year warranty. But who would be doing the warranty work? Nobody knew. The dealer was not really an approved Icon dealer so has no real reason to offer support on the carts they sell.


The Broken Flywheel


This is very broken. How can Icon not have a customer support model in place, when they areHubSpot's New Flywheel Model Broken Down selling carts like hotcakes? How can they provide new carts to "dealers" that are not actually approved dealers? Why don't they have a single point of contact for repairs or other customer support issues? I spoke with the owner of Icon, the office manager, the business development rep and a "dealer", and everyone pushes me off the other. At the end of the day, I am the customer and DO NOT care about their broken process. I made a purchase from what I thought was a dealer of Icon, and I expected the best customer support from my 2-year warranty and to this day, I cannot get a response or answer from anyone.


In Conclusion


At the time of this post, I still do not have a title for my cart. I also need warranty work done on my emergency brakes and nobody responded to my calls. In midst of the excitement of having a shiny new golf cart in your driveway, that excitement will wear off over time. You expect a brand, big or small, to be able to back their product and provide the warranty or other support needed. But their flywheel has to be in place. Authorized dealers or anyone selling their products must be "authorized". They need to drink the Icon Koolaid and should be evaluated on every transaction. After all, they are the voice of your brand, like it or not.


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