I seem to be getting a lot more phone calls from our drivers of both vans and cars recently. It is usually after an ‘orange warning light’ pops up on their dashboards. Then they try to find out what’s wrong, by going into the vehicles ‘fault finding system’ usually somewhere on ‘Settings or Vehicle Data,’ hidden deep in the central big-screen. 

I normally end up having to talk them through it on the phone, with me pointing and pressing imaginary things in the air – much to the amusement of those around me. “No, it should be there just to the right,” I say, with me pointing to the right quite violently. Oh well, if it keeps fellow workers happy and amused, plus helps our drivers, then that’s fine. 

Sadly, most of the time, despite all the pointing and talking, they usually are no further forward in finding and sorting the problem. This usually results in the dreaded call to the service receptionist! Where, if you can get through, you must hope you don’t get diverted to the remote, central booking department. Why? Well, they don’t usually have a clue what you’re going on about. As these highly skilled operatives often look after numerous manufacturers, with a lot of models, and must diagnose hundreds of thousands of problems. So, knowing what yours is, won’t be easy. You are then given a time and date to take the vehicle into the nominated garage – then given a one-hour inspection slot that’s three weeks away! 

After three weeks of nervous driving, wondering if they’ll need the recovery service, they take the sick vehicle in. Then, after sitting and waiting for their allotted slot, they are told it can’t be fixed in time, and they’ll need to book it in again for a repair. Of course, this will take yet another three weeks to be finally fixed. 

I do realise that service departments are very busy, and they cannot drop everything to accommodate us all. But there’s got to be a better way of looking after customers who spend a lot of money to keep their vehicles running correctly. An apologetic receptionist did tell me once, that many good, traditional ‘technicians’ have ‘retrained’ to specialise in EVs. This naturally leaves vacancies for good old-fashioned mechanics, compounding the problems of getting petrol and diesel cars and vans fixed.

Over the festive break, I had a call from one of our drivers, whose first thought was to phone me, as I am the fleet manager and a superhero, who can fix all things that relate to vehicles. However, this was between Christmas and New Year, and he’s on holiday (so am I). His problem, and I’ve got experience of it before, but to sum up, basically his car is not speaking English – and instead talking foreign. Turns out he’s flown into Brussels Airport, and walked to the car rental pick-up zone, having booked a Peugeot 208 or similar. 

Anyway, the very kind bloke at the desk, upgraded him for free to a larger and much more expensive car. He refused the offer of an electric large hatch, as he was in a foreign country and wasn’t sure how or when to charge it. What he did get, was a Volkswagen T-Roc 1.0 petrol – very nice he thought. He put his bags in the boot then set about entering his destination into the sat-nav, but this is where he had his communication breakdown – as unfortunately it was in French. 

He did go looking for someone from the rental company that might help but told me there was nobody in sight. So, the next best thing, was to call me – as usual! Anyway, between us, despite a lot of huffing and puffing, and me getting more irate with him (he just wasn’t listening, in English or French), we turned the French speaker to full English after 30 minutes.  It wasn’t easy, a bit of trial and error and then for me it was back to a cool cup of tea, and some fruit cake, and for him it was off to his destination somewhere in Belgium.

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