Customer bad news letter

One of your favorite job duties in Corporate Communications at Harley-Davidson is monitoring and addressing customer complaints on the Web and social media networks. You frequently check the various Harley-Davison forums on the Web and the occasional complaint site. Only yesterday you stumbled upon what sounds like a harrowing tale of woe involving a 2013 CVO Road King. The brand-new post is vitriolic and barely literate, and the emotion is raw. Worst of all, after only a day, “Anonymous” already scored over 500 hits and multiple sympathetic comments.


“Dont buy this piece of junk! I bought this lemon at the worst dealer in Michigan Wareford Harley-Davidson in November 2012. The 2013 CVO Road King is the hottest machine, but from the start this bike has been underpowered and a gas guzzler. Not much help from the Waterford dealer. The dealers general manger told me that my bike and I were no longer welcome. He said to break it in. Some chrome parts were defective, paint was rusty under clear coat, poor gas mileage, under 40, repairs really poor. Harely Davidson company are not standing up to thier responsiblities. $29,900 bike, offered to trade-in for $19,000. that was supposed to be the dealers best offer when I wanted to return the lemon. “

Your detective work begins. You call up ABC Harley-Davidson, the only dealer in Waterford, Michigan, and inquire about a customer who had trouble with a 2013 CVO Road King. Sure enough, you obtain the name and contact information of the unhappy Harley owner. Before calling and writing to Mr. Pete Dix, however, you post a response to his scathing review online to limit further damage. You suggest he contact the Harley-Davidson customer Service Department by calling (414) 343-4056 and indicate his name, address, phone number, and the bike’s vehicle identification number (VIN) along with the name and location of the dealership.

You find additional negative comments about ABC Harley-Davidson online; therefore, you look up the next closest dealership that could check out the bike, Motor City Harley-Davidson in Farmington Hills, Michigan. You know that all dealerships are independent franchises; hence, the quality of each shop can vary considerably. An inspection by an independent party is the first step. You want to find out if anything is truly wrong with the motorcycle. After all, the bike is still under warranty. Because the customer does not trust his current dealer, choosing a competitor nearby is the best course of action now.

Jack Vroman, owner of Motor City Harley-Davidson, was very forthcoming and agreed to inspect the CVO free of charge to the customer. Jack Vroman contacted Pete Dix and offered him a free inspection under the warranty.   Upon inspection of Mr. Dix’s Harley-Davidson, Jack Vroman found that the motorcycle was performing to specification.  No rust or “rusty paint” was found under the clear coat; however, some defective chrome parts were replaced under warranty.

After the inspection, Mr. Dix was still not satisfied and demanded a full price refund for this “Lemon” motorcycle.  You do not think that Pete Dix’s problem motorcycle would fit the legal definition of a “lemon” under Michigan law.  Taking the bike back at full price is out of the question.

You wonder why Mr. Dix is so dissatisfied with this luxurious motorbike. The new models are a lot more reliable than similar big and heavy machines before them. Starting at $29,999, the 2013 CVO Road King is the pride of Harley-Davidson’s model lineup. Unlike BMW and Japanese motorcycles, Harleys are not known for their speed or fuel economy; however, buyers like the “retro” appeal of the legendary brand, the signature engine roar, and the laid-back riding style.

Your Task.

  • Use tact and project empathy when writing a follow-up letter to Pete Dix at 30 Estes Court, Waterford, MI 48327.
  • Your objective is to mollify his frustration by listening to him and helping him get to the bottom of the problems with his bike. Ideally, if you are successful, you will reqeust Pete to withdraw his negative post.  You hope he will become a satisfied Harley-Davidson customer.
  • Make sure your response follows proper letter format (pages A-2 to A-8) addressed to the dissatisfied customer.  Consider using the Harley-Davidson logo below and information from their website, below, to create an appropriate letterhead.
  • Include well constructed Buffer, Reasons, Bad News and Closing paragraphs.  Be sure to acknowledge and address each of the customer’s concerns.  Information from the Harley-Davidson website may help you address some of Mr. Dix’s concerns.
  • Investigate the lemon laws in Michigan and your state to better understand the definition of this legal term. You may also want to take a peek at the CVO by visiting Harley-Davidson’s official Web site at .


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