Posted by: Mark Polk | 2016

Impartial Services Group (ISG) Misses the Mark in Customer Service

Impartial Services Group (ISG), now Stericycle, is a large third party organization that assists other companies with services including recalls, retrieval, returns, and audit solutions.  I never heard of ISG prior to November of 2015, but now I have first hand dealings with the organization. One service ISG offers automakers is to manage and facilitate vehicle repurchases, and one of those automakers is Fiat Chrysler Automobiles.

In February 2015 I purchased a brand new 2014 Ram 2500 mega cab truck. To make a very long story short, after four trips to the dealership, for transmission related problems, Chrysler contacted me with an offer to repurchase or replace the vehicle. This is how I came to know of ISG. The Chrysler representative told me that within 3 to 5 days I would be contacted by an ISG representative who would explain the entire replacement process to me.

Little did I know this experience would turn out to be one of the worst experiences I ever had, when in reality it could and should be a much better experience.

The ISG operation reminds me of typical bureaucratic behavior. I dealt with my fair share of bureaucracy during my career in the U.S. Army, which is quite common in government run organizations. One dictionary definition for bureaucracy is; a system of administration marked by officialism, red-tape and proliferation. When an organization devotes excessive time, reverence and adherence to official procedures and regulations it breeds bureaucracy. And when an organization “is too big for its own good” as the saying goes, good management practices can get lost within the organization itself.

To explain the inexcusable experience I had with ISG would require devoting an entire white paper to the topic. I do not have the time, so I will sum the experience up using bullet points.

Before I start I would like to say that as a business owner if there is one thing I understand it’s good customer service. The automaker is ISG’s paying customer, but where ISG misses the mark, at least through my personal experience, is understanding that the real customer is the vehicle end-user. Automaker’s really need to understand this too, if customer retention is important to them. I have owned six Dodge (now Ram) trucks during my lifetime, and now seven after enduring this fiasco. I must say though I view Chrysler and Ram Trucks differently now, just knowing they are affiliated with an organization like ISG. When a hard working individual spends $50,000 on a truck and then has to endure this process the last thing they want or need is poor customer service and incompetency.

After the amount of leg-work I did in locating a replacement truck, contacting the dealer and attempting to communicate with ISG, this transaction should have been completed within 15 days. Unfortunately I am convinced with all the red-tape, and a representative who made it clear on numerous occasions that ISG has 45 to 60 days to complete the transaction, the process will never be completed sooner for other individuals going through this in the future.

During the initial 3 to 5 day waiting period, to hear from the ISG rep, I researched ISG on the internet. I was alarmed at the number of complaints I read on various car and truck forums, so there were concerns early on.

Here is a recap of my ISG experience:

  • 13 Nov 15: I was told ISG would contact me within 3 to 5 working days.
  • 19 Nov 15: ISG rep contacted me on the 5th working day. He sent an email explaining the process and informed me he was off work the following day (a Friday). I explained to him I already located a replacement truck and he said he would contact the dealer to see if they would be willing to work with me on this matter. It was the same dealer I purchased the 2014 truck from.
  • The ISG rep called on Monday the 23rd and told me he contacted the dealership, but he could not get a hold of the GM or other dealer principles. He was giving them until Wednesday the 25th to respond back. I thought it was odd that he would not continue to call until he reached somebody he could speak to. He also informed me he was off work from Thanksgiving, through the following Tuesday.
  • I did not hear from the ISG rep by the 25th so I emailed him to see if the dealer GM contacted him. He told me he called the dealership again and could not make contact with the GM. I was concerned the replacement truck would be sold over the long weekend and informed the rep that I knew the GM and could contact him directly to see if he would work with me, and hold the truck. The ISG rep said to wait until the following Tuesday, and he would make contact with the GM. He continued to tell me ISG needs to know if the dealer will work with us before he could do anything else. I knew it was not that difficult to reach a dealership manager who is in the business of selling vehicles, so I emailed the dealership GM and this was his response sent back to me on the 25th.  “Yes Mark I do remember you. ISG needs to get their stuff over to us pronto and I’ll get the process started. If I still have the truck and can get ISG to send me the paperwork to start…I will certainly hold it with a minimal deposit. Have a great Thanksgiving.”
  • Side note: It is my opinion that ISG could easily have contacted the GM on the 20th, 23rd, 24th or 25th and initiated the paperwork so the dealer could at a minimum hold the truck I was interested in.
  • The new truck sales manager from the dealership contacted me on 3 December saying he would be handling the replacement process on the dealer end. He said he was sending the documentation to ISG that day, but that they have had problems in the past getting confirmation back from ISG that ISG received the paperwork.
  • I did not hear anything from ISG so I emailed the rep on 7 December. He did not respond to my email on the 7th, but called me on the 8th. He said he was still trying to contact the GM at the dealership to see if they were willing to work with me! I could not believe what I was hearing. I told the ISG rep the new truck sales manager at the dealership sent the documentation to ISG on the 3rd of December. I also informed the ISG rep I was going to bring this matter to the attention of Ram Trucks media relations, and immediately after hanging the phone up the ISG rep called back (didn’t email, but called) saying he located the documentation sent from the dealership on 3 December. He also made it clear that they were still within their 7 to 10 day time period to respond back to me with an offer. Why does somebody need to wait 7 to 10 days when you can get it done now!
  • If I did not take the initiative to contact the dealership and follow-up with ISG I would still be waiting for ISG to make the initial contact with the dealer. This is absolutely unacceptable. The consumer is already frustrated and under a great deal of stress with an expensive vehicle that has major problems, and then has to deal with an organization that stretches every step of the process to the maximum allowable time frame to complete each step.
  • Two weeks into this process, not counting weekends and holidays, based on the ISG reps comments I am to believe he is still waiting to see if the dealership is even willing to work with me. The dealership GM and sales manager were both aware of the situation and ready work with me as soon as ISG did its job.
  • 16 Dec 15: I emailed the ISG rep in the morning asking for an update, in writing, on the status of my case. I did not hear anything, so I called him at 4 PM. There was no answer so I left a message. At 5:30 PM I called the Chrysler ISG number and left a message with the reacquisition team.
  • Note: Through the entire process the ISG reps responded very little by email, almost as though they did not want a written record of the events, and many times they never returned my phone calls.
  • I contacted the ISG rep several days before Christmas about the vehicle transfer. I informed him I was locked into an interest rate until the first of the year and needed to get this done prior to 1 January 2016. I also told him the dealership was aware of everything and willing to assist in any way they can.
    * Note: The dealership responded immediately to every email or phone call I ever made to them.
    The ISG rep said he could not reach the GM at the dealership, but he would contact the transfer agent and make arrangements to do the vehicle transfer the week after Christmas.
  • My wife also received a call from a woman with the Chrysler reacquisition team saying it should be no problem to complete the transfer the week following Christmas, and that the transfer agents name was Kenneth.
  • On 28 December I emailed the ISG rep asking when the transfer would take place. He said he was waiting for corporate documents since the truck was in our business name. I requested to know what documents or forms they needed and he could not tell me. I called my CPA and had them fax corporation documents to ISG, but he still insisted they required additional paperwork. How can you send somebody documents when they cannot tell you what they need?
  • I called the ISG rep twice and the Chrysler reacquisition ISG number twice, leaving messages each time, but nobody returned my phone calls.
  • The ISG rep called my wife after I talked to him on 28 December and told her he got the corporate documents approved, but the transfer would not happen until the following week. I sent another email telling the ISG rep the transfer was going to take place that Wednesday or Thursday regardless of what ISG said, and that I wanted his immediate supervisors contact information.
  • A few minutes later his manager called. I told her I could no longer work with the ISG rep and that I wanted the transfer to be completed that week. She said the transfer agent (who was supposedly already arranged) could not be at the dealership by that Thursday. I informed her the dealer was willing to make the transfer without the agent being present and she agreed.
  • When I arrived at the dealership on the December 30th the transaction was completed by the dealer. It was a simple matter of inspecting my truck for damage and me releasing Chrysler. The sales manager told me an ISG transfer agent, who was there for another vehicle replacement, had just left prior to us arriving there. He also reaffirmed his past experiences with ISG as being bad for the customer.

Initially I thought I might chalk this up as a one-time bad occurrence until hearing what the dealership and other folks on numerous forums had to say about the way ISG operates. I find it interesting that on Stericycle’s (ISG) website you read phrases about how wonderful they are at dealing with customer’s expectations, and how they can help manage the most sensitive of your customer relationships, but in reality it results in one of the worst experiences you may ever go through.

I went into this process with certain expectations, but unfortunately had nothing but disappointment after disappointment. The only way this process was completed in 31 days was because I forced ISGs hand to do their job. If I had not found a replacement truck, made arrangements with the dealer and insisted ISG complete each step of the process at or before their bureaucratic timeline I would still be waiting and wondering when the rep was going to contact me again.

I can’t help but think these excessive timelines and unnecessary steps, paperwork and processes are costing automakers fortunes that could otherwise be invested on something more useful, like ensuring the individual going through this process is treated with the utmost respect and decency. And I am sure when the folks at ISG read this post they will insist that this guy (meaning me) does not understand the process, paperwork and everything else involved. That might be true in some instances, but I can honestly say that in my case this was a 15 day process maximum, that took 31 days to complete, and if the ISG rep had his way would have taken 60 days!

It is utter nonsense that is bad business for automakers, but more-so for unsuspecting individuals who simply want their new vehicle to operate properly, and when it doesn’t wants resolution without the bureaucratic headaches that ISG drags into the mix.

Mark J. Polk

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