How bad UX/CX damages the relationship with the brand in the long term – changing tyres at Audi

Audi is currently providing an example of how digitalisation is completely misunderstood, how it creates processes that are hostile to customers and what happens when engineers are allowed to play UX designer.

It’s October again – it’s getting cold. It’s time to change the tyres. I drive a Q8 e tron Sportback with all-inclusive service. This means that the tyres are also stored and are changed every six months. What has this process looked like so far? And how has it now been “optimised” and digitalised by Audi?

A year ago (analogue): I call my Audi partner and describe my plans. The lady on the phone asks for my details. These only consist of the licence plate number and my name. After a short search, I am identified as a customer. An appointment offer is made, the appointment is found. Do I need a replacement car free of charge? No, but thank you.
The day has come. I drive to Audi, sit down in the waiting area, drink a Coke. A little later, I get my car back with the winter tyres. So far so good. An analogue but smooth experience.

Today (digital): Now the journey starts exactly the same today – I call my Audi partner and ask for an appointment to change my tyres. Here I am stopped. I now have to make the appointment online. Okay, absolutely fine. Information I may have missed. I hang up. Now I look for the appointment centre on the relevant website. I’m not bribed with intuitiveness here – clipping menus, +30 options on my start page. But that’s another topic. I find the appointment centre through a huge pop-up at the bottom of the screen. This is where the real drama begins. I’m sitting on the couch, it’s 2°C outside. The first question: When would I like an appointment? Okay, you don’t even know who I am yet, do you? But that’s fine. Then identical to the telephone procedure, the licence plate number. Not an issue. Then it’s on to the mileage? As a customer, should I have that in my head at all times? I remember that you can call up the mileage in the Audi app (which would also be a topic in itself). So I switched to the Audi app. Wait for the update. There it is, the mileage. Switched back to the website. Autoreload – all over again. So select appointment again, enter licence plate number, mileage. It fits. Oh, there are more questions? My vehicle identification number. Seriously? A number that I probably only need for this one moment. Where can I find it again? Not intuitively in the Audi app, of course. The easiest way is probably on the vehicle itself on the windscreen.
So I put on my jacket, went outside with the website open and wiped the windscreen clean in 2°C to type the number into the field. Quickly back inside on the warm couch. It goes on. The date of the first registration – probably I can find it in the vehicle licence in the glove compartment. So back out to the car, to the glove compartment to read off the first registration number. Back on the couch. Then the last question: the contact e-mail. How did the lady on the phone last year know my e-mail address? Oh, from the system that also knows my licence plate number. Why doesn’t the online system? The previously free replacement car is now being offered to me online without any further information as an additional cost. Does the system not recognise my package? Or is there no longer a free replacement car for me? I won’t find out here.
Finally done. I have the appointment with 20 minutes of extra work and after putting on and taking off my jacket twice and going out into the cold. I was lucky because my car is parked right outside my front door. At least I didn’t have to walk up five flights of stairs. But hey: it’s digital!

Conclusion: Digitising a process does not mean transferring as much work as possible to the customer, but ideally making the process more efficient for both sides or even automating it completely. My car automatically downloads updates and transmits data such as mileage etc. online at any time – which is why this data is also displayed in my Audi app. Audi itself can retrieve this data, but probably doesn’t want to provide me with a better user experience as a result. German data protection? Tesla can do that in Germany too.

In other words: an annoyed customer in the morning. A bad experience with the brand. At the same time, I am observing similar processes in one of our Tesla company cars. All of the points mentioned above work much better there.

But who is to blame? By no means the car dealers, who are trying to implement the sometimes absurd requirements of the car brands in an increasingly difficult market, but who seem to receive no support for good UX/CX and digitalisation and instead have to create isolated solutions themselves in order to provide their customers with a good customer experience. Will dealer loyalty eventually break down if the brand doesn’t value the relationship?

Further suggestions for improvement:

An automated reminder when a tyre change is due via WhatsApp or SMS with a link to make an appointment online would be a huge gain for the customer experience without much extra effort. The brand thinks for me, takes the effort out of my hands – a positive association.
AFTER the appointment I receive an appointment reminder by SMS – why not before?
A single piece of identification information is enough! Either e-mail, licence plate number, name or vehicle identification number – not all together.

So Audi: If you were to deal a little with customer-centred UX, you could positively surprise your customers. Or are you not interested?