The Journey

Thoughts on customer service

Recently I had to take my Suzuki V-Strom 1000 in for some unexpected service due to a recall related to three separate electrical issues. It’s an experience that’s annoyed me on many levels, not least of which being the fact I can no longer hold reliability as an advantage over competitors.

Up until January, if you had asked me about the ‘Strom I would have told you that it was at least as good as (if not in some cases better than) the Triumph Tiger 800 XRx or KTM 1050 Adventure or Honda Africa Twin, whilst being more reliable than the first two and cheaper than all three. Indeed, Triumph’s proclivity for recalls has always been my primary reason for shying away from the brand, despite my fondness for the aesthetics of many of its models.
I am also particularly annoyed with Suzuki UK for waiting more than a month after the recall was issued in the United States to act in Britain, despite the fact one of the problems was first identified on a UK owner’s bike. (Though, admittedly, I have no idea how these things work and perhaps Suzuki UK is not to blame for the slowness)
There is a theory that the myriad recalls Harley-Davidson has issued over the years is something that actually works to the company’s advantage, but I can’t imagine the same could be said for Suzuki. Not a premium brand and lacking many (if any) manufacturer-exclusive dealerships, a recall of Suzuki products only creates opportunity and incentive for the customer to investigate other brands.
Which is what I found myself doing on the day I took my bike in to be inspected. I was at Fowlers of Bristol, a large multi-brand dealership, and started by heading upstairs to investigate the KTM 1050 Adventure. KTM has apparently realized that its initial pricing of the model was too ambitious (conveniently it realized this after MCN, the UK’s largest moto publication pointed out that “(t)he KTM is a corking bike, but it doesn’t deliver enough to demand 11 grand“) and is now offering a £1,500 trade-in bonus and free panniers to help bring it closer to the ‘Strom in value.

Unfortunately, Fowlers didn’t have any 1050s on display, so I went down to the next floor to check out the Yamaha Super Ténéré. The bike’s shaft drive appeals to me, as does cruise control on the high-spec version. There is word that the bike hasn’t been selling terribly well and, as such, is also the sort of machine that can be had for considerably less than its list price.

Before I had a chance to investigate these rumors, however, I was called back to the service department to be informed that the problem that Suzuki’s recall had been issued to remedy had already affected my bike. The insulation on my bike’s wiring harness had burned through. I was told that my bike was unsafe to ride and that Fowlers would order a new wiring harness, but that it would take several days.

“OK, that’s fine…” I said, waiting for the service desk person to identify the problem that the person in front of her –– dressed in motorcycle gear –– might have with this plan.

“So, we’ll call you in a few days when your bike is ready,” she said.

“And how shall I get home?” I asked.

A millisecond pause as she read the look on my face that said : You have no idea how quickly this situation can turn sour.

“I’ll be happy to issue you with a courtesy bike,” she said. “It’s a Triumph Tiger 800.”

And just as quickly as that, I was reminded of why I go to the trouble to ride past one Suzuki dealership to get to Fowlers. The Tiger 800, meanwhile, has been a lot of fun and helped to alter my previously negative perception of the model.

My attitude hasn’t changed necessarily –– I still think it is ugly, I still have issues with its gearbox, I still don’t trust it, and I still wouldn’t choose it over the V-Strom 1000 –– but I’m no longer as critical. There is a lot of fun to be had with that triple. A lot of fun. So much, in fact, that if it were possible to do a straight trade of my ‘Strom for a Tiger 800 XRx I might –– might –– be willing to overcome my complaints about the bike.

It isn’t possible, though. I’ve looked into the numbers. The KTM, however, I’m still debating. And if I could find a Super Ténéré at the right price…