Never underestimate your Client’s Complaint, no matter how funny it might seem!
This is a real story that happened between the customer of General Motors and its Customer-Care Executive. Please read on…..
A complaint was received by the Pontiac Division of General Motors:
‘This is the second time I have written to you, and I don’t blame you for not answering me, because I sounded crazy, but it is a fact that we have a tradition in our family of Ice-Cream for dessert after dinner each night, but the kind of ice cream varies so, every night, after we’ve eaten, the whole family votes on which kind of ice cream we should have and I drive down to the store to get it. It’s also a fact that I recently purchased a new Pontiac and since then my trips to the store have created a problem….
You see, every time I buy a vanilla ice-cream when I start back from the store my car won’t start. If I get any other kind of ice cream, the car starts just fine. I want you to know I’m serious about this question, no matter how silly it sounds “What is there about a Pontiac that makes it not start when I get vanilla ice cream, and easy to start whenever I get any other kind?” The Pontiac President was understandably skeptical about the letter but sent an Engineer to check it out anyway.
The latter was surprised to be greeted by a successful, obviously well educated man in a fine neighborhood. He had arranged to meet the man just after dinner time, so the two hopped into the car and drove to the ice cream store. It was vanilla ice cream that night and, sure enough, after they came back to the car, it wouldn’t start.
The Engineer returned for three more nights. The first night, they got chocolate. The car started. The second night, he got strawberry. The car started. The third night he ordered vanilla. The car failed to start.
Now the engineer, being a logical man, refused to believe that this man’s car was allergic to vanilla ice cream. He arranged, therefore, to continue his visits for as long as it took to solve the problem. And toward this end he began to take notes: He jotted down all sorts of data: time of day, type of gas uses, time to drive back and forth etc.
In a short time, he had a clue: the man took less time to buy vanilla than any other flavor. Why? The answer was in the layout of the store. Vanilla, being the most popular flavor, was in a separate case at the front of the store for quick pickup. All the other flavors were kept in the back of the store at a different counter where it took considerably longer to check out the flavor.
Now, the question for the Engineer was why the car wouldn’t start when it took less time. Eureka – Time was now the problem – not the vanilla ice cream!!!! The engineer quickly came up with the answer: “vapor lock”.
It was happening every night; but the extra time taken to get the other flavors allowed the engine to cool down sufficiently to start. When the man got vanilla, the engine was still too hot for the vapor lock to dissipate!!!
Even crazy looking problems are sometimes real and all problems seem to be simple only when we find the solution, with cool thinking.
11 Replies to “Vanilla ice cream that puzzled general motors – amazing”
Like this story
awesome story… 😀 😀
Very interesting story.
A lean alternative to this incident might have been as follows: The car design engineers built in controls that log every detail about the cars activities in the on-board computer (think black box recorder, without GPS tracking to avoid a privacy debacle!). For Internet connected cars, this data is sent back to a central database in real-time, otherwise the data is retrieved whenever the car is serviced. Back in HQ, the automated Big Data analysis algos detected an unusual pattern of failed car starts occurring in a particular model of cars. A data mining engineer was alerted and started looking for a correlation in the data. Running a query on the gap between car stop and car start timestamps, it was clear that failed starts always occurred when the gap was within a certain range. The engineer escalates the issue with the design team, whilst creating a bulletin for the customer service department. In the meantime, a man was buying some vanilla ice cream one night and he receives a call from his car company. He was pleasantly surprised that they already knew about his strange vanilla ice cream problem and were working on a fix! 2 weeks later, there was a recall for his car and his problem was resolved!
But, please tell me a company which acts like this.
Very nice story. I use this in my interactions with the team when we see/face a different/peculiar problem.
Had you checked by buy sometime for the vanilla ice cream and start the car??
Very nice story and the teaching from the story is that we should not neglect any problem though it seems small or stupid
Very insightful story. I always use this story as an appetizer for my ‘Critical Thinking’ course for the students.
Lovely!! It really needs patience and brains to resolve such issues. Awesome job
Absolutely interesting. But do all companies have what it takes to investigate such complaints. You will easily be dismissed.