I am an ardent follower of Indian startups and I take interest in understanding how startups maintain the quality of service as they scale. I had heard about Zoomcar from few of my colleagues and I thought to give it a spin for a much awaited vacation. Unfortunately, the rented Zoomcar vehicle broke down and what I discovered about customer service, Zoomcar’s processes and online reputation of Zoomcar was agonizingly shocking. Just for your info, Zoomcar has raised around 46 MN USD of funds from multiple investors. (https://www.crunchbase.com/organization/zoomcar-india#/entity )
I booked Zoomcar (Honda Amaze, KA-03-AB-5761, Booking ID - JPS6VY2SV ) from 13th Aug, 4:00 AM to 16th Aug, 10:00 PM for my journey from Bangalore to Hampi. I paid 300 INR extra for pick and drop of the car at my house. My wife and I were going to travel in this car.
Zoomcar provided a poorly maintained vehicle after a 1.5 hr delay. This vehicle broke down on the way and Zoomcar made us (my 7 months pregnant wife and me) wait for 6 hours on a highway in scorching sun. Zoomcar also made us pay for cab charges and fuel. I am yet to receive the refund after 7 days and from the recent conversation with them, I got to know that they are charging 5K for vehicle damage without any evidence. They didn't even offer me an explanation on what's the damage.
No compliance to service commitments
Since, I hired Zoomcar for the first time, I made a call on 12th Aug’s evening to understand their delivery process and other terms and conditions. Call center guy told me that by 3.30 AM driver will call you to understand the address and deliver the vehicle by 4:00 AM.
At 3.31 AM 13th Aug, I received an SMS to pick the booked vehicle from Garuda Mall. I called call center, they told me it’s a default message that goes to everyone so it’s a mistake. They also said that driver will call me in sometime to deliver the vehicle, I suspected he may not call and hence I asked for driver’s number. I waited for 15 minutes but didn’t get any call so I called the driver and to my surprise he was sleeping. He told that he is sleeping in the car in Garuda mall, I informed him that he has to deliver the vehicle to my residence, to which he said he has no such instruction. I called call center back and informed them about this conversation.Customer care made another false commitment of delivering the car in next 30mins. After waiting for 30 mins,I called the driver again around 4.20 AM , he told me it will take 30 more minutes as car needs to be refuelled. Driver came with car at 5.30 AM. Driver and another staff who accompanied him, were not in any uniform or carried any id’s to ascertain that they are from Zoomcar and of course not a word of apology for coming 1.5 hrs late . I inspected the vehicle, vehicle was extremely dirty from inside as well as outside and seat covers had holes. Next I realized that car didn’t have fuel, I was expected to fuel the vehicle after having paid in advance for 900kms on this car. I asked him why he lied about filling the tank and waiting at petrol station, to which he had no response.
I had no idea that it’s commonplace for Zoomcar to make false commitments to customers and then shamelessly ignore their complaints. During this 1.5hrs of ordeal we didn’t receive a single call from customer care to determine whether we received the car or not.
Poorly maintained vehicles
Vehicle that I was given had travelled ~63000+ KMs. I filled the tank and started driving. From the beginning , I was facing trouble in driving the car - it was making noise, giving jerks every now and then and gear change wasn’t smooth. Initially, I felt it was a temporary problem and kept going on as these glitches were intermittent and occurred every 15-20 Kms. While driving with the continuous noise for more than 70 Kms, car gave me a huge jerk and I had to immediately pull the car off road. I felt as if there was some problem with wheel , I stopped to inspect but couldn’t find any problem with the vehicle. At this time, my wife made numerous calls to Zoomcar’s customer care . Finally after trying for more than 30 mins she got through to customer care and asked about Roadside assistance. Meanwhile, I kept driving. Divya from customer care suggested us to go to a service station and get the car inspected as any roadside assistance will take hours to reach. We told we will do it if we find any service station.With no viable option suggested for this onward journey we agreed to drive the car to Hampi while our lives were at risk. We had asked for a replacement ,which was denied. Then we asked for proper inspection and servicing of this car at Hampi as we didn’t want to further risk our lives driving this vehicle back to Bangalore. Divya assured that Zoomcar will be able to service the car earliest at Hampi. She also promised that RSA will reach us within an hour of taking our request and take the car for servicing once we reach our hotel in Hampi.
I was cautious while driving this car and wasn’t exceeding a speed of 60kmph . Within minutes of ending this conversation with Divya the vehicle broke down in the middle of the road ,our vehicle jolted and I couldn’t accelerate the vehicle any further, with the pace that our vehicle had , I was able to navigate it to the side lane.Thank God that we were not hit by the vehicle behind us when our vehicle’s speed suddenly dropped to near 0 levels in the middle of a highway otherwise, Zoomcar might have held us responsible for rash driving.
Later, from the Honda service center I got to know that the left drive shaft had come out and it was a pure mechanical failure. I also got to know that this car was serviced at 49000 Kms and was due for servicing at 60000 KM as per the recommended schedule but it wasn’t sent for servicing.
Unresponsive customer care & poorly managed roadside assistance.
It was 10:00 AM on a hot day, we were on this highway with no shops or houses around us and that meant no rest room. Since, my wife is expecting , we were anxious. We called customer care, someone told us they are have logged our issue and they will start working on this soon. Another 30 minutes and we didn’t recieve any call back from Zoomcar. We called them back and they again said someone will call back. One hour passed. I complained on social media as my attempt to ask them to connect with a senior person failed. Around 11.30 AM, roadside assistance from Honda called us and told us that they are sending a cab and a towing vehicle which will take around 5-6 hours. I explained to him, we can’t stay there for so long, my wife is 7 months pregnant and there is no restroom around us. It’s extremely risky and life threatening. Trucks and cars were zooming past us at 100-120 kmph and our vehicle would vibrate every time a car passes, my wife was terrified. RSA person said , he will try to expedite and called us back at around 12.30pm to confirm that a cab and RSA will reach us from Davengere asap . Meanwhile , our long and painful wait that involved managing nature’s calls , food and survival inside the heated car continued for next 4 hours. We finally resumed our journey in a cab at 4pm and reached Hampi at 7pm that night after a long and arduous journey of 13 hours.
Disconnected systems, information asymmetry among teams ,disrespectful behaviour of employees & lack of accountability among senior employees
We were constantly calling Zoomcar people about status updates. No one from zoomcar called and updated us, it was always us who called them to figure out what next was in store for us . Meanwhile, honda RSA called us and told a cab has been arranged and it may reach by 4 PM. We asked him what to do with vehicle if cab comes early, can we take the key and move, he said yes. I had asked the same question to Zoomcar customer care also to which they said they will get back to us in few minutes and they never called back. However, Zoomcar guy had told us that we should get the bills for cab so that they can refund the money later. Right in the first call, I made it a point to instruct the Honda RSA guy to send a cab that could give us bills. Cab came around 3:30-3:45 PM , we moved our stuff to cab, and started our journey towards Hampi. After 10 Kms, we got a call from Honda RSA guy telling us to go back and wait till the towing vehicle comes as they have come with a vehicle which would require the car to be moved inside and they would need the key. We asked him to send the towing vehicle to us, we stopped and waited( past a toll). The towing vehicle refused to pay toll and travel to the point where we were waiting as it would cost him a mere Rs 120/- at which point we told that Honda/Zoomcar should have informed us that we need to stay in vehicle unless towing vehicle comes. Now, Honda rep started shouting on us , that he had to make so much effort to bring the towing vehicle and he also denied that he told us to go with key. After having a good 30 minutes discussion, we went back , waited and gave keys to the driver of towing vehicle. Driver of the towing vehicle asked for 300 INR as tip. We were already fed up with everything that had happened and didn’t want this driver to steal anything from the vehicle and then obviously charges would fall on our head so I gave him Rs 100/- tip. We moved ahead towards Hampi finally after 4.30 pm.
After coming back to Bangalore, I repeatedly asked customer care to connect me to some senior person or CEO, Greg as I wanted to explain my case so that Zoomcar can improve the processes to quickly resolve customer problems in future. I was told that all senior people are marked in email@example.com but I didn’t get any response after 1st acknowledgement reply. It makes me think that possibly all senior people are also either aware of such regularly occurring issues or they just don’t care.
Unethical practices of keeping customer’s money
Our struggle didn’t end even on reaching Hampi. When we reached Hampi the cab driver told us he didn’t have a bill to give us. I called Zoomcar and told them about the situation. Zoomcar told me they can’t refund without bills and we should have checked before getting in the cab. I responded that I had already told RSA guy to send a cab that could give us bills. And, if HONDA RSA is Zoomcar’s service provider then don’t they know what kind of cab do they have to send. I talked to Zoomcar’s team leader, and made him talk to the driver as evidence. Driver explained to him that he is a small operator and doesn’t provide bills. After this, Zoomcar team leader said, they will waive off in this case. I told Zoomcar to have a conference call with Honda RSA guy and send me an email that they will refund the cab charges post which only I would pay. They sent an email and I paid 5680/- INR. I had already paid a fee of 16650/- for Zoomcar, which I don’t have and already paid fuel charges of 1485/- which Zoomcar should have paid. Now, I have to pay extra cab charges which they are liable to pay as per the contract.
I asked them that they should refund my money immediately since car is not with me and transaction is over. They replied saying since in system, transaction end date is 16th Aug, 10:00 PM, they would be able to refund the money after 16th Aug. I was also promised that within a day, by 17th Aug, we will receive the fund. They also told that they will refund our return journey and day travel during our stay.
While coming back from Hampi on 16th Aug, I got multiple calls from HONDA service center, where our rented vehicle was taken on 13th Aug. Service center didn’t have any clue whose vehicle is it, what is Zoomcar and who are we ? Most likely, honda RSA person had given them our number. So by 16th Aug, Zoomcar hadn’t even called the service center to know the whereabouts of the vehicle.
When I reached home on the night of 16th Aug I got a call from a driver of Zoomcar, mentioning that he wants to come to my residence and pick up the vehicle. He had no clue that our vehicle broke down and had been towed away. I explained the situation to him.
Charging customers for wrong/unproven/illegitimate reasons
I sent all the bills to firstname.lastname@example.org on night of 16th Aug. Since then, I haven’t received any confirmation on refund , all they say is that they will get back to me shortly and they are waiting for update/service report. As I received several calls from Honda’s service center , I asked them about the problem, they told it was a mechanical failure and left front drive shaft had come out. Till 18th Aug, Car was still in service center in Bellary and no one from Zoomcar had gone there to pick the vehicle or get the service report.
After writing several emails and tweets, on 20th Aug at 10:00 PM , someone from customer care called me to tell me that they will refund the money but there is a Rs 5000/- charge that will be imposed because of some damage in chassis. When I asked him what is the damage ? How does he know that this damage was caused by me, he had no answers and he said he will check and arrange a call in 10 minutes. As expected, that call didn’t happen. It’s same status as of today.
What does Zoomcar’s online reputation suggest ?
This looks like a common story of plenty of customers-
- There are 117 complaints here - http://www.consumercomplaints.in/zoom-car-b111572
2.Check Zoomcar’s NPS here. 61% gave 1 star to Zoomcar. http://www.mouthshut.com/product-reviews/Zoomcar-in-reviews-925668812
3.Tripadvisor is full of -ve reviews about zoomcar.
7. Check their twitter account here- https://twitter.com/ZoomCarIndia. Everyday, they get few customer complaints there too.
Issues uncovered with Zoomcar are common and pretty simple problems. It will be wrong to assume that Zoomcar’s qualified team can’t solve these problems. This makes most of us wonder -
What makes leadership team ignore the irregularities ?
Why leadership team doesn’t takes up the customer service baton and make things right ?
Why Greg is not working like a wartime CEO ?
Is it common fate of all promising startups to become lackadaisical because founders’ equities are diluted ?
Why motivation of employees die ?
Why Jack Ma never lost the intensity to build AliBaba a world class company ?
Greg, would you please offer an explanation ?
BTW, did you notice Greg Moran, CEO of Zoomcar is not on twitter. Any guess, why not ?