Harley-Davidson has its well known HOG (Harley Owners Group) membership program. Apart from HOG it also had a separate Road Side Assistance (RSA) program which owners used to tow their motorcycles to the nearest dealership in case of a breakdown, accident or any other issue. Few Harley owners saw the value in a HOG membership and Harley struggled to get owners to renew their membership after the first free year ended. Then someone at Harley came up with the time tested idea of selling a low selling product by bundling it with a high selling product. They clubbed HOG and RSA together. RSA is now called HOG Assist and it is part of a HOG membership.
Today the battery of my Fat Boy conked off and the folks in the Goa Harley-Davidson dealership asked me to get the motorcycle to their workshop using the HOG Assist service. Harley-Davidson uses a company called India Assistance to tow motorcycles. I called their helpline and recited my VIN (Vehicle Identification Number). I was surprised to be told that my motorcycle wasn’t covered under the assistance program and hence I was on my own. I let the guy know that I had renewed my HOG membership four months ago and since RSA was now a part of the HOG membership, my Fat Boy should be enrolled in the assistance program. He put me on hold for a while and then returned to say that he would call the Goa dealership, seek their advice on what to do next and would get back to me.
After hanging up, I called the Chapter Manager of the Goa Chapter and explained the situation to her. She was as alarmed as me and assured me that she would take care of it. She called back a few minutes later letting me know that the records of India Assistance and those of Harley were out of sync or something. She had spoken to the concerned person and sorted things out. I should expect a call from the service company soon.
After half an hour I got a call from a lady from the India Assistance helpline. Much to my amazement, she didn’t ask me for the location of my motorcycle. Instead she requested me to provide proof that I had renewed my HOG membership. Needless to say, I was pretty pissed off. But I stayed calm, went to my computer, found the HOG renewal confirmation email I received from Harley and forwarded it to the email address she provided. The confirmation email had the sentence “We are also glad to inform you that you have been added for unlimited H.O.G. Assistance.” and I made it a point to read it out aloud to her on the phone before forwarding the email.
It was a good thing I was at home. Imagine what would have been my situation if I had broken down on some deserted highway in some corner of India. After another half an hour I got another call from the lady from the India Assistance helpline. This time she asked me to send her proof that I had paid for the HOG membership. Apparently, they had no record of payment. I’m normally quite patient with people working in call centers. But this time I lost it. The conversation went like this.
Me: I don’t give a shit whether you got paid by Harley-Davidson or not. I have already forwarded to you a confirmation email from Harley-Davidson clearly stating that I have been added to HOG Assist. What more do you want?
Her: I understand Sir. But we won’t be able to provide you service unless we get proof that you paid for the HOG renewal.
Me: (trying desperately to stay calm) OK, what exactly do you want?
Her: Any proof of payment will do.
Me: I have a screenshot of a HDFC Bank transfer made to Harley-Davidson India. Will that do?
Her: Err.. yes.
Me: OK, I’m forwarding it to you right now. Stay on the phone till you get the email, go through it and let me know if it works. I don’t want you calling me after another half an hour asking for my birth certificate or something.
After a long and awkward pause I was told that the email was received and its contents would do. After 15 minutes I got a call from the lady at India Assistance asking for the location of my motorcycle. I gave my home address and asked for a assistance vehicle to pick up the motorcycle the next morning at 10 am. After wasting all this time I realized that the Goa dealership would be closed and I didn’t want my motorcycle lying outside all night or stored temporarily somewhere else.
My advice to Harley-Davidson is to get their shit together. Bundling HOG and RSA was a smart move. But now that it’s done, conduct an audit or something and see that no paying HOG member is left stranded at the mercy of an India Assistance call center employee.
My advice to all Harley owners in India who have recently renewed their HOG memberships to call HOG Assist, give them your VIN and ask them whether your motorcycle is enrolled in HOG Assist or not. If not you have the time to figure things out with your Chapter Manager instead of being stuck in the middle of nowhere and arguing with someone on the phone asking for proof that you have renewed your HOG membership and actually paid for the damn thing.
Please share this with all Harley owners you know.