BMW & The BS Customer Experience

BMW & The BS Customer Experience

You’ve likely had an excellent customer experience. You’ve also likely had a few bad customer experiences.  Irritating is sometimes the only way to describe the bad experiences.

But what you may not have considered is what lead to that bad customer experience, and, how those things can also lead to a great customer experience with proper training, engagement, and execution.

I recently had a real life miserable customer experience with one brand discussed in this article, and a real life excellent customer experience,with another brand. Both were primarily due to the same thing – processes. Processes are how your business gets work done, how you execute on your mission, how you deliver customer service excellence, and how you make money.

Process and customer experience relate to one another.

A bad customer experience is often the result of poorly documented, poorly communicated, and poorly executed processes. Processes impact culture and employee and customer engagement.

I’ll share with you my negative customer experience – the impacts of poor processes and communication – along with tips for improving the customer experience…

Let me set the stage…

After a long time of skimping and saving (and dorking out to specs and doing hours of fun research) I was blessed enough to be able to afford a car I’ve wanted for a long time. A new BMW X1 M Sport. The car was purchased new and is not even a year old. I recently received a recall notice on the car which required I take it back to the dealership for service. This was the first time I had to deal with a service issue so I was unsure of the – process.

I called the dealership service department to ask about the process, and timing for bringing in the car for a warranty repair, and to make sure they had the part in stock. I was informed that they had the part in stock, no reservation was required, a loner would be given if needed, and the entire repair should take no more than an hour. I had a very busy schedule but wanted this safety recall repaired promptly. So, I scheduled an hour into my day to get the car fixed. 

What happened next appalled me both professionally and personally.

I arrived at the dealership and pulled up my car. A young kid with attitude asks for my keys and says “why you here?” I told him and showed him the recall notice. He replies, “well who’s your service advisor and what time is your reservation?” I told him I don’t have one as when I called I was told it wasn’t necessary. He then shoves my keys back at me with a paper and says “you need to go inside and speak to the desk.”

My customer experience already began on a negative note. NOT a good first impression.

I go inside expecting to walk up to the Service counter. Instead, I just see a long counter with no signage. I started walking past to see if Service was around the corner and I hear a woman say “where are you going. Was your name called?” I said, “huh?” She then replies, “you need to check in at the main counter and wait for your appointment with your advisor.” When I explained I didn’t have one, as when I called I was told it wasn’t needed, she yelled over to a girl behind the counter to help me. I then had to repeat myself and tell that girl why I was there and hand her the recall notice. She replied, “well you’ll have to wait to speak to an advisor and I don’t know if we have the part.” I told her I had called and was told they had the part and I didn’t need an appointment, and it would take an hour, and that’s all the time I allotted. Now, I’m already getting annoyed with all the attitude, but agreed to wait a bit for a service advisor. I also then asked her to please get me someone more senior to speak with while I’m waiting. She replied, “uh, ok fine.”

After standing there being ignored for about 10 minutes, I walked back up to the counter to remind the women I spoke with  I only budgeted an hour for the repair and want the safety recall fixed before a long car trip tomorrow. I then reiterated my request to speak to someone more senior about all this. A few minutes later a Service Manager walks out to the counter and greets me with “what’s your problem, what are you here for.” Again, with attitude. I told him why I was there and the issue. He said, “well you’re in queue and you’ll have to wait.” It was at this point my professional mindset switched on per customer experience and process. I then proceeded to calmly tell him why I’m upset with the process, communication, and experience; and mentioned I’m especially attuned to these things since part of what I do for a living is process improvement and customer experience work. His reply “we don’t need this crap. We don’t have to service your car. I’m getting your keys and you need to leave.”

Again, I was appalled. Again, he had attitude and tone. He didn’t even bother to do his homework before approaching me. He didn’t ask his staff why I was there, what I was waiting for, or why I was frustrated and asked for a manager – poor communication and process leading to a poor customer experience! He didn’t offer any solution or resolution. Through all of this, I remained calm. While he was searching for my keys, I picked up the phone and called BMW North America Customer Service. As I was on the phone with them, the Service Manager tosses my keys at me and tells me “you can go find your car and leave.” TAo this day has yet to even offer an apology for his unprofessional behavior. The customer service representative on the phone heard this. At least she promptly apologized. She then recommended I go speak with a higher up.

I was given the name of a Sales Director. After telling him the experience, one would like to think he would apologize and then just take care of the issue, and schedule the repair. Nope. He proceeded to tell me how great he is, how great their service department is (check the public customer feedback, they’re not great) and then make excuses for the behavior of the Service Manager while telling me how great he is and how he wants us to “form a relationship.”  I interjected, mentioned what I do for a living, and told him it’s now been almost an hour and I have another meeting so I don’t have time for a debate. He then replied “we f&*ked up. I’ll care take of it.”

That was 3 months ago!

The customer service claim is still open with BMW North America. They conducted dealership outreach, as they call it. I received 2 calls from another Service Manager at the dealership asking me to contact him to schedule the repairs. No communication directly from the Sales Director. No resolution. No apologies. No repairs. It’s even been escalated to a Case Manager. The Case Manager informed me they can document all these issues internally; however, they can’t exercise any control or influence over the dealerships or force them to apologize or make repairs. As I told him, well then, it seems as the corporate parent company BMW North America can’t guarantee customer safety, can’t guarantee continuity of service, can’t guarantee consistency of process and can’t guarantee a positive customer experience.

I’ve now had interactions with dealership employees, and corporate employees, and neither had the training or authority (or possibly desire) to resolve my concerns.

My customer service issues have not been resolved. And, as much as I love driving my car, my view of the brand has significantly declined – and I haven’t been shy in sharing.

Poor communication and poor processes.

Why do poor processes matter?

Sometimes we have a poor customer experience because of the person we are interacting with is just rude or non-attentive. As was the issue in my case. That’s not something a business can always predict or control. Though it is something they should genuinely apologize for instead of making excuses. In those cases, you can fault the business to an extent –  though bad apples exist everywhere.

But what about a poor customer experience due to poor culture, poor processes, poor communication, or poor training?

In cases of these process type issues, the fault lies with the business. These types of issues have just as much of an impact on customer experience, brand loyalty, and revenues as a rude and inattentive employee, if not worse. Yes, the Service Manager had an attitude. However, this entire issue could have been avoided if BMW North America required all dealerships to follow a specific process in a situation such as this (I’ve got a few I’ve provided that clients tell me work well for them). Poor customer service leads to loss of new customers, damage to reputation, increased employee turnover, and reduction in revenues. Customer acquisition isn’t cheap – customer retention is a better way to go. This dealership failed in that area.

Improving customer experience – by providing clearly defined and easily understandable processes and training – offers many organizations a bigger return on investment.

How can BMW and other businesses resolve these type of issues?

Communication Communication with the customer is imperative to great customer service and increased brand loyalty. Don’t assume. Be prepared prior to interacting with a customer. Take the time to listen to their needs and concerns. Have an understanding of why they’re frustrated. Understand their issue and their relationship with your business. Do your homework prior to engaging with them for resolution. Customers are like snowflakes – no 2 are exactly the same. The process may be different to satisfy one customer as opposed to another. As I’m fond of saying “Ask. Listen. Deliver.”

Educate – The BMW employees didn’t seem educated on how to resolve my issues. No process in place. They stared at me with a blank stare and a “duh” face when I asked them what could be done to resolve the miscommunication and accommodate my repairs within the time frame I was told. And when I asked the Service Manager how they planned to resolve my concerns outside of just waiting, he turned into a petulant screaming child. They were not trained on what processes to follow to resolve such customer service related issues. To prevent this in your business, if processes do exist for customer resolution, make them simple to understand and follow, and make them consistent across locations. Educate customer facing employees at all locations on how to execute such processes. If processes don’t exist, then allow for customer and employee feedback mechanisms to help create such new processes. And educate employees on how to respond appropriately to feedback.

Accountability –  Regardless if poor customer service is related to lack of processes, lack of training on processes, overly complex processes or poor understanding of current processes – you need to make sure someone is accountable to the customer. I’m not talking about people who are assigned to respond to complaints via social media. If a person is voicing a concern via social media then the issue has already gone unresolved during an interaction with an employee. Assign a voice and a face to the customer for such concerns at the first point of the initial interaction. Make sure those folks have the skills, training, and authority to calmly and rationally resolve such issues in the moment or immediately following. I should never have had to contact BMW North America Customer Relations. This issue should have been resolved at the dealership. If escalation is required by a customer, don’t give the customer the run around, don’t make the customer repeat themselves to multiple people. Assign a single point of contact and empower them with the authority and supporting processes to resolve the matter to the customers satisfaction.

Process related customer service issues at this dealership have already impacted my experience with BMW. I’ve shared that experience via social media and word of mouth, with corporate, with BMW local dealership competition, with dealerships of other competitive brands, with friends and family, with professional colleagues, and I even have an anonymous case study of this issue I now use as an exercise in customer service and sales training I provide.

Developing streamlined, consistent, and easily understandable processes, and training customer facing employees on how to follow them, is a great step toward creating a great customer experience. A great customer experience results in increased brand loyalty, reduction in customer acquisition costs, and increased profits!

It seems to me, at least per those locations and individuals I interacted with, BMW has a long way to go in this area.

How do your processes impact your customer experience and how do you rate against your competition?

About Scott Span, MSOD: is CEO & Lead Consultant of Tolero Solutions – a Leadership Effectiveness & Change Management firm.  He helps clients in achieving success through people, creating organizations where people enjoy working and customers enjoy doing business.

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