During a recent interview with Automotive News Europe, Ian Roberston, head of sales and marketing for BMW, spoke about the many changes BMW is looking to make to improve customer satisfaction and make buying BMWs far quicker and simpler.
One of the first things BMW is looking to do is improve on the BMW Geniuses. The BMW Genius will be there to explain everything about the car to the customer and have the salespeople be just there for the final paperwork part. This will not only make things work a bit smoother, but the customer won’t get the annoying sales pitch and half-assed knowledge that salespeople usually provide (sorry, salespeople). But it will make for a more premium experience when purchasing a BMW and that seems to be BMW’s main goal.
BMW would also like to make the entire purchasing experience much faster. Currently, it can take a few hours to purchase a car, but BMW wants to cut that time down to around 45 minutes, which is no small task. Much of it has to do with the annoying paperwork and hassle that dealerships make customers go through, something BMW feels is very un-premium. “We need to be asking whether we really need nine signatures on a financial services document any more – quite possibly not. We still have a way to go to achieve 45 minutes, but we’re making good steps toward it.”
The Bavarian brand is also looking into having cars delivered to customers and even mobile oil changes. For instance, if a customer needs an oil change, service-people will go to a customers car, in their office parking lot and change the oil there, thus eliminating the customer’s need to go to the dealership and get a loaner car for work that day. “we may use mobile crews to change the oil while the car is parked at the customer’s office, because having to queue up at the service bay at 7 a.m. and take someone else’s car, or ride with someone else, just isn’t premium any more.”
Robertson also talks about how marketing to customers used to be very vague and how brands were never really able to tell if they were resonating with customers. BMW wants to make the brand/customer experience much more of a two-way street, offering customers an experience more tailored to them. “We have 20 million active customer contacts from service to used cars to financial services products, which are held on a variety of different databases. We’re now amalgamating those databases so we can use that connected information to approach customers in a more tailored way. It is not just about selling customers a car but looking at various aspects during someone’s driving lifetime and building a two-way customer relationship which is direct and purposeful.” said Roberston.
In the UK, BMW has every single dealer networked on the back-end of the system, so that a customer can call and interact with a person up to 10 pm, seven days a week and even place and order within 10 minutes. 100 customers in the UK have already done so within the first few weeks of operation.
Robertson also spoke about major city centers in Europe getting rid of personal automobiles. The City of Oslo, the Capital of Norway, wants to ban private cars from the city center by 2019, so Roberston was asked if that affect BMW’s ability to sell to customers. “There will still be many places in the world where today’s ownership cycle remains. But in the major metropolitan areas, mobility 20 years from now will center on autonomous, shared and zero-emissions cars. We will be seeing increasing regulation of that kind and we have to adapt our business model quickly to suit the new paradigms.” he said.
Also, Robertson was asked, possibly tongue-in-cheek, if Mercedes-Benz could spoil BMW’s centenary by stealing the sales crown. To which Roberston responded with “Success isn’t something you can measure by volume alone – a consistent and sustainable performance is also really important. We have been at the top of our business for over 10 years. As a group, with our three brands, we’re way ahead of the competition, not to mention the fact that we are committed to continuing to deliver on our promise to the market for an EBIT margin of 8 percent to 10 percent in our car business. That’s something we take very seriously indeed.”