By on November 9, 2010

Dealerships are a pain in the neck. The salesman tries to convince you that they’re your friend (when you know damn well they want as much money as they can squeeze out of you), getting warranty work out of them is sometimes a nightmare and, if you’re buying used, you don’t know what the car has been through. You can write a letter of complaint, but will that really help*? You may get a discounted service as compensation, but will anything REALLY change? Well, BMW wants to shake the dealership experience up a bit. In the customers’ favor.

Contracthireandleasing.com reports that BMW and Mini dealerships across the UK have launched a new customer service system that allows every customer to rate their dealership experience on a five star scale. The system also includes a facility for the customer to leave feedback comments which are posted on the dealer’s website. OMG, eBay scores for BMW dealers?  ”We are committed to providing the very best service for our customer and believe that this level of openness and transparency is not only desirable but essential,” said Tim Abbott, Managing Director of BMW UK.

Customers will be given a unique code, specific to a particular sales or service experience and will be invited to assign a star rating (out of five) and make comments. The comments and ratings will stay on the dealer’s website for 90 days and will be available to anybody who visits the site. For a dealer to score five stars, they have to achieve a stellar rating between 95 and 100 per cent satisfaction. One star means satisfaction is below 20 percent. That dealer shouldn’t get a star, he should be handed a gun with one round in the chamber.

The system has been trialed by BMW and Mini since January 2010. “This is a brave decision,” said Tim Abbott, “There is no hiding place in a retail environment displaying this kind of transparency. But I am confident that our dealers truly understand the importance of satisfied customer. For those who are not yet rated with four to five stars it will drive their future performance and deliver a more focused customer culture.” Translation: sloppy dealers will get an arse-kicking.

Incidentally, a system already exists for the United States. In researching this article I found a website which does rate dealers across the country. The problem with those is that ANYBODY can post feedback on there. Even if you’ve never been to the dealership. A bit like the NHTSA database. Or Dontdatehimgirl.com .

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22 Comments on “BMW Dealers Face The Death Star...”


  • avatar
    Tosbaa

    95-100 is good for 5 stars but %20 for one star is ridiculous. For a (perceived) premium brand anything less than %70 should be unacceptable.  95-100 for five stars, 85-95 for four, 70-85 for three,.. so on so forth. Also, if you aren’t living in somewhere with multiple dealers, ratings are useless anyway. If the your local dealer gets 3 stars and the other nearest gets 4, how many of us would drive 100 miles for routine maintenance or get the car towed after a major problem?
    To sum up my incoherent rambling, if I found a 4 star dealer acceptable, I would buy a Renault or Hyundai.  If one company is claiming to be a premium brand and charge premium prices, they have to have a five star experience.

  • avatar
    Robert Schwartz

    They have been doing this for years. The salesmen know it and they twist hard on you to give them good ratings. The first time it happened to me, I did what they requested even though they had screwed me viciously on my trade in. I will admit that I was an idiot. Since then, I have trash canned their surveys. I don’t see why I have to take a quiz to give them money.

    • 0 avatar
      dwford

      And your experience is exactly why these surveys and the results are garbage. The manufacturer puts such a high premium for the dealer and the salesman on perfect scores, they have no choice but to badger the customer for top marks.
      Where I work, the factory bonuses for top CSI scores actually work out to be more $ per car than I typically get in a commission from the dealer!! So I make damn sure the customer realizes the importance of giving me top scores.
      If the salesman makes the purchase experience painless and stress free, I see no problem with the salesman asking for top scores on these surveys. Most customers don’t realize how much is at stake, and will be a little too honest in the ratings. If the rating scale is 1-10 and you give me a 5 on a category, did I really earn an “F” on that, or are you just trying to give a neutral opinion?

  • avatar
    M 1

    Given the many ways the dealership experience could be improved upon (many would probably say should), a website handing out gold stars is rather underwhelming. And given that the new site is specific to BMW and Mini, how many people are going to trust that the dice aren’t loaded in the first place? Nobody I knew put much faith into Chrysler’s 5-star program. Remember that one?
     
    (The death star? I half expected to read that AT&T was buying BMW. Then I read the first paragraph and expected to discover that the idiot who saddled GM with Saturn’s supposed no-haggle gimmick had been hired by BMW. And instead I found a silly marketing ploy that only applies to the UK. Aren’t you guys due for another run of Volt-bashing articles?)

  • avatar
    tsofting

    Well, I dunno! I am getting tired of these forced-feedback requests! I can’t have a talk with my insurance company about annual mileage without getting attacked by a call-backer wanting to know how the “experience” was. My feedback is that much simpler and very easy to comprehend; if I get really upset over bad service, I tell that straight into the boss’ face, and then take my business elsewhere! A few years ago my ISP was down for some days. The customer service just kept humoring me with incessant lies, so I called the boss of the company and shared my feelings. It sounds incredible, but the next day two guys with two trucks showed up and didn’t leave until they had located and corrected whatever was wrong.

  • avatar
    Syke

    As soon as I started reading this article, I remembered my sister’s experience with Infiniti back when they were new. She had a G20 at the time, and dealers were really getting hammered by the zone office (allotments, etc.) is the survey came back anything but “completely satisfied” (their equivalent of 5-star).

    As a result, the pressure on the customer got insane. Calls from the dealership begging for a “completely satisfied” rating. The ‘thank you as you leave the property sign’ at the dealership said, “Please remember, completely satisfied.” While Beth loved the car, the overbearing dealer survey experience put her into a Volvo 850 for her next car. She was completely disgusted.

    This, to me, was a prime example of good intentions gone completely wrong. It fails to take into account people like me who will rate a good service experience “good” or “satisfied” or 3-star (maybe 4-star). 5-star, “completely satisfied” or “perfect”. At that point the receptionist is doing double duty, or, the mechanic went out of his way to find something wrong that I had no clue was about to hit.

    • 0 avatar
      dwford

      These CSI contacts can get overwhelming. I can’t go get an oil change without getting a phone call and an email about it!! I didn’t realize how bad it has gotten until I leased my current car from my dealership earlier this year. Not only did the manufacturer call – repeatedly, but the dealer robo-called me multiple times, XM radio called, and I got multiple emails, all in the first week! And I work there!
      Now I warn my customers so they aren’t overwhelmed by the number of contacts they will get so that they are not surprised.

  • avatar
    mcr4125

    Like the others said – nothing new here.  When I purchased my car, the BMW salesman repeatedly told me “We EXPECT you to give us a perfect 5 rating.  So when they call you, you must give them a perfect rating.”  He gave me something of a menacing look.  I’m all for feedback, but I got a creepy vibe from the guy (like he’d give me the concrete shoes if I didn’t.)

  • avatar
    TrailerTrash

    Cammy…

    Dealerships are a pain in the neck. The salesman tries to convince you that they’re your friend (when you know damn well they want as much money as they can squeeze out of you),

    Look, I starting to get this feeling about every smile I get.
    Is it me, or do you feel most laughing is really forced and what they are REALLY thinking is “ass! If I wasn’t paid to be here and listen to you I wouldn’t”
    I’m even starting to wonder about my wife! She’s has a calendar in her desk that she crosses off days with!
    Hmmmm…..

    At least on TTAC, I don’t have to see the smirks and hear the muttering. 

  • avatar
    philadlj

    With all the acronyms out there (ICE, NVH, HVAC, OMG, LOL), I’m surprised “We are committed” hasn’t been shortened to simply “WAC”; companies say it so damn much.

    WAC to providing the best…blah blah blah. See? More succinct.

  • avatar
    segfault

    Based upon what I have heard, in the US:  BMW dealers are paid insane amounts of bonus money based upon having a near-perfect customer satisfaction score.  For a larger dealership, it can be over ten thousand dollars per month.  Two or three bad surveys will prevent them from receiving their bonus for the entire month.  So this is why they place so much emphasis on receiving perfect scores from everyone (often to the detriment of actually doing things that would make a customer want to give them a perfect score).  I assume other brands are similar.
     
    From a customer’s perspective, the problem with these surveys is that they are not anonymous, and I have heard of cases where customers have been retaliated against for giving a bad survey.

  • avatar
    BartMack

    I had an 07 335 Coupe for a couple of years, and 2 Cooper S-es before that.. the BMW/MINI dealer here in SE Virginia always, always took care of me. I have another type of car now, but I actually miss their service dept! They were awesome.

  • avatar
    DC Bruce

    This sounds like one of those ideas that some smart-ass right out of B-school, with the ink barely dry on his/her MBA, imposes on everyone.
     
    Oddly enough, my multi-city law firm, afflicted with the same disease, wanted to pay someone to interview clients.  Playing the curmudgeon to the hilt, I said:”Look, it’s simple: if they like you, they come back for more.  If they don’t, they don’t.  When we interview a potential new associate right out of law school, do we tell him/her why we didn’t make him/her an offer?  Of course not.”  Part of our job is to figure out — in real time — whether we are keeping our client’s happy; and the best way to do that is not to pay someone to do a 30-minute telephone survey.”
    I’ve been called by various car dealer feedback outfits, too.  And I give ‘em an honest answer.  The guy who sold us our Pilot a few years ago was first-class all the way.  I’d send my grandmother to him to buy a car, if she were still alive.  So my survey response on him was sky-high.  I want people like that to succeed, and I’ll do whatever I can to help them.  But, if anybody at the dealership ever pressured me for a high rating, I’d come right back at ‘em and say, “Your rating just went down a notch, buddy.”   The key to the whole dealer experience is remembering, at all times, who’s boss: you, the customer.  Various personnel will do their best to try and get you to forget that.

  • avatar
    Bergwerk

    As a former employee of a BMW store I must make a point here.  If you are getting push back on warranty service it is the manufacturer, not the dealer.  The dealer is paid for providing service, period.  It doesn’t mater if the reimbursement comes from the manufacturer or customer.  BMW (and several other manufacturers) even pay all maintenance costs during the warranty period.  This guaranteed income is the life blood of a dealership; so much so, that the dealer will call when service is due in order to schedule you in.  Today there is little or no profit in new car sales…  to survive in today’s retail climate, a successful dealer must have great service and used-car departments.

    As a customer of that dealership and a customer in general I must also add that survey fatigue is real.  I will no longer take phone surveys for minor routine interactions.  I will however respond to e-mails…for now.

    • 0 avatar
      DC Bruce

      My experience with my CPO BMW bears out your comments.  My car was two years old when I bought it, so it was still under BNW’s factory maintenance plan.  On my final trip under the plan, the dealer voluntarily replaced the water pump, which was just a tiny bit noisy at cold start up.  I hadn’t even complained about it.  I now know that’s a known issue with this engine, so I’m grateful for the dealer having replaced it at BMW’s expense.  I’m sure I would have to have replaced it in the 6 years I have owned the car since then.

  • avatar
    AggieKnight

    From my reading of the article this isn’t a new development nor is it welcome.  When I purchased my BMW last year, I was pressured with “all 5′s” on the survey, but because I had a really bad experience (and have not returned to the dealership since), I rated them very low.  This supposedly private information resulted in several calls from their management who offered me no real resolution but definitely wanted to complain about the effect that my survey had on them.
    My takeaway from the experience was two fold:
    1. These surveys are almost always useless.
    2. A bad dealer is a bad dealer.  Survey’s won’t resolve that.

  • avatar
    andyinsdca

    They already do this in the US and yes, it definitely leads to them doing things that don’t lead to good customer service, just going for the ratings. The other problem is that the service writer is the one that gets dinged for stuff beyond his control; for example, at the BMW dealer I use, their phone system is an absolute nightmare for a bunch of different reasons. I severely dinged the dealer after a really bad experience trying to navigate their phones; the ding was aimed at the dealership (service department) as a whole, but despite my giving a fairly extensive explanation as to why, it came right back to the service writer (who I actually like).
    It’s a stupid system.

  • avatar
    sco

    Hmm, how about letting the free market solve the problem.  If my 5 star rating has monetary value to the dealership and if I’m spending my time providing the rating, then perhaps I should be compensated for providing my rating.  My bogus 5 star rating that the dealership so needs may be worth…$100?  Only when consumers stop knucking under will this nonsense stop.

  • avatar
    Sugarbrie

    Audi have been doing this for many years.  I always get a call from Audi USA a few days after service asking me to rate the dealer in various ways.
     
    The local Toyota dealer calls as well to check on themselves.  Not sure if this is company (Toyota) policy.

    The owner of a local garage that works mostly on premium cars, usually calls as well to check on his staff. Major work usually warrants a thank you card in the mail.

  • avatar
    Jerome10

    Wow.  I’m so impressed.  As mentioned, now you will be further pressured and hassled on this stuff.  And I’m sure NO BMW/MINI dealer will ever offer little “exchanges” for this stuff.  I’ve heard of free oil changes when you submit your survey, or even things where they want you to fill it out on the spot in front of someone in exchange for a free set of mats, or said oil change (I assume so they can guide your answers for you….or change your answers after you leave).
     
    And also, for anonymous, sure have heard a lot of people who end up contacted by their dealer (the irony of a reviewer giving bad scores then being harassed for not giving top marks is pretty funny).
     
    Lastly, this is still a system that is open to interpretation, yet treated by BMW as an absolute with zero wiggle room.  Ask 10 different people what it takes to get a “perfect” or a “5″ and you might get 10 different answers.  One might expect $100 on the front seat, another something fixed that the owner hadn’t noticed, and another just wants the car done right and washed, while another customer doesn’t want his car run through the wash.  It really isn’t quite right to put so much pressure on a dealer for scoring that is up to the customer to judge.
     
    They are dumb systems.  I like the comment about the law firm.  If people keep coming back with their business, chances are they’re satisfied.  Doesn’t mean you can’t improve, but really, that’s the best judge.
     
    I just know too many dealers with too many service awards that have been wretched all-around.  Bad sales, bad service.  Its especially the case when there is no other competition in the area.  Say a BMW dealer that is 300 miles from the next BMW dealer.  they got a monopoly!

  • avatar
    Amendment X

    At least they’re trying


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