These are the three axes BMW’s Dutch CEO Arjen de Jong aims to manage in order to make a profit. In a Dutch magazine he explaines BMW is much better at these than its competitors. In his vision, you need to “bring quality and quantity in balance, so that the price [you] ask is justified by the product”. I always thought BMW, whose original German slogan Freude am Fahren, translates to Joy in Driving, was not just about the product. So how should an experience brand such as BMW handle quality, quantity and customer satisfaction?
Quality: this brings the Fahren, how about the Freude? Anyone who’s ever driven a Beemer will agree that as a premium brand BMW always paid more attention to quality and detail. Folklore has it that they pay technicians just to engineer the solid sound of a door closing. However, other mainstream manufacturers (especially Germans) are able to almost achieve the quality perception earlier only delivered by a BMW, Audi or Mercedes. Hence this is not sufficient to bring the Freude. Quantity: in an economic downturn? After the financial sector, the automotive sector has been the hardest hit due to the recession. Quantity is easy to measure, but tough to achieve these days. In most European markets we are seeing a strong price competition and price sensitivity, even in the premium segment. Accessories and gadgets, that the target markets were happy to pay for, are now for sale, sometimes up to a 100% discount. Such indulgence bring quantity, but obviously does not bring in the profits… Customer satisfaction: the outcome of a series of well-managed customer experiences.. ..and is hence more than the car itself. We believe, customer satisfaction KPI’s for managers are a tough task as they have to deliver an emotional experience, while being calibrated on a rational metrics. Managers therefore have to manage a series of customer experiences during all contact moments between client and the brand to deliver on the brand’s promise. So how well does BMW manages its customer experiences? Let’s be fair, those experiences do not involve regular maintenance or changing for winter tires. Luckily they sell Freude am Fahren and (as a humble BMW driver myself) I can state in The Netherlands they do pretty well. ‘My’ sales rep mailed me updates on the production status of the car (including SAP print-screens with the traffic light on green – ‘yes today your car was built!’). And last month I was offered a driving skills training, where all – external – trainers were enthusing all trainees to switch off electronic devices and truly enjoy the rear wheel drive setup of the car – which was excellent. But, on my way back home I built some castles in the air: this Freude-thing could be much bigger: imagine all sales reps are replaced by driving pleasure reps, working at a dealership located in a race track? Or what if I was asked to join Sunday afternoon rally’s? How would I feel I was invited to create the brand with them together? Do not hire sales reps on international motor shows, but ask regular drivers to go in place, their own Beemer included! In short, the question is how to make joy, as BMW promises in its current advertising campaign. In Holland, Mr. Arjen de Jong is a brand ambassador. I believe he could focus even more on how to create brand ambassadors. Quality is a given, customer satisfaction will be the outcome and quantity a welcome side effect. How do you feel BMW should create brand ambassadors?