See updates in comments. This situation has since been resolved.
I wanted to use a recent experience with horrendous service from BMW of Manhattan, to reflect on one of the main issues that companies don’t understand about social media. The basic principle is actually so fundamentally simple. If people are complaining about your service or products in the social media ecosystems than you have a problem with your service or product quality.
The Evolution of a Problem
We bought a BMW X5 in May from BMW of Manhattan. The experience commenced on the wrong foot. The sales guy got the order wrong, which of course we didn’t discover until after waiting for 5 weeks for our car to be delivered to the showroom. We timed the return of the last lease and the pick up of the new car for the same day. We now had no vehicle and my wife drives over 100 miles a day to get to school. One of the selling points of a luxury car is the ability to use loaners when your car is being serviced. However, this wasn’t service-related so they couldn’t arrange a loaner. So we had to rent a car for another few weeks, which I felt was only right for BMW of Manhattan to pay for due to their mistake. After fighting them on this point, the general manager ultimately agreed to pay for half. Although a bit upset (and now driving a rented Chevy for 2 weeks), in the grand scheme of things, I would have let this slide if it was the only problem I ever had with them.
When Quality Assurance Fails
Within the first 30 days of owning the car, we started experiencing electrical problems. We brought it into service and somehow the problem seemed to “fix itself” (yeah right – that happens a lot with technology). By September, the entire navigation system and screen to control all the other electronic amenities went out…then came back…then went out. It was clear that there was a problem. Again, upset, but in the grand scheme of things, I would have even let this slide if it was fixed in a convenient and timely manner at no cost to me.
When Promises (and Brand Positioning) Are Not Fulfilled: “The Ultimate Driving Machine”???
When we bought the car we were told that loaners are always available when we need service for the car. We were also told that the loaners can be picked up from any service location. LIES on both counts! Loaners are one of the reasons why we buy luxury cars. Our previous experience with several Infiniti models was excellent and we had no reason to expect any different from BMW. When my wife told me that we had to book a service date in December (2 months away) in order to schedule an available loaner I was taken back. Taken back at the fact that we were lied to, taken advantage of, and as a marketer – taken back that BMW would sacrifice the desire to keep me as a long term valuable customer, generate word of mouth, and fulfill on their brand promise. Although I enjoy the car, the problems were beginning to get on my nerves. I expect exceptional service from a brand like BMW, and so far I have received anything but that from BMW of Manhattan. I have left messages for the general manager and sent letters to corporate. Nothing. The BMW service center in Brooklyn was MUCH better, but again, since we were lied to by BMW of Manhattan, we apparently are unable to pickup a loaner vehicle in Brooklyn. Today my wife spent hours waiting to get the car back because the service center was short staffed and very busy. Anything else to add to the list of problems guys? Let’s see how long the problem stays fixed. I am going to go ballistic if it returns.
The Social Media Lesson
So here I am blogging about the poor experience, even going out of my way to layer the post with enough mentions of BMW of Manhattan that it hopefully comes up on the first page of search engines when someone searches for “BMW of Manhattan”. My 700+ connections in Facebook, my Twitter network, and my LinkedIn network, which are all comprised of affluent luxury car buyers, many of which are actually in the New York and surrounding areas, are now commenting about my experience with the poor service. Word of mouth to not buy from BMW of Manhattan is now spreading, even if only within the microcosm of my network, and some of the networks of those individuals within my network. This is not a social media problem – it is a service quality problem.
I wonder if anyone from BMW of Manhattan (or even BMW corporate) is monitoring social media to hear the multiple rants and posting I have published about this issue. If so, please post a comment here and I will be able to get back to you and discuss. I’d be happy to discuss some ways to improve your service. For the record – I really do love my X5. It’s a solidly built vehicle, andmaybe I just had bad enough luck to have a bad saleperson, and got one with a bum navigation system. But I cannot endorse doing business with BMW of Manhattan after all that I have witnessed. It seems that the problems started with my first experience on the sale floor, and continued with some faulty equipment, but the clincher was that after all of that, there were no records in my customer record saying “we screwed up with this guy already, please take care of this valuable customer”. This lack of basic customer service quality assurance now reverberates throughout the fabric of my social media ecosystem. What an easy problem to solve. Also an easy problem to discover by listening to the social media conversations. BMW are you listening?