This post describes a recent experience I had which falls outside of the norm and one which on the face of it I would have expected to have been resolved fairly easily. The resolution came from a completely unexpected source. Stick with me on the post title - nobody was hurt in the exchange at least not physically although the reputation of one brand was damaged in my eyes because of the poor customer experience I had. You will also learn about the three key ingredients that drive a great customer experience.
My cherished BMW convertible spends its time garaged most of the year in our holiday home in SW France. It's the ideal car for touring whilst on vacation enabling passengers and driver to enjoy balmy evenings with the roof down. However it has a fault that has developed where the tyres aren't lasting as long as they should and so need replacing more frequently than the norm.
A visit to my local French BMW dealer is about an hour away and without the use of a courtesy car or collection and delivery service it makes any use of the dealer an inconvenience. I've also had poor service from them in the past when the car needed a service and belt change during previous holidays.
So to make life easier (so I'd hoped) I opted for a geometry check and adjustment by the local tyre centre. However, they were unable to correctly align the geometry and hence resolve the tyre wear as the adjustments had reached their maximum point and the geometry was still out.
My French isn't good enough to fully understand what the technician at the centre was saying when this was explained to me especially as he was using jargon in French. I don't know if the car needs new control arm bushes etc. but they did leave me with a print out of the alignment readings before and after adjustment, but of course it's all in French.
So I needed to find someone to help me understand the problem from the data and then ascertain what needs to be done to fix it. At least then if and when I do visit the BMW dealer then I can go armed with a better understanding of the technical issues and what it will mean in terms of cost.
So I embarked upon a search for a translation of the terms appearing on the data sheet provided by the tyre centre from French to English. Google gave me nothing. So I contacted BMW UK Customer Service, several ex-pat English speaking mechanics working in France, various forums, some UK tyre centres operating across Europe and several alignment equipment companies that specialize in vehicle alignment and that export their products globally. One even had offices in Canada so perhaps they would have French-speaking Canadians working there I thought. Most contacts responded with less than useful advice but two, in particular, stand out for the contrast with which they rose to the challenge of helping someone in need.
As a long-term BMW owner having driven dozens of new cars I was unsure of the service I would receive from BMW as I'd never before dealt directly with BMW UK as a customer. All my previous needs had been met by the dealers in the UK who had sold and serviced my cars. So this time it would be the Customer Service Department of BMW in the UK that would need to respond. When I contacted them via their website I received the following response, 4 days later. I've added in bold some thoughts I had as I read this response:
Thank you for your online communication dated September 5, 2014. I have investigated your enquiry and I am sorry to inform you that BMW UK do not offer a translation service. Due to this it will not be possible for me to translate the French geometry terms (but with some extra effort you could find somebody that can). I can only recommend contacting the tyre fitting centre where you had the work carried out to request that an English speaking representative can translate the terms for you (wow! as if I couldn't have worked this out for myself. I'm glad you thought of that one). I apologise that I have not been able to assist you on this matter. I have also been unable to find your vehicle in the BMW UK Database with the registration you have provided. Therefore would it be possible for you to provide me with a copy of your V5 document so that I can update our database accordingly. (Yes it would be possible but I'm struggling to see how this helps me so why should I bother?) Once again thank you for contacting BMW UK.
Now contrast this with the response from American based Hunter Engineering which designs, manufactures and sells a wide range of passenger car and truck service equipment including Computer-based wheel alignment systems. I copied and pasted the same message I had sent to all options and sent it via Hunter's website and within one hour I received this response. Again I've added in bold some thoughts I had as I read their email:
Thanks for reaching out! My name is Madeline and I work in Hunter's Marketing Department. I will personally ensure that this is taken care of by our Translation Department by Monday. I hope this time frame suits you! Please feel free to contact me with any questions or comments!" (Wow! Speed of response to acknowledge the issue, a personal commitment and ownership and a deadline offered too! What a great first response - somebody on the case.)
What then followed was an exchange of emails asking me for further information, followed by involvement of Hunter's Technical Training Manager, Doug Felt who provided some technical input. I also had some images sent to me as well as a translation by Tom Ksiazek (Hunter's Regional Manager - Western Europe, Australia, New Zealand) who was travelling at the time and said:
I have received your print out; I just arrived in the UK this AM and will be with our UK Distributor Thursday and Friday. I will (over the next days) configure an aligner with this style print out (in English) and send it to you so that you have an "English" template to compare your French print out with.
Within the time it took for BMW UK to respond with "Sorry Can't Help", Hunter employees had worked together to provide me with exactly what I needed and furthermore two weeks later I received some additional images of the adjustment points to help me further. Superb service. And from an organisation, I have never done business with nor am likely to ever do business with again in the future.
I have written before of the need for plenty of AOK in order for the customer to be WOWed by your service. Attitude, Opportunity and Knowledge. Both BMW and Hunter were given the same Opportunity, but Hunter employees seemed to be driven by a different Attitude that drove them to make the most of this opportunity. In her final email to me Madeline says:
Hunter Engineering is not only dedicated to customer service for our immediate customer base, but passionate about informing vehicle owners and prolonging the health of their vehicles. Our company culture is committed to going above and beyond, and I am truly happy to be a part of it.
Everyone at Hunter also possessed ample Knowledge too about the levels of empowerment they have and how to go about seeking a solution even if they themselves didn't actually have the direct answer.
They knew how to make it come about. They knew the importance of going the extra mile. So that is why the title of this post is a true reflection of the experience and why in the battle to impress and go the extra mile American Hunter Kills BMW Customer Service Agent for the service they offered.
And Hunter's ammunition was little more than the application of AOK - lethal in your armoury for the battle to win the war for customer loyalty. I'm sorry that I can't make a decision to purchase Hunter equipment so I hope in some way this post helps spread the word about how great their service was.
Whether you want to win new customers or encourage existing ones to spend more with you, delivering great customer experiences is the smartest way to do it.
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