Us vs. Them

Over the years I have had many opportunities to speak directly with those in charge at MINI and MINIUSA. Managers, engineers, marketing folks. All of them are really swell people. All of them also have a shared goal in customer satisfaction. Customer here being the actually purchasers of the MINIs (like you and me). It’s what they talk about, what they obsess about. It’s who they are.

This week I had the chance to hang out with some guys that work at the dealer level. It was a completely different experience and I was more than a little shocked. Most of them were all about the money. During the entire conversation, not once did I hear any of them mention customer service or think that a certain thing would be better for the customer. Their only concern was the money and how they were going to sell cars.

When I tried to point out that something they were concerned about will actually benefit the customer, they looked at me like I was speaking Martian. They didn’t even come close to getting it. This happened twice. Not a clue.

It’s really no wonder why IQS scores can be so low at some dealers. At some, they don’t seem to care. I know there has been training, and that many of the dealers are taking the training to heart and are finally getting it. But I’m not sure if it’s too little, too late. This is something that will never improve until the mentality at the dealer level changes. Many of them are all about ‘pushing metal’. Talk about doing it wrong.

Another interesting bit that I found out last night. One of the largest MINI dealers in Southern California only gets about 20% of their sales from folks that are ordering their MINIs. I don’t have solid, nationwide, stats, but this is shocking to me also. I had a feeling that number was low, but not that low. Why wouldn’t you order exactly the car that you want if you have the chance?

Crazy.

(12) Comments|Posted in Op/Ed on 11/7/2012

12 Responses to “Us vs. Them”

  1. Paul says:

    This doesn’t surprise me. The MA for my recent purchase didn’t care much. Never followed up on any of his promises, from the “weekly status email” to the post-purchase follow up. And yet I still got the “you must rate me a 5″ speech before I drove away.

    Really, for the money we pay we deserve more.

    There are some good MAs though – on NAM, a fellow waitee was getting pictures of his MINI arriving on the truck, then being unloaded etc so there are some that care about the experience.

    • db says:

      There are some GREAT MA’s! It is sad that they are few and very, very far between. I know 4-6 that I would rank as awesome and they ones that are just as much about the customers as the money. Maybe a little more than.

      I hope you didn’t give him a 5. But, at the same time, I’ve heard reports of even worse treatment when 5’s aren’t given on follow-up visits. I actually got an angry phone call because I didn’t give 5s. It was at that point that I stopped taking the surveys.

  2. Stella says:

    Typically there is a push to sell what is on the lot and offer orders second. Selling inventory is how they get their future allotment so it makes sense to get the customer to purchase something as close to what they want to get them in a car that day. Plus if the MA sells the car that day, they get paid as soon as it’s delivered. An immediate paycheck is always more attractive than one six – eight weeks away.

  3. MichaelB says:

    I think you also forget that outside of the MINI and in particular the MINI enthusiast community Build to Order are still a bit of a rarity…

    Go to a non-MINI dealer and they’ll steer you first to what they’ve got on their lot. After that, then they’ll see if they can find what you want in their universal inventory system. After that, they MIGHT consider the BTO option, but in my experience it hasn’t been a route that a dealer will willingly go down… Heck, the last time we were at a MINI dealer they were hesitant when we expressed interest in a BTO instead of what was on the lot…

    Not only that, but have you actually tried a BTO on another manufacture’s website? On many of them your BTO options are limited to select color, select trim level, select stereo, select dealer add-ons. Followed by a page that allows you to look up dealer inventory and discover that what you built isn’t in the inventory of any dealer within 200 miles of you…

    • db says:

      Thanks Michael!

      I think that goes to Stella’s point too. Which comes back around to my point about the dealers vision not aligning with MINIUSA. MINIUSA is all about Youification, customizing, 10 million possible combinations, blah blah blah.

      I understand that the dealers want to sell cars today so they can get paid today. A person has to eat. But to outright steer you clear of getting the MINI that you really want? I think that brings it back around to my point again. They really don’t care about the customer. There has to be a middle ground of some sort.

      Sure you can’t BTO with any other car like you said, but one of the main selling points for MINI is that you CAN BTO. Too bad it sounds like the dealers are discouraging it. People that I talk to tell me that part of the reason they bought a MINI is because they could make it there own.

      But, we all already know this. :D

  4. Mike Jones says:

    When you separate selling completely from design, engineering, and marketing this is what you get. The whole car manufacturer-dealer model is so broken, in my limited-experience opinion.

    • db says:

      Thanks for stopping by Mike!

      You are spot on. It’s very broken. Part of the problem is that manufacturers have almost no control over the dealer network when it comes to the way the customers are handled. If manufacturers were also the reseller (like Apple), I think the experience would be much different.

  5. Todd says:

    All valid points about BTO however you miss one MAJOR point. It’s the MINI buyer that’s changing. Your run-of-the-mill average MINI buyer today is impatient and wants to drive a new car home today. It’s not that the dealers are discouraging ordering a car to spec, it’s that even when given the option of ordering or driving home a new MINI today, people choose the, “I want it now” option. Many things could dictate this too. I’ve seen it hundreds of times. People, in general, don’t plan a car purchase. A large percentage of people need something now – their existing car dies, is wrecked, they get a new job and now have the means to get something new – the list goes on and on. So I posit that the 20% BTO rate is more a result of consumer demand and not sales pitch – existing vs. BTO. There’s also the impulse buy that can’t be ignored. Sales people can smell this on customers and the old adage to sales applies here – you snooze, you lose e.g. if some customers have the chance to “think about it” they will talk themselves out of buying a new MINI for one reason or another. Since everyone has to make a living, you have to go after the sale. Idealistically, we all think the MINI should sell itself because it’s so great. The reality is, to most people, a car is simply a means to get from A to B. Yes, a MINI might be a bit more stylish and more fun to drive but the average consumer satisfaction curve goes off a cliff quite soon after purchase – MINI or otherwise. There are a select group of us that broke out of that with MINI. 10 years in, we’re still satisfied and enthusiastic.

    This really isn’t an either/or situation here but all that being said, I agree that a shift in MINI dealers’ sales attitudes wouldn’t hurt.

  6. Joel says:

    To many folks, car buying is a chore. They just want to get it over with. They don’t want to prolong the process with a BTO.

    My sister had to psych herself up to go shopping for a new car. She found it exhausting to go to each dealer. Once she decided on a MINI, she just wanted to pick one out and move on with her life. She couldn’t imagine prolonging the process by several months. And for her, she didn’t want to have to think about all the options. The less choices, the easier.

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