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BMW to improve customer experience: Pawah

New direction: BMW Australia CEO Vikram Pawah says the car-maker will strive to improve its customer satisfaction ahead of a swathe of new-model launches.

New BMW CEO focused on improving relationships with customers

23 Nov 2018

NEW BMW Australia CEO Vikram Pawah has identified customer experience as an area he would like to build on during his tenure as head of the Bavarian brand’s local arm.


Speaking to GoAuto at the launch of the new-generation X5 large SUV, Mr Pawah told GoAuto that the brand would look at its entire sales and brand experience model from a customer standpoint to improve its standing with buyers.


When asked what increasing its customer-centric approach would involve, Mr Pawah said: “That involves delivering value to our customers through various fields like the way we interact with them at out dealerships, the way we interact with them online, the way we interact with them pre-purchase, post-purchase, the way we did a lot of new products with new value propositions for them, the way we expand the customer base to new segments, the way we also look at how our dealers become accessible to our growth model.


“All these things combined is what we call our customer-led centricity approach.”


BMW has previously struggled in the area of customer service when compared with its premium German rivals Mercedes-Benz and Audi, as evidenced by surveys from JD Power comparing customer service index (CSI) ratings.


The most recent survey, released in October, showed BMW finished with a CSI rating of 806 points – less than the luxury manufacturer average of 821 and clearly of the pace of Mercedes and Audi, which finished with scores of 831 and 830 points, respectively.


It has been a similar story in years gone by, such as in 2017 when BMW scored 835 points, seven below the average and less than Mercedes (852) and Audi (840).


In 2016 the difference was equally stark, with BMW scoring 811 points, compared to Mercedes (828), Audi (826) and the average mark (824).


MR Pawah said the brand was working on a number of different strategies to improve its standing with customers, such as connecting them with a model before it has launched.


“You’ll see that with product launches what we’re doing now is a little more experiential, like it’s not just the typical ‘hey come in and have a look at the car’ – we’ve had a few car closed rooms for the X5 prior to this, so they can (have a) sneak peek before we launched it,” he said.


“We have a little bit more engaging things for the customer, they get to feel the product, they get to understand the product that they’re going to buy.


“We will look at almost everything in that sphere including our format of our dealerships from time to time, we will start looking at that as well, what do we need to change with that to make people feel more comfortable.”


BMW is aiming to make the dealership experience more comfortable through the use of product experts in dealerships – dubbed geniuses – whose focus is not to sell a car but purely to help the customer understand features of the vehicle.


“We have this concept of our product geniuses, so we have over 50 product geniuses that are existing across our network now – 45 dealers, 50 (geniuses), so a few metro dealers have more than one – and basically these guys don’t have that pressure to sell or do a deal, they’re here to form a relationship with the customer and really (help them) understand,” he said.


“And the feedback we get from customers is fantastic, they actually walk into the dealership and not worry about someone every two minutes trying to give them a call asking to buy a car.


“It’s more that they’re able to understand for example this last 50-metre parking (feature on the new X5), or something about the tailgate function, or something they’re really intrigued by and want to know a little bit more.”


Mr Pawah said customer interaction in dealerships would be particularly important in the next 18 months, with BMW set to launch a number of new models including the new 3 Series, X7 upper-large SUV, 8 Series flagship coupe, X3 M and X4 M performance SUVs, and more derivatives of the just-launched X5 range, among other offerings.

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