Opinion: Us vs. Them

This op/ed comes to us from veteran MotoringFile contributor and White Roof Radio co-founder, Don Burnside.

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 share a goal of customer satisfaction. “Customer” here being the actual purchasers of MINIs (like you and me). It’s what they talk about, what they obsess over. It’s who they are.

This week I had the chance to hang out with some folks who work at the dealership level, and I had a completely different experience. Frankly, I was more than a little shocked. In short, most of them were all about the money. During our entire conversation, not once did I hear any of them mention customer service, or think that one thing or another would be better for the customer. Customers simply didn’t come up. Their only concern was how they were going to sell cars.

When I tried to point out that one particular concern of theirs would 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.

After these interactions, it’s really no wonder why IQS scores are so low at some dealers. These dealers (some, not all) don’t seem to care. I know there has been training from MINI, and that many of the dealers are taking the training to heart. Those dealers are finally getting it. However, I wonder if it’s too little, too late. Customer experience (which is at the heart of the IQS scores) will never improve until the mentality at the dealer level changes. Sadly, it seems like so many of them are just about “pushing metal.” Talk about doing it wrong.

In contrast, I’ve also had some great conversations with people at the dealer level. People who get it. People who genuinely love the cars they’re selling. I’m talking about parts managers who avidly stock the latest MINI lifestyle accessories just because they’re fun. Motoring Advisors who’ve got a MINI of their own, plus their wife has a MINI, and both of their kids have MINIs. These are dealers who really give a crap, and you know what, they still sell lots of cars. Now I don’t know which is the exception and which is the rule, but the opportunity is there for every MINI dealer to be more than just a place that sells cars. Rather, the dealership can (as many have) become the center of their local MINI community. Build a loyal fan base and the cars sell themselves. Makes sense to me.