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MotoringFile recently wrote about MINI USA’s push to improve service, marketing and dealer profits under VP David Duncan and perhaps some of that strategic vision is coming to fruition as reported by Automotive News.  Anyone who has stepped foot into a MINI dealership knows the MINI retail experience is unique among mass-market automotive brands.  However even after receiving accolades such as topping the J.D. Power’s US Sales Satisfaction Index Study there is still room for improvement, especially for a car manufacturer regularly described as a “premium” brand. Click through to read more.

According to Automotive News, since July MINI USA has been providing funds to dealerships (based upon on annual sales) specifically in order to better support and provide perks for customers.  This is not unlike the steps that Mercedes USA has taken to keep it’s customers loyal.  In our modern society whereas pampering a customer seems like a vestige of early air travel, more companies are realizing that exceeding the expectations of a discerning customer pays off in customer loyalty and word of mouth referrals.

The story of another once niche but now premium brand comes to mind: Apple.  Few other premium brands are as acutely aware of customer loyalty as Apple.  When Apple decided to open their first retail stores they modeled their organization and training after the gold standard for customer service: the Ritz Carlton.  Apple knew that by surprising and delighting customers, it created loyal brand “promoters” who would extol their experience to others; thus growing the brand.  The Automotive News article spotlights similar steps MINI of San Francisco takes to follow up with detractors and turn them into promoters, including this example:

This fall, the window of a San Francisco folk music duo’s Mini Countryman crossover was smashed and the pair’s guitar was stolen.

Days later, Mini of San Francisco staffers saw the Dirty Little Blondes’ “A capella Song” on Facebook detailing the woes of performing without a musical instrument. The musicians, Mark Sandusky and Kendra Moriah, had bought their Countryman from Mini of San Francisco.

“Within five minutes of us learning, we gave them a call and told them to drop off the car,” said Eric Schmitt, general manager of the dealership.

While the window was replaced for free, a salesman took the duo to a guitar store and let them choose any guitar they wanted as a gift from the dealership, Schmitt said.

Time will tell if MINI USA can reach Mercedes and Apple levels of prosperity and loyalty, but with the touching examples provided in this article, MINI USA appears to be off to a good start in surprising and delighting future customers.

Time-limited preview of article (subscription required) available here.

The Dirty Little Blondes “A cappella Song” after their guitar was stolen and Countryman damaged:

The Dirty Little Blondes “Episode 2 – Mini Thanks” after their Countryman was repair and guitar replaced: