GM, BMW Dealers Take Cues From Apple To Boost Customer Service


  • 2014 BMW 5 Series

    2014 BMW 5 Series

    2014 BMW 5 Series. | June 06, 2014

Just the Facts:
  • General Motors is working with its dealers to create "Connection Centers" in showrooms, while BMW dealers in the U.S. are beginning to introduce "product geniuses," all customer-service approaches taken from the Apple playbook.
  • A GM executive said car shoppers should think of the Connection Centers as "our version of the Apple Genius Bar."
  • One New Jersey BMW dealer describes its BMW Genius as "not a sales person," but someone whose task is to "enhance the buying experience for customers."

NEW ORLEANS — General Motors is working with its dealers to create "Connection Centers" in showrooms, while BMW dealers in the U.S. are beginning to introduce "product geniuses," all customer-service approaches taken from the Apple playbook.

A GM executive said car shoppers should think of the Connection Centers as "our version of the Apple Genius Bar."

"They're a convenient space where customers can find out more about the connectivity options in our vehicles and learn how to make the most of them," said Alicia Boler-Davis, senior vice president of General Motors Global Quality and Customer Experience, at the National Automobile Dealers Association convention here.

She added: "Chevrolet, Buick, GMC and Cadillac dealerships across the U.S. are voluntarily implementing the centers in their facilities and staffing them with their in-house Certified Technology Experts."

GM currently has 50 Connected Customer Specialists working across the U.S. This team partners with the Certified Technology Experts employed by dealers to provide customers with what Boler calls "a great experience right from the start."

Customers get expert advice about connectivity and infotainment systems in vehicles.

"The feedback and results have been very positive," Boler said.

BMW is also building Apple-esque elements into the showroom experience.

In a growing number of U.S. showrooms, car shoppers are met by BMW "geniuses" who create a pressure-free atmosphere.

Ludwig Willisch, BMW North America president and CEO, told the NADA convention that he expects an estimated 500 dealerships to feature "geniuses."

"The objective here is to better support customers with in-depth product knowledge as well as enabling the customer to better utilize and configure products in accordance with their particular needs," said BMW in a statement describing the new role. "As the product genius needs to be mobile, he or she will be equipped with a state-of-the-art Information Management System on a tablet device, allowing, for example, product configuration and in-depth explanation of features supported by visuals and films."

One New Jersey BMW dealer describes its BMW Genius as "not a sales person," but someone whose task is to "enhance the buying experience for customers."

Circle BMW in Eatontown, New Jersey, recently announced that Harry Abrahamsen, a former valet, has been named to the newly created position of BMW Genius.

"In this role, Harry will primarily support the sales department by networking and building relationships with existing and prospective customers," the dealership said on its Web site.

Edmunds says: GM and BMW dealers are at the forefront of the movement to bring an Apple-like experience to car shoppers. Expect others to follow.

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