The power of the Brand, Mercedes-Benz
I am often asked what makes people buy a particular Brand of vehicle, but most importantly, what makes people become loyal to a particular Brand.
Each questions cannot be answered in one simple statement, in fact, in such a competitive and over-crowded world in terms of choice and number of Brands it is almost hostile out there, all of them are fighting tooth and nail to gain market share etc, the buying decision and processes are getting more complicated and sophisticated, customers are swamped with choices and options, they are extremely educated and well informed (Marketers call this hard wired) there are other contributing factors such as Brand positioning, trends etc, but sometimes it boils down to good old fashion customer care and delivering what was promised and once they own a vehicle, it is how well they are treated, how often they are communicated with etc.
The above is a fairly simplistic point of view as I mentioned, to get a meaningful answer to any of the 2 questions; it takes months and months of knowledge dive in terms of the power of Brand, Market, Residual Values, and Aftersales etc etc.
This brings me to the point of the Brand, Mercedes-Benz in particular, such as the Global power of the Brand, over the past decades, it has become a status symbol, a social statement associated with success, exclusivity and the list goes on, in the UK, Mercedes-Benz owns Mercedes-Benz Retail Group which is the largest retail group in the country, one would think this is marriage in heaven and it is the Manufacturers chance to showcase a perfect retailer, how to run and manage a retail group in terms of processes, customer interactions etc.
In sharing a string of my recent experiences with Manchester and Stockport Mercedes, I will let you be the judge if Mercedes-Benz UK owning the largest retail group in the country is such a good thing (I will not mention names as I think this will not serve any purpose).
A week ago, I was driving my wife’s S Class and the vehicle developed a really loud noise and the steering wheel became extremely heavy, I managed to drive the vehicle to Manchester Mercedes, parked the vehicle and walked to the service reception area only to be told that they cannot book a vehicle in, a very nice receptionist (extremely apologetic) picked up the phone, dialed a call center and asked me to talk to them, bearing in mind this was on a Monday morning, the call center agent told me the earliest they can look at the vehicle is on Thursday afternoon.
Firstly, how bizarre and impersonal is the fact that Service Advisors cannot book a vehicle in and a customer has to talk to a call centre even though they are standing in the middle of the showroom, secondly, what happened to being there for a customer when they need you most and their vehicle has let them down, anyway, the advice I was given is to drive the vehicle back home (even though this might damage other items in the vehicle as well as the danger of driving a vehicle with extremely heavy steering wheel) and call emergency assist which will tow the vehicle back to Manchester Mercedes and they will attend to it (computer says so).
I did exactly that but as it happen, the Emergency Assist Engineer managed to solve the problem but advised me to book the vehicle for further checks in any case.
Being Hard Wired, I tweeted my dissatisfaction on Twitter and after a couple of tweet exchanges, I received a phone call from a Mercedes-Benz Customer Care Agent to solve the problem, rather than boring you with the details, the Agent kept on telling that I MUST appreciate things from their point of view and that I MUST understand how their processes and systems work and I quote ‘what more do you want Mr Whaley, I said I am sorry’, as you can imagine, at this stage I was really so grateful, wowed and delighted.
So the experience of Aftersales is beggar’s belief in terms of processes and impersonal customer care but I will let you be the judge of that, as for the Customer Care lady who called me, I will be forever indebted, after all she did say she is sorry and one cannot possibly ask for anymore.
Lets look at sales now, as it happens and parallel to my delightful experience with Manchester Mercedes, a relative of mine asked me to help her buy a vehicle, just my luck, she decides to buy a Brand New B-Class Mercedes.
Given my interaction with Manchester Mercedes, I decided to purchase the vehicle from Stockport Mercedes, I called and booked an appointment for a test drive and was given a time slot of 2.15 on a Saturday afternoon, I was impressed with the fact that they make such precise timing on appointments and turned up at 2.10, I informed the receptionist and was told the Sales Executive will be with me shortly, there was a meeter and greeter which is supposed to show people round and/or serve them with refreshments etc but she did not move from her desk, I guess this is too much to ask, after all, it is Saturday afternoon.
I went round the showroom to look at vehicles, I also saw the Sales Manager with all his Sales Executives laughing and joking but all of a sudden it seemed I became invisible and was totally ignored, 35 minutes later, I went back to the receptionist and asked how long do I have to wait, only to be told the Sales Executive I had the appointment with is out on a test drive with another customer and she cannot give me a precise time.
I left the showroom with no test drive or any explanation or apologies, to be fair, later that afternoon, I received a phone call from the Sales Executive apologising for not being available and he could not understand why I wasn’t seen by other Sales Executives, I guess they were too busy with their Sales Manager in determining who has the best jokes.
I called on Monday morning asking to speak to the Dealer Principal so I can explain what actually happens in his dealership on a Saturday morning but guess what, he never called back, mind you, he is a Dealer Principal at a Mercedes-Benz Dealership, he is above calling customers, and how silly of me to think he will actually call back (I am not generalising here as I happen to know many Mercedes-Benz Dealer Principals who are extremely down to earth and very professional)
My issues remain in the fact my relative wants to buy a B Class, my wife is thinking of changing her S Class with a new one and she also wants a Smart car for her business, so rather reluctantly, I called Mercedes Manchester and booked an appointment with a Sales Executive for a test drive, I arrived at the given time only to be told they have no B Class to test drive at that moment in time or an S Class (to be fair the new S Class is in short supply so I totally understand), as you can see, post my telephone conversation with the lady from Customer Care, I am reformed now and starting to appreciate things from their point of view and I understand how their processes and systems work.
You would think if a customer walks in enquiring about purchasing 3 vehicles, somehow he will get slight bit of attention, but not in Manchester Mercedes, I called the Sales Executive back, once again, he never returned the call, (I guess he is adapting the same strategy of the Dealer Principal of Mercedes Stockport).
Credit where credit is due, I booked my wife’s car to have it checked as advised by the Emergency Assist engineer, the whole experience was delightful and absolute pleasure, the Gentleman who dealt with it me is a fine example of a true professional (WELL DONE Adrian Bragg), as I was picking up the vehicle, I bumped into the Sales Executive, he did apologise for not returning my call and say that he is trying to source a vehicle for me to test drive and he will call me back the next day.
The string of experiences above raises some fundamental questions, would the Customer Care Agent adapt the same attitude if my experience was with another Dealer Group such as Stratstone or Marshalls, or indeed how would Mercedes-Benz UK demand perfection form other Dealer groups, the saying if your house is made of glass, don’t throw stones springs to mind.
One of the famous quotes of Daimler is THE BEST OR NOTHING, I wonder what would Carl Benz, Gottlieb Daimler and Wilhelm Maybach would think of this.
Having said all of this, would my relative or my wife still go ahead with their purchase, of course they would, this is THE POWER OF THE BRAND.
Amazingly, I used to laugh at people when they said, buying a new vehicle is hard and stressful, my answer was always, rubbish, it’s an emotional experience and a pleasurable one, well I am not laughing now.