In this exclusive interview Oliver Moebs, Head of BMW’s Sales Channel Development and Customer Relations talks about how BMW is focussing on exceeding customer expectations. He discusses the innovative technologies and features that are implemented across all aspects of their operations, cars and services in order to provide an absolute retail experience for the customer. Oliver also highlights BMW’s commitment and dedication towards customers, highlighted by their ‘Product Genius Program’, a non-sales oriented approach, a first in the industry aimed at assisting the customer based on their preferences and requirements.
Q: How would you classify the BMW customer experience in one sentence?
Oliver Moebs: An enhanced retail experience at all touch points, from purchase to ownership, which is as memorable for our customers as the quality and performance of our cars.
Q: How would you describe the Customer’s journey when someone walks into a BMW dealership to inquire about a car?
Oliver Moebs: Customers are at the very heart of the BMW Group offering and as such, together with our dealers, we continuously look for ways in which to exceed their expectations – whether that’s by our products, technology or retail service. In fact, we have developed the Future Retail Strategy, which has three core objectives – first, to increase the number of possible contact points with customers and prospects; second, to increase the services and benefits offered in our retail channels; and third, to enhance the retail experience at all touch points.
The customer’s journey, therefore, starts before the showroom – with our interactive communications portal at www.bmw-me.com. We recently introduced BMW Mobi, an optimized BMW website for mobile devices and desktops, to cater for the growing number of people using technology to access information. It is available in both English and Arabic and features a number of customer-friendly options. Whether on the move, at the beach or in your house, customers can access BMW-ME.com. In just a couple of clicks one gets a 360-degree view of any BMW vehicle or even choose the colour and additional packages of the car that best suits their preference. They can also access a preview of how the car would look via a visualizer function on BMW Mobi that enables them to change the cars’ body colour, rims and design packages. This, coupled with our extremely popular social media channels, gives our customers the opportunity to ask questions and begin to research the vehicle suitable for them.
Offering a seamless transition from the digital to the physical store, the customer journey continues on to the showroom itself, which has been refreshed as part of the Future Retail Strategy. The space is now much more inviting, with open floor plans and large screens whereby customers can visualise their future purchases with different colours and characteristics. Traditional desks have also been replaced with tables where people can sit next to one another in a much more collaborative manner.
Q: With your extensive management experience with BMW in other parts of the world, how do you feel Customer expectations and buying behaviour differ in the UAE as compared to other parts of the world that you have worked in?
Oliver Moebs: The buying behaviour of customers in this region differs greatly compared to most other markets. Here in the Middle East, there is high disposable income and a desire to make a strong statement with one’s car, so customers have a preference and the means to buy top-of-the-range premium cars, and enjoy owing something that is different. As a result, our importers are receiving a lot of interest from customers wanting personalisation of vehicles which is where our BMW Individual and MINI Yours programmes come in, which offers exclusive materials, paints and interior trim options.
Q: Please tell us about BMW’s ‘Product Genius’ program. Is that being applied and implemented in the Middle East region?
Oliver Moebs: As a pioneering company, launching new cars and technologies are, of course, top priorities, however, offering the very best service to our customers is equally important. BMW Group believes that the retail experience will change dramatically over the coming years, and as a result has developed the Future Retail Strategy, which is currently being implemented on an international level. This new strategy comprises of five different touch points at the showroom that all focus on enhancing the customer’s overall experience. We have started implementing this new strategy together with many of our importers which now have new furniture creating a more inviting and comfortable environment to serve our customers and ‘Product Genius’. This Product Genius is an expert who will spend as long as it takes to enlighten car shoppers about the different models and options available. He or she is not encumbered by the sale process and is not motivated to sell a car. The motivation is purely customer satisfaction.
Their role 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. As the Product Genius needs to be mobile, he or she is 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.
In another sign that BMW is radically rethinking the entire car buying experience, we are searching outside the automotive industry for the best candidates, with new hires including people from the hotel industry, electronics and technology sectors. The Product Genius is just one example of the five communication pillars that demonstrate how BMW is rethinking the showroom experience for the benefit of our customers.
Q: What sets BMW apart from its competitors in the region?
Oliver Moebs: It’s our continued dedication to pioneering exclusive and innovative technology solutions across all areas of the business that have genuine benefit for the customer. For example, we established a whole new vehicle segment, the Sports Activity Vehicle, with the introduction of the BMW X5 in 1999, the first model of its kind to combine superior dynamics on-road with impressive off-road characteristics. We were also the world’s first carmaker to offer a system allowing the user to mastermind essential vehicle, entertainment, navigation and telecommunication functions via a central controller on the centre console and a multifunctional Control Display in the instrument panel in 2001 with the BMW iDrive. Also in 2011, the company founded a sub-brand devoted entirely to sustainability, called BMW i, from which the all-electric BMW i3 and the world’s most sustainable plug-in hybrid sports car, the BMW i8, were developed. BMW was the first company to launch a volume production vehicle, the i3, on the market featuring carbon-fiber-reinforced polymer to improve the vehicle’s energy consumption. The revolutionary BMW i8 also made motoring history not only as a plug-in hybrid sports car but also as the first production vehicle to incorporate futuristic laser lighting technology – headlamps that ensure a high beam range of up to 600 metres, which means that the high illumination range of the lights is doubled and the energy efficiency is increased by 30 percent compared to regular LED lights.
Finally, the refined sixth generation BMW 7 Series, which launches later this year, includes another industry first – a unique Gesture Control function, which offers those inside the vehicle the option to increase the volume of the radio only by gesturing at the screen.
Q: Which is currently your top selling BMW in the Middle East region?
Oliver Moebs: Our top-end BMW models continue to be best-sellers across the region. For the first half of this year, the X model family, continued to perform well, accounting for 55% of our overall sales in the Middle East. This is thanks to a young model portfolio having recently welcomed a number of latest generation models to the range. Meanwhile, the BMW 5 Series was also a strong contributor to BMW Group Middle East’s half year results, with 2,111 cars sold, cementing its position as the leader in the executive car segment. Gearing up for the October launch of the all-new BMW 7 Series, the Middle East also retained its position as the third biggest BMW 7 Series market in the world after China and the USA.
Q: What are some hi-tech and innovative features that are unique to BMW cars?
Oliver Moebs: The BMW Group is a pioneer of in-car connectivity. In fact, it has been at the forefront of technology since 1972 when the brand introduced the world’s first integrated radar-based distance warning device in the BMW Turbo concept car. Under the umbrella of BMW ConnectedDrive, the BMW Group developed a range of completely new technology features that give the driver and passengers information and services to help make their driving experience safer, entertaining and more comfortable – the result is sheer driving pleasure that takes on a whole new dimension.
All of our MINI vehicles also offer MINI Connected; infotainment and online functions including Web Radio allowing drivers to tune into any global radio station and Dynamic Music, which allows drivers to specially create and play music according to their mood.
Q: BMW, as a brand, speaks for itself. Additionally, which of the two – ‘Marketing’ or ‘Quality Customer Service’ – do you feel is the deciding factor in closing the deal?
Oliver Moebs: I think it’s a combination of the two. The way in which we communicate our news, whether that’s the launching of new models, upgrades to or new showrooms, a new service, latest technologies and car features, as well as attractive tactical price offers, flexible financial service packages and brand marketing, is pivotal in helping to boost our sales. It’s also important to ensure that our strategies are catered specifically to each region. Our marketing budget covers several Middle East countries that are very diverse from one country to another, therefore we aim to ensure that we don’t have a ‘one size fits all’ strategy for each market. Mind sets and market dynamics are constantly changing, so it’s important to ensure that our marketing campaigns are appropriate, relevant and different from what competitors are doing. In addition, quality customer service is essential in order to meet and exceed the expectations of our discerning customers here in the Middle East, so the perfect balance between the two is key to success in the region.
Q: What sort of after-sales services do you provide to your customers and how do you work towards continuous customer satisfaction?
Oliver Moebs: In line with our focus on a seamless customer journey at every touch point, our extensive after-sales offering provides our customers with ease of aftercare for their vehicle – be it a service or maintenance requirement, an enhancement or accessory, even after they have left the showroom.
One of our most innovative examples is the BMW Emergency Call, which is available to customers in Dubai, Sharjah and the Northern Emirates and Kuwait, gives 24-hour access to the Police Emergency Control Centres. In the event of an unforeseen accident, a direct voice link is established by using the SOS button or Emergency Service feature. The ‘Emergency Call’ facility is also automatically activated in crash situations via the airbag sensor, alerting the Police immediately to the crash in addition to the vehicle’s position and data. Our importers also have BMW Mobile Service, one of the most technologically advanced and comprehensive breakdown assistance programs in the world. Fully-equipped vehicles branded “BMW Mobile Service” operated by certified BMW Group technicians are available on the road 24 hours a day, 365 days a year to assist customers with roadside assistance.
In the meantime, our service and maintenance offerings ensure that all air conditioning, tyre requirements and other original parts are readily available; and our performance packages (such as BMW M Performance), whereby enhancements can be made to the exterior, interior, aerodynamics and drivetrain, are available for most of our BMW models. For example, more than ten different alloy wheel designs are available, as well as a sports leather steering wheel, mirror caps in carbon, different front and rear spoilers, diffusers and silencer systems, which give the car a sporty look and sound. The equivalent for MINI falls under our MINI Yours series of after sales products and services, and include patterned decals, mirror caps and many more unique enhancements to make every MINI a unique and made-to-measure creation.
We also offer an extensive selection of lifestyle accessories across both of our BMW and MINI brands, from sunglasses and jackets to bicycles and luggage, which are consistently very popular with our Middle Eastern customers.
Q: What kind of Customer Service trainings are in place for your staff and are these the same across all Middle East based BMW dealerships?
Oliver Moebs: In my opinion, the success of our cars in the market depends on how enthusiastic and knowledgeable our salespeople are. Their ability to continuously adapt to customers’ personalities, lifestyles, interests and desires, and provide the best support throughout the decision-making process is key.
As a result, we invest in regular training to ensure that our sales teams are up-to date with our latest technology and car features, offering a training scheme for beginners with or without initial professional experience, which is the only one of its kind in this industry: the BMW Group car salesperson programme. This modular salesperson training programme is considered continued or further education (not an apprenticeship) and gives salespeople advanced qualifications in a short time.
Q: In what order of priority are customer queries and complaints addressed?
Oliver Moebs: Feedback from our customers is of utmost importance to BMW Group, especially since we incorporate these insights into the products and technology we develop and the services we offer. No query or complaint is too big or small, and we always aim to respond to our customers in a timely manner, be that online or offline.
Q: What kind of online customer support do you provide to customers in the Middle East who are on your website and have questions or need help?
Oliver Moebs: The BMW website is continuously updated with new content. The design and functionality of this website is replicated in markets across the world including local market content – and our region is no exception. Along with a website for the Middle East, where our customers can locate their nearest dealership and find extensive information about all of our innovative products and services, our trusted importers throughout the Middle East have their own dedicated websites, whereby our loyal customers in each market can book a test drive and access our popular social media platforms.
Q: In your opinion, how important is colour when it comes to choosing a car and what are the top three colours of choice for customers in the Middle East region?
Oliver Moebs: In the Middle East, white, black and silver are the most popular colour choices. It’s an important decision when buying a car as the exterior of the car is what people first see and one needs to envisage how they will look driving the car in a particular colour. BMW is the only brand in the Middle East to offer customers an application available through mobiles, in English and Arabic, whereby one gets a 360-degree view of any BMW vehicle so that they see the full range of colours, materials and optional features and make selections on what suits their preference. They can also access a preview of how the car would look via a visualizer function on BMW Mobi that enables them to change the cars’ body colour, rims and design packages. This can also be done on a showroom level through a Virtual Product Presentation whereby the customer can sit together with the sales person and configure the car with their options on a 46-inch screen allowing them to see and zoom into each detail. The new visualisation sales tools enables a higher level of customer involvement as well as higher customer satisfaction.
Q: When it comes to customized cars, what would you say is your most extravagant personalized order till date?
Oliver Moebs: We see a lot of interest from our GCC customer base into the personalisation of vehicles. Customers tend to want a more luxurious and different shopping experience when purchasing luxury products; bespoke cars where they can take their time to select their own options that reflects their personal style and tastes. We try to facilitate these bespoke orders by launching limited editions of existing models. For example, for the 30th anniversary of the BMW M5 last year, the company introduced a limited edition of 300 cars globally of the most powerful M5 and badged the special edition “30 Years of the M5”. 30 of these high performance sporty vehicles were allocated for customers in the Middle East. And for the UAE’s 40th anniversary, we produced 40 7 Series cars with the UAE flag on the iDrive, headrests, dashboard and rear of the car.
Q: What new services is BMW planning to offer in the near future for a better Customer Experience?
Oliver Moebs: We will continue to bring new models to the region that excite people. Last year, for example, we took a step towards a greener future by introducing the BMW i8, the world’s most sustainable plug-in hybrid sports car. It has since generated great buzz across the region and continues to attract new customers to our importer’s showrooms. We will shortly be launching the all-new BMW X1, which is a more spacious and efficiency-optimised version of its predecessor, as well as the highly anticipated BMW 7 Series, which is an excellent choice for those seeking refined luxury and innovative technology when choosing a vehicle.
Another key focus area of our business is our importers’ plans to invest in new facilities or refurbish existing facilities. The world’s biggest BMW Group service facility is in Saudi Arabia, and our importer Abu Dhabi Motors has built the world’s biggest BMW new car showroom facility. Our importer in Oman, Qatar, Kuwait, Bahrain and Dubai are all currently investing millions of dollars into expanding and building new facilities to give our customers an even greater experience with our brands.
About Oliver Moebs
Since May 2014, Oliver Moebs has been Head of Sales Channel Development and Customer Relations for BMW Group Middle East. Oliver’s first encounter with the Group was in 1990 when he interned at BMW Niederlassung Bonn while he was still studying for his degree in Business Administration. He proceeded to build a career with the BMW Group spanning over 21 years, with his first role in 1994 based out of the Frankfurt office where he specialised in Sales Operations. He has since gained extensive experience in sales and sales channel development while taking on various international assignments throughout the years, starting with his role as Manager of Product & Price and Performance Management at BMW Group’s Mexico City office between 1997 and 2000. Before joining BMW Group Middle East, Oliver spent three years as Director of Sales Channel Development and Customer Relations with BMW Group Latin America and the Caribbean, based out of Panama City. Prior to that, he was responsible for BMW Group’s Customer Satisfaction Management Program at the global headquarters in Munich. Aside from his passion for cars, in particular vintage models, Oliver is also a keen traveller with an interest in architecture and graphic design.