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A BMW driver takes his car into the dealership to get a warning light checked out and left with no service – customer or mechanical. Steve Rock, owner of a Certified Pre-Owned BMW 335i, took his car into the BMW North Scottsdale dealership because he had warning lights flashing at him; the service technician told him it was merely an emissions alert, disengaged the code, and sent him on his way. A few days later, when his steering failed on the middle of the highway, he found himself crashed off the side of the road. Oops.
Rock did what many people do these days and took his incident to the web. No, he didn’t blast the dealership or smear their brand all over his favorite social sites. He simply logged on to his BMW-enthusiast forum and posed the scenario to his virtual acquaintances – has anyone else had this problem, or something similar? After reading feedback suggesting that the warning lights were definitely not indicators of an emissions reminder, Rock contacted the GM of the BMW dealership.
The GM didn’t take responsibility and didn’t even offer an apology. I’m starting to wonder if the man even asked Rock if he was okay (which he was, thankfully). The GM wanted Rock to bring the car back to the dealership to be looked at – a feeble attempt to make nice, maybe? Rock tried to express his understandable concerns of fading trust in the dealership’s diagnostic ability, to which the GM replied, “Then you shouldn’t even be in my office wasting my time.”
Yes, my eyebrows went up and mouth dropped when I read the original article on Jalopnik as well. Rock reluctantly lets the dealership take a look at his car and then subsequently has an independent shop evaluate it as well, who confirmed that the warning lights were attributed to steering and stability control. BMW North America even asks Rock permission to look at the car again with a team of specialist who never showed up. Penke Automotive then has the nerve to ask Rock to remove his comments posted online about the incident and the store.
As of now, Rock hasn’t filed a lawsuit and hasn’t even requested any money to fix the damaged car. What he wants is an explanation as to what the real issue is with his car and why on Earth he was told that it was an emissions reminder when it clearly wasn’t.
What I find more interesting than the story itself, which is a direct example of appalling business operations and atrocious customer service, is the discussion forming around the article. In the hundreds of comments that have surfaced since the story broke, self-described and insinuated technicians are calling out this guy as a fraud, saying there’s no way that the steering could freeze up or that’s what could have been the problem when he previously brought the car in. They’re calling BS on Rock, declaring he crashed the car on his own and is simply looking for BMW to take the fall.
Fair enough, I can appreciate that kind of loyalty to their brand and expertise on mechanical service. But the real issue is the lack of service Rock received on all fronts: from the service technicians, the GM of the dealership, BMW North America, and even the lawyer from Penske.
People make mistakes and maybe that’s what happened in the first round of service. It happens all the time. And maybe the technician didn’t make a mistake in this case and Rock is trying to pull a fast one on them to see what he can get away with – who knows. Either way, it’s the dealership’s responsibility to respond to the customer’s valid concerns in such a way that at least appeases the expectations of the customer while simultaneously backing the confidence they have in their staff and vehicles. The GM could’ve, at minimum, apologized that Rock experienced the situation he did, if for no other reason than to validate that the guy was in car accident!
In addition to the horrid service, this is another clear example of a dealership not having an appropriate social media strategy or even enough of an understanding of social etiquette to know how to manage the online situation. Rock maintains that both BMW and Penske have stated that they “don't appreciate that [he’s] made this a public issues on the forums." Well, get over it. These conversations are happening online on a daily basis and how dealerships respond to them is even more telling than the original posts. They really have no right to ask the customer to take down the post until they actually fix the problem or at least address it. Asking the guy to bring his car in might be sticking their good foot out, but it in no way addresses the Rock’s concerns about the previous service he received, or the misdiagnosis. A simple apology would’ve gone a long way for Rock and for their reputation.