BMW's Ed Robinson is working to improve employees' product knowledge.
Before that, Robinson, 50, was executive vice president of operations for BMW of North America LLC.
In his new job, Robinson says he is looking into enhancing the product knowledge of the captive finance company's employees, offering personal banking for dealers through BMW Financial and investing in new information technology programs.
He spoke with Staff Reporter Gail Kachadourian.
What have you learned from your sales experience that you will use to improve the finance side of the business?
The strength of your organization is built on your relationship with the dealers, the level of satisfaction with your (employees), creating a best-places-to-work environment and being able to offer exceptional service. That is what enables you to command a price premium.
On the financial services side, we're like the service department of a car dealership. Our ability to compete successfully is dependent on our ability to deliver the highest level of satisfaction to our customers - people who have financial services products as well as our dealer organization.
Have you implemented any programs?
One of the first things I did was walk around the (Financial Services headquarters) and find out what I could do to make (employees') relationship with BMW better.
One of the things that came out unanimously was to have a greater level of product knowledge.
They didn't feel they had enough knowledge about what BMW the brand is, what kind of products we offer, the driving experience. So we just completed an educational process where we took our new 3-series training that we gave to our dealership sales managers and we brought it to (Financial Services).
We'll need to put more emphasis on ensuring that our associates on the financial services side of the business know as much about the actual product, the BMW cars and Mini cars, as they do about the products they're selling, which are finance, lease, loans, credit cards, extended service contracts. What I'd like to do is, every time we introduce new product, take the same product training that we give to our retail centers and bring it here.
What else do you plan to do to improve BMW Financial?
Maybe it's looking for different opportunities, taking what's in the market today and looking for new product alternatives. As an example, today our dealers rely on us for financing of their facilities, their leases, their retail. But what if they have other financing needs?
Why go to Bank of America? Why not go to BMW Financial Services for a commercial mortgage, a personal mortgage, a personal credit line or a business credit line?
We have our own bank in Salt Lake City. But right now the bank is not used for those types of offerings. Maybe there's an opportunity to expand the role of our bank.
What percentage of your North American dealers finance their floorplan with your company?
About half. To increase it, we need to offer our retailers a better choice of financial products. We're developing strategies now. As we move to calendar year 2006, we'll be in a position to start to elaborate on them.
What are your other top goals?
The No. 1 goal would be to learn the business. I'm new to the business.
Second would be to look at what types of (information technology) structures are in place and how they can be enhanced.
When customers call our people, they want immediate response by a live individual. They want that live individual to know as much as possible about them. We need to continue to invest in IT and find new structures that enable us to build a closer link between the customers, the people in the contact center and the retail dealer.
The third objective is to look for new areas to grow the business with new financial services products.
You may e-mail Gail Kachadourian at [email protected]