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Speedy stock checks saving BMW big bucks.


Many companies discover that as their market share increases through enhanced customer services, so too do service demands.

Unfortunately, all too often they discover this paradox only when spiraling demands choke response times to customer inquiries, causing an erosion of that market share they worked so hard to earn.

Well before reaching this point, BMW of North America Inc., Woodcliff Lake, N.J., recognized that the only way to maximize customer service and minimize costs associated with their aftermarket parts-ordering operation--with a continually expanding market share--was to automate customer-service communications wherever possible.

Their first step was installation of a PC-based dealer communications system (DCS) at all automobile dealers.

This enabled stock orders to be directly telecommunicated to BMW's mainframe.

The result was faster order turnaround time and improved parts inventory tracking for both BMW and the dealers.

The system works well for all of BMW's 400 automobile dealers because of their high order volume. But smaller motorcycle dealerships who could not justify the system cost had to order parts verbally over the telephone--a time consuming process.

In addition, even large automotive dealerships wanted a faster way to answer customer inquiries regarding parts availability in emergency--also called "vehicle off road" (VOR)--situations.

BMW has now addressed both of these issues by developing a voice-response system called BEST, short for BMW Enhanced System for Telemarketing.

Just One Call

The system provides dealers with parts-availability and pricing information and lets them place orders during a single telephone call--all without operator intervention.

To satisfy the needs of VOR customers, BMW guarantees that all orders placed with BEST before noon will be delivered the very next day--assuming the parts were in stock when the call was made.

With eight incoming telephone lines, BEST runs on a VPS 7000 voice-response system from Periphonics Corp., Long Island, N.Y.

Besides advanced functionality, a primary reason BMW selected Periphonics equipment was an established track record with a similar installation at the BMW subsidiary in Great Britain, says Joe Augello, BMW's national parts operations manager.

"To respond to the increased number of telephone orders BEST now handles for us, we would have needed at least two additional staff members," he says. "On this basis alone, savings directly attributed to the system will be about $80,000 a year."

BEST was created for motorcycle dealers who wanted access to BMW's computerized parts-ordering system for VOR orders but who couldn't afford the DCS system.

"We quickly found that auto dealers also wanted to use the system as an enhancement to DCS," Augello says.

The telephone-based system gives both car and motorcycle dealers a faster way to get smaller orders into the system--sometimes while a customer is waiting to find out when their vehicles will be fixed, he says.

Password Protection

To ensure that only authorized employees utilize BEST, BMW can establish individualized passwords in addition to the dealer code required for system access.

Further security is provided by an audit trail, maintained in the host, based on both the dealer's own parts order (PO) number and one created by BMW.

BEST currently handles over 400 calls each day.

"We only have five staff members handling orders from dealerships around the country," Augello says. "Before BEST, dealers often had to leave messages on an answering machine when the staff was busy. But often their calls didn't get returned until the next day, and as a result customers had to be put off--or the dealer went to another parts vendor with his order."

To use BEST, dealers dial a toll-free 800 number and are greeted by a message asking them to enter their dealer number and password using the keypad on their touchtone telephones.

If either of these inputs is incorrect, they may be repeated two more times. After the third try, if still incorrect, the system suggests they call a telemarketer for assistance, and then disconnects the call.

Once access is granted, callers are presented with four menu options. They can enter a VOR order directly, check on an order previously placed, check price and availability of a part, or exit the system.

When entering a VOR order, they have the option of entering a PO or accepting the one that is designated by BMW.

They are then prompted by the system to enter the part number and the quantity required.

At the conclusion of the process, the system speaks back the order, including the PO number, for confirmation purposes.

To check on a previously placed order, all callers have to do is enter the PO number when prompted, and the system will indicate if the order is in process or if it has already been shipped.

If it has been shipped, the system will speak the warehouse the shipment came from> the number of packages and overall weight of the shipment> the airway bill number> and the invoice date, amount, and number.

The process for checking on prices and availability is similar.

After the 11-digit part number is entered, the system replies with a message indicating whether the part is available, the dealer price, and the suggested retail price.

At any time during the BEST call, dealers can terminate the specific application and move to another. The system also features function codes that let callers cancel an input and start over, or backspace one digit.

"With this kind of functionality, our dealers can better respond to their customer requirements and as a result improve their overall sales picture," Augello says.
COPYRIGHT 1990 Nelson Publishing
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Copyright 1990 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Publication:Communications News
Date:Aug 1, 1990
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