Apr 5, 2019
Tomás O'Leary
Tomás O'Leary
Tomás O'Leary

One of the things that crosses your mind when purchasing a new 8 series BMW is the price. You expect your vehicle, your customizable seats and the interior to be perfect. You expect a purchase so large with such an established company, that you can comfortably put your hands in the levels of high quality and support you should receive.


Thomas O. Jones, lecturer and author of Harvard Business School did just this. He bought a brand-new BMW. He would treat himself and his car to a regular service with BMW, as opposed to a third-party car service. This particular time, Thomas collected his vehicle and was driving seamlessly down the road, delighted with his clean purring engine. When he went to light a cigarette. When he went to drop his ash into the car’s ashtray, he discovered that the BMW garage had removed his ashtray’s inner part in order to clean the car and they had forgotten to replace it.


Thomas picks up the phone and rings BMW and explains that they have forgotten to replace his ashtray and could they please deliver this plastic component. The BMW dealer responded with “Sorry fella you need to come around here and collect it”.  As Thomas is the author of the famous Harvard Business Review article “Putting the Service Profit Chain to work”, this customer service response pinned his professional curiosity.


Now annoyed, Thomas hangs up the phone and explores more of his options. He calls Cadillac, Jaguar, Mercedes,Volvo and Lexus and explains his situation to each of their customer representatives and enquires to understand what they would do in this situation.  Unsurprisingly, they all respond with “Well, of course Sir, we would post that to you”.  Thomas calls back BMW and informs them of what their competitors are saying, and they respond with “Sorry it’s just our policy”.


About an hour later, his doorbells rings and a young man presents Thomas with the ashtray insert. “It shouldn’t have to take me to call BMW for a second time in order for you to understand what your competitors would have done”. The young man looked at him confused and said “Sir, I’m confused, I don’t work for BMW, I work for Lexus”.

“It is not about the product that differentiates you, but the service and the relationships you build.”


Can you guess what car Thomas bought after this? In regard to your IBM software support, don’t settle for “It’s just our policy”, bad customer service, long SLA times or overpriced support. Explore all your options because you at the end of the day you will be shocked from how much a third-party can offer you.


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