Just on the heels of my interaction with Nordstrom and their CMO and what I learned from that, I wrote a letter today to the CEOs (link here and below) and other key leaders of BMW AG, BMW North America, BMW Seattle, and Lithia Motors.

Let me start by saying that I love my car.  Love it.  If I could find a way to have sex with and marry my car, I’d do it.  I wash her more than I wash myself or the sheets on my bed.

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Her name, by the way, is Daryl Samuel.  She’s 10x hotter than anyone I’ve dated so far.

Resoundingly, despite a few strange mechanical issues related to the manufacturing of the car and nothing to do with my dealership, I’ve had an outstanding experience from purchase to service in the eight months I’ve been doing business with BMW Seattle.

I actually enjoy going there, I’ve gotten to know some of the employees, I’m known by name (obviously) and I often find myself spending more time there learning more about the cars and other things.

I actually got a really cool tour of the behind the scenes and got to see the inside of the mechanics area which is so freaking clean I would eat dinner off any surface there.  It also has a ton of technology and I’d actually love to have an office that is as cool as each individual mechanic’s workstation.

But something has really troubled me.  The constant dialog about the customer-satisfaction survey you receive after you visit or otherwise have a meaningful interaction with them.

What has always been troubling to me is the repeated focus on “10s.”  “Please give us all 10s” and “make sure you fill out the survey and give us ‘great scores.'”

I’ve never been told “We really appreciate feedback and want you to be happy, I hope you’ll tell us how we’re doing.”  Or better, “We’re always trying to improve, if you have any thoughts on what we did great and what we could do better, let us know.”

The employees want input on how they could improve, but don’t want it on the damn customer-survey because (as I’ve learned from several people in the business I’ve talked to) anything less than 10 means “no pay.”

I feel like both employee and myself are in a battle for the perfect ten, both jointly playing the role of Nadia Comaneci at the 1976 Olympics.

On one side, they are trying to achieve it, and on the other, I’m trying to give it.

But in this pursuit, we’re chasing something truly illusive — perfection.

In the changing business environment, in our friendships, even as we evaluate ourselves, the best tool we have to understand the ways we can do more, be more, or better live up to our expectations is the feedback from others.

What I’ve deduced via discussion and some research, however, is that the performance management system at BMW seems to operate in a model where only 10s are deemed acceptable and anything else, whether controllable by the employee or not, is somewhat of a demerit, limits earning potential, and ultimately, as we all know, career advancement. (Author’s Note:  I do not know who ultimately owns this performance management system… BMW Seattle is owned by Lithia, BMW USA a subsidiary of BMW AG…it’s hard to tell.)

Huge problems arise from such a system which I outline in this letter I have sent to leaders across the companies involved.  I’ve become such an enthusiastic BMW owner and satisfied customer of BMW Seattle; I can’t stand for such a system when I know it could impact meaningfully the many people at BMW Seattle that have made my excitement possible.  Especially when my intent is to help them improve even more.

So hopefully I’ve learned a bit from the Nordstrom experience and also completed a little random act of kindness on today, random act of kindness day.

And hopefully I’m wrong about this.

LETTER:  BMW Employee Performance

Posted by Jason Krech

Faith, accountability, and dismissing any notion of being flawless are benchmarks of cool people. (Opinions are my own and represent no organization, corporation, or other entity I may be affiliated with.)

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