The Facebook postings of a Northeast BMW salesperson causes corporate embarrassment and hurts company's brand image (Lopiano and Watson). Having a long established history as a major, luxury dealership, Northeast BMW has a positive employer-staff relationship based on loyalty and proper compensation. Moreover, Northeast BMW maintains her customer base based on repeat business and long-standing company-customer relations. This corporate culture has continued after a leadership change. The new company's leader, a son-in-law of company's last leader (himself a son of dealership's founder), emphasizes company's commitment and management as a "family business". The negative postings by a company's salesperson (on food offerings for Ultimate Driving Event in which Northeast BMW launches redesigned BMW5 Series model and on an accident in which a 13-year old son of a customer drives a Land Rover into a nearby pond) have only called for management's response.
One critical learning of case at hand is how a family business responds to a company-wide issue compared, for example, to a public company. If anything, brand image and reputation stand out as most valuable assets a family business has. In current case, one salesperson's action has stimulated senior management for response. Typically, line managers and/or responsible staff would respond in a different company's structure and organization. Thus, in a company in which personal relationships (between company and staff and/or company and customers) are most cherished and are, significantly, long-standing, reputation and brand image assume more significance.
A second important learning is about company's recruitment policies. Specifically, in-place, current company policies appear to be ad hoc and informal. If anything, practices, not policies, define company-staff relations. This is, at best, a major flaw in a major dealership. The unfolding of Facebook postings has, moreover, further highlighted how company's management has chosen to respond. First, a hurriedly prepared Employee Handbook is prepared in order to address image damage caused by one salesperson's act. Predictably, instead of offering a more detailed staff social media policy, general instructions are made under "Bad Attitude" and "Courtesy" (Lopiano and Watson).
Third, in growing into a major dealership, Northeast BMW fails to adapt to changing business ecosystem both internally and externally. Internally, ad hoc employment policies and a prevailing family business culture define internal business organization and relations. Externally, loyalty of successive generations of customers has, admittedly, maintained a strong customer base, particularly for a company selling a luxury product. However, Northeast BMW appears to adopt no specific (and, for that matter, formal) strategic marketing plan. Indeed, sales appear to be sustained primarily based on personal relationships developed over years. This approach runs against current complex, business ecosystem marked by a combination of formalized and personalized marketing efforts. Predictably, one salesperson's action has had an outsize impact on company's brand image and reputation.
Individual and/or Team Dynamics
The salesperson under investigation is an outspoken employee. He does not shy away from voicing his personal opinions such as he did during a pre-launch meeting for Ultimate Driving Event. Moreover, he appears to have strong persuasion skills. This is evident by endorsement of his coworkers of his rejection of management's planned activities during Ultimate Driving Event. Notably, questioned by his seniors about his "personal" act, he stated explicitly that his postings are nothing but personal.
Solutions / Recommendations
There are recommendations Northeast BMW needs to cater for in order to reverse current course of events and, more significantly, to improve performance in long haul. Notably, Northeast BMW is recommended to put in place a comprehensive staff social media strategy. Given increasing importance of online communication and social networking, companies, big and small, are adopting social media strategies and policies aimed at more control of staff online communication practices. In current case, broad definitions of proper behavior are not enough. More specific policies need to be in place for more accountable actions. Second, Northeast BMW is highly recommended to develop a marketing strategy as opposed to current loyalty-based sales approach. Indeed, a marketing strategy is apt to buffer against possible brand damage. If loyal customers are so because of long-standing company-customer relations, loyal customers turn, once alienated, to negative marketers of company's products. Nothing, after all, stays in family forever.
In a final appraisal, Northeast BMW represents an ideal example of a corporate culture sustained by longstanding relations, internally and externally. Catering to needs of price insensitive customers, Northeast BMW relies on image and quality. Therefore, in order to sustain business in an increasingly dynamic customer segments (compared to more stable market segments in earlier periods), Northeast BMW needs to accommodate for a broader strategic perspective in handling staff and customers. This can be achieved by more formalized strategies and policies, particularly in marketing and recruitment areas. Not least, company's decisions need to be made more collaboratively and should be informed by as more stakeholders as possible.
Lopiano, Gabrielle R., and Mary A. Watson. "Facebook Folly at Northeast BMW (A)." Case Research Journal 35.2 (2015): 1-5. Harvard Business Publishing. Web. 1 Feb. 2016.