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Customer satisfaction the key to Ford’s transformation

Sales force: Ford says it has seen an improvement in customer satisfaction levels since implementing a new consumer experience strategy.

Ford rolls out new consumer experience plan to improve aftersales service

5 May 2015

FORD Australia has implemented a plan to improve its customer service levels, with Australia acting as the pilot market for the strategy in the Asia Pacific region.

The plan was initially developed for the Canadian and the United States markets, but it has since been adapted for Australia as Ford hones its resources into improving its customer experience, which slipped to below the industry average in last year’s JD Power Customer Service Index study.

Ford Australia president and CEO Graeme Whickman told media at last week’s Focus ST launch that the strategy focuses on three main areas – culture, process and technology.

“If you put those together in the right way, you come up with a much better outcome for consumers,” he said. “What we are doing here… we have a cultural program going on, so we have a business coach for our management in each of the dealerships who are participating with us.

“It comes at a cost, but it’s a very good investment because it helps them with their management ability and it opens their eyes, as it does us.

“Then there is some process what do consumers expect when they walk into a dealership either to purchase or service a car? There is a lot of work there.”

Mr Whickman said that while Ford was looking to improve technology in its dealerships for its customers, it is important to ensure it does not detract from interaction with dealer staff.

“There is a technology overlay – how can technology enable the cultural, procedural change in a way that it doesn’t get in the way – that’s kind of important,” he noted.

“Nobody wants to walk into a dealership and be met by an unmanned kiosk or iPad of which they try to work out how to get their car serviced and they never see a person. What they want is efficiency within the technology.” Without detailing specifics of the plan, Mr Whickman said the idea is to integrate three elements of culture, process and technology into an experience that is easy and engaging for the consumer.

“It’s a bit of surprise and delight, but at the end of the day it’s about efficiency. It might be a bit more about knowing the customer a little bit better, might be a bit more about knowing their past history. That helps tailor an experience as such so it’s relevant, it’s efficient and it’s rewarding.”

Other initiatives that Ford has recently undertaken to improve customer satisfaction include the introduction of a free loan car with every scheduled service, and a capped-price service program.

Mr Whickman said Ford is looking to Australia to see the results of the customer service plan, adding that this puts some pressure on him to perform.

“This market here, we are like a global pioneer,” he said. “We are pulling together the best of breed on culture stuff, process and technology and putting it together in a way that’s not been done anywhere else.

“The eyes of Ford are looking now on us. It’s kind of cool, and there’s a little bit of pressure.” Without identifying the study, Mr Whickman said Ford’s ranking in another customer service survey had risen recently, but added there was more to do to ensure the Blue Oval maintained its new status.

“We were low in terms of customer satisfaction competitive rankings – forget about internal metrics – and now we have gone from below average to number two.

“It’s a great effort by the dealerships. We helped with some culture, some process, and got this technology overlay coming in. But they are at the pointy end, and they have done an awesome job and we have been able to move that (score).

“So now we are there, what else are we going to do? How are we going to keep ourselves there, how are we going to continue to refine?”

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