Dealers who want to amp up value should take their service expertise right to customers’ doors.
Carm Scarpace, dealer partner at Westfield Ford, Countryside, IL, does just that by deploying techs through the Ford Mobile Service. Westfield and other dealerships in Ford’s voluntary mobile program can order or use in-stock 2022 or 2023 Escapes outfitted with Wi-Fi. Techs from Westfield use an Escape plus the dealership’s Transit van to go to customers’ homes to service their cars, even those not purchased from Ford.
“This program has changed our whole culture and thought process in our service department,” Scarpace, who plans to add more vehicles to his fleet, tells Wards. “Dealers have been through a lot (due to the pandemic). OEMs have been through a lot. As a dealer, to see your manufacturing company so concerned with the customer experience versus just the repair or the sale, (breathes) life into the department. We are all going after the same thing: a positive customer experience.”
At the most recent NADA Show, Todd Rabourn, Ford’s North America Regional CX Director, Experience Implementation, told Wards the mobile service was another step by the manufacturer to more fully partner with dealers.
The manufacturer offsets costs for up to six repair orders per mobile service unit daily and all customer pick-ups and deliveries. The payments are based on each store’s warranty labor rates, which vary by market.
“We need our (dealership staff) to be extremely well-trained because this is a new, emerging market,” says Rabourn. “We’re still focused on costs, and we also want to provide the best customer service available.”
Scarpace says that besides offering customers premium service and freeing bays at the dealership, the program allows techs a different career trajectory. That’s a boost for the dealership now that the shortage of Fixed Ops employees, especially service technicians, shows no signs of easing.
“Some of our senior techs have something like three more years until their retirement,” says Scarpace. “They ask if they can get into the mobile service. It’s created a whole new avenue for everybody.”
And a camaraderie develops among the techs and their customers that can only be a positive for customer satisfaction rates, dealership loyalty and profits.
“Every customer knows who their tech was,” says Scarpace. “We (recently) got a call for one of our techs to do a simple recall repair. And the customer asked the tech to come back the following Tuesday to do a tire repair on their other vehicle. When he went back, the customer had made brownies and cookies for him. And asked for his card.”
Ford currently has 1,387 dealers enrolled in Mobile Service, “with the number growing every day,” the automaker reports. Customers’ use of the remote service has increased by 45% since Q4 of 2022. Ford also reports nearly 3,000 dealers are enrolled in its pick-up and delivery service.