LAS VEGAS – Leaders at Ford remain committed to the dealer model and have taken steps to strengthen their effectiveness with customers, says Elena Ford, the automaker’s chief customer experience officer.
Ford tells attendees at Automotive Retail 2022 hosted here by Reuters that the automaker is middle of the pack with customer experience but works hard to move ahead, as do its competitors.
“We look at a lot of benchmarking, and we look outside of the (auto) business,” she says. “I spend a lot of time looking at companies like Delta and their customer experience. They are really doing extremely well. We look at companies like Chick-fil-A, their franchises and (how they took) their business to a whole new level.”
That translates into more connections between the automaker and its dealer body, training dealers on how to devise systems and efficiencies and handle customers in specific ways that make them feel “like family,” she says.
One initiative is a Ford Guest Experience pilot that will launch this month. Ford invites 10-12 dealers, who can each have up to four employees accompany them, to join them in Detroit and train on a host of customer service issues such as pickup and delivery. The company plans to start rolling out that service at 1,500 dealerships by July. Ford expects all its dealers will offer the service by the end of the year. Other planned training includes how to assist customers who use the automaker’s FordPass Rewards loyalty program, service drive options, delivery, online retailing and more.
After the Detroit-based training, each dealer will partner for six months with an automaker-assigned coach/result manager. Those coaches will visit their assigned dealerships and work with the dealer to ensure the practices work best for their specific stores.
Other Ford initiatives include reworking the online retail experience so customers can complete all required paperwork up to some financing before they come to the dealerships. That shouldn’t be a burden because most customers want to test drive cars, she says. Ford is working to redefine that experience, too.
“People definitely want to test drive cars,” Elena Ford says, especially when they switch models. “It’s a very big deal that they offer test drives on the customers’ terms when they are convenient for them.”
The automaker also adopts some ideas from their European dealers, including such technology as goggles that allow dealership technicians to transmit what they see to technicians at Ford’s headquarters. That results in faster diagnoses and increases customer satisfaction.
“Our dealers are our partners in everything we do; keeping customers loyal keeps them at dealerships,” Elena Ford says. “It’s important they have great relationships with customers.”