Ford Boosts Customer Experience Efforts
- FordPass Rewards offered
- New truck customer service center
- Easier lease renewal
- Signature dealers promise VIP experience
In this age of instant information and online reviews by anyone and everyone, any company that has customers (and how many don’t?) needs to focus on customer relations.
Ford uses the all-encompassing term “Customer Experience” (CX) to describe its efforts, which includes the entire spectrum from shopping and buying or leasing a new vehicle to everyday operation, maintenance and service to eventual sale or trade for another one.
Ford started working on CX in post-recession 2010 and claims measurable results since then, yet still ranks mid-pack among automakers. But now, with the October 2018 appointment of Elena Ford, the famous founder’s great-great-granddaughter, as Chief CX officer, Ford’s efforts are being thoroughly rethought, reengineered, amply staffed and funded with a seriousness equivalent to its product programs. The goal is “placing long-term relationships above short-term revenue gains,” Elena Ford told media at the company’s Dearborn CX headquarters, “Ford wants to be the world’s most trusted mobility company.”
Aiming to substantially improve both customer loyalty and referrals of friends and family, and to take advantage of market-leading CX to differentiate Ford from competing brands around the world, her team has met with and benchmarked Marriott, Delta Airlines, Apple, JetBlue and even Starbucks and has doubled its investment in CX this year. “From simplifying the vehicle leasing process to saving customers time on maintenance to rewarding their loyalty,” she said, “Ford Motor Company is aiming to make each part of its ownership experience easier and worry-free, building customer ranks and revenues over time.”
She added that improving CX boosts business in three ways: retention, enrichment and advocacy. Using its learnings from those benchmarked companies and others, including automaker rivals Toyota and Lexus and its own resurgent, concierge-oriented Lincoln division, the team has built a “transformational plan” for Ford.
How serious are they? Elena Ford offered a favorite quote from founder Henry: “You can’t build your reputation on what you are going to do. You must actually do it.”
So, what exactly are they doing?
Ford has just added a FordPass Rewards program to its existing FordPass mobile platform, which enables owners to monitor their vehicles, find parking spaces and make service appointments. It offers complimentary new-vehicle maintenance and (like frequent flyer and diner programs) earns points on service spending at Ford dealerships that can be used for maintenance, parts, service or even applied to the cost of a new vehicle. “FordPass Rewards is a unique relationship-building tool with our customers and dealers,” Elena Ford said.
Houston Customer Contact Center
A new customer contact center in Houston, TX – dedicated exclusively to assisting truck owners, Ford’s largest, most loyal and most demanding customer group, nationwide – introduces a new highly customer-centered approach. The prototype for all Ford call centers globally, it works on an “own the call” model with knowledgeable agents who will stay with customers from first contact to resolution instead of passing them along to other people or departments.
Easy lease renewal
Having studied the market, its customer base and the vehicle leasing process from start to finish, Ford Credit has developed two pilot programs designed to ease the process of renewing a lease, which some 300,000 Ford customers do each year. The first is Personal Lease Assistants, who will help about 1,000 customers of select dealers in New York City and Philadelphia navigate the lease renewal process. The second, called “Drive New, Now,” offers customers personalized deals on similarly equipped new models of the vehicles they are soon to turn in from their dealer’s inventories, and other options if desired.
Ford research shows that customers like the idea of vehicle service coming to them, and that it might appeal to owners of competitive brands, so it is piloting a mobile service program at one dealership in California and will soon expand it to selected dealers in Texas, Illinois, New Jersey and Florida. It dispatches service vans to bring light maintenance and service to customers’ cars and trucks at their homes or workplaces. Based on how it works out for dealers and customers, Ford will decide later whether to expand it further.
New Retail Experiences
To further evolve customer experiences, Ford is testing different retail models both here and globally. Some 70 Ford “Signature Dealers” around the world – to expand to 300 by year’s end and thousands before long – offer a new look and experience with round tables instead of traditional desks (to sit next to, instead of across from, sales people); purchase rooms with shared screens; monitors with service prices and video feeds of the service garage; and celebration areas for new-vehicle deliveries.
Meanwhile, the first Ford “Smart Lab,” a small retail point in a high-traffic area surrounded by restaurants, shops and entertainment in Brussels, Belgium, lets customers experience Ford products in a no-pressure shopping-mall environment. Modeled after a successful retail mall concept developed by Ford dealers in Turin, Italy, five more Smart Labs should open by the end of 2019.
Ford’s goal is to create an environment that reinforces trust and transparency, Elena Ford said. “Customers in today’s increasingly connected world expect better and more personalized treatment. They want solutions that make them feel productive, cared for and special. That’s why we’re reimagining every single part of a customer’s ownership journey. Trust is the cornerstone of everything we do and every interaction we have. The real measure of our success as a company is keeping customers’ loyalty over time.”