Ford Australia’s decision to style its franchise dealers after the likes of Apple and Disney has given it the biggest improvement in customer satisfaction of any Ford region globally.
The company’s Dealerships of the Future model, introduced in late 2014, has now been ported into 75 per cent of all Ford dealers, co-funded by the brand and its franchise dealers.
As a result, service retention rates are up 37 per cent since 2012, meaning people are taking their Fords back to the dealer for servicing — a lucrative revenue stream for the company’s network to complement its booming sales.
According to the company, inter-company customer satisfaction surveys show that Ford Australia has improved its customer satisfaction ratings (off a low base) more than any other global region. Other countries are now looking to Ford Australia for counsel.
The suite of programs under the Dealerships of the Future program include concierge greetings at the dealer, iPad-based shopping and service apps, and higher-tech test drives where potential car buyers can receive an explanation of the car features via the Sync voice control system.
New Ford owners can specify the radio station presets and even the climate-control temperature they want configured in their car before taking delivery.
Even little things such as Ford’s sales people delivering the car in a glitzy silk wrap are part of the program. The company admits this is cheesy, but apparently it works, “for even the most hardened tradie buying a Ranger”.
The aftersales side includes lifetime capped-price servicing, online service booking, free loan cars (Melbourne dealer Chadstone Ford has 25 loan cars available, for instance) a full vehicle ‘report card’ with easier to digest information, and free auto club membership.
Ford Australia president and CEO Graeme Whickman said that the program was instigated and part-funded by Ford — which invested in its own back-end heavily — and that its dealers had been set some new “non negotiables” in exchange for Ford regularly sending in coaches and advisors to train dealer staff.
These changes range across cultural, process and technological areas, and according to Whickman are about “moving with the times” and becoming like Apple, Sony, Disney or even flagship Telstra stores.
“This is an exciting time at Ford as we transform our dealerships while launching a record number of new vehicles – all to make our customers’ lives better and easier throughout their sales and ownership experience,” he said.
We are just getting started and we already have seen significant progress in sales and service satisfaction, which has helped us increase sales and improve service retention as this has become a differentiator for Ford.”
Do you own a Ford? How have you found the sales and service experience so far?