Detroit – When your surname is Ford, you live in Detroit and you still play an active role within Ford Motor Corporation, you’re as close to royalty in America as you’ll ever get.
In this case it’s Elena Ford, who is currently the chief customer experience officer for Ford Blue. Ford Blue came about after president and CEO Jim Farley split the business into two separate but interdependent business units.
Ford Blue is dedicated to the traditional internal combustion engine and Ford e focuses on EVs and connectivity.
Speaking after the recent launch of the new Mustang she proudly mentioned that her first car on her 16th birthday was a 1982 silver Mustang with blue stripes.
“It’s still my favourite car and I have a wonderful collection of Mustangs.”
But we were there to talk about Ford’s customer experience and she spoke candidly and passionately about the programme.
“Obviously product is important, but the experience the customer has is equally important. We can’t sell the car, wave to the customer and say ‘have a nice life’ and move on. We have to engage with them constantly.
“We’ve been using Forrester to gauge our ownership experience and we’re below average compared to the rest of the industry, so we have a lot of work to do to manage experiences.”
With regard to South Africa, Ford said that in 2022 there had been a slight decline in customer satisfaction.
“Customers in dealerships in South Africa want good communication, the basics of a good sale and a service experience. They want to come in and have a really good dealership experience. We need to work on that and fix the basics. We don’t need to reinvent the wheel, we just have to do things right,” she said.
“For the last 100 years we’ve been working on the product and only the last five working on experience. We do an incredible job with our products but a lot less time on the experience. So we’re spending a lot of time focusing on the customer experience.
“The front-line employees really have to have a handle on what the experience is and the dealership really has to deliver these experiences.
“We’re moving from a transactional relationship with the customer to one that focuses on the entire ownership experience as a key tenant to the Ford+ plan,” Ford explained.
Speaking to IMG (South Africa, North Africa, Australia, Thailand and the Middle East) motoring journalists she focused on two of the 10 experiences: the Ranger and Everest expert and the convenience services.
“The process is human-centric. We go out and speak to customers. We listen to what their wants and needs are so we understand what they’re thinking, how they use their vehicles and we design experiences to make their life easier so that they have the least downtime and get the most out of their vehicle. Once we’ve done that we go back and dial it in with them in the same way.
“The Ranger and Everest experts are human and virtual advice people who interact with customers on issues they may have. It speaks to how the expert is going to interact with the customers. We do this for prospective customers and owners.
“Prospective owners are able to receive advice and have any of their questions addressed through our customer centres even before they go to a dealership.
Owners’ questions are answered without having to go to the dealer on any queries they may have regarding the vehicle.
“It will be launched in South Africa within the next few months. It’s proactive assistance to customers and we see it as a huge customer enhancement.”
Addressing the convenience services, Ford said that it would be centred around the FordPass app.
“By connecting with the app you can book your service at a dealer online, a pick-up and deliver option as well as an on-location option where we come to you, which is really convenient for fleet owners.
“We’re expecting more than 20% of our customers in the IMG markets to be serviced by these three options. We’re also launching this in the USA and the European markets.
“We’re spending a lot of time and money on a technology platform and a dealer technology system. These things aren’t easy to do but if we get them right we can be leaders in the markets that we’re doing it,” she concluded.