Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Got Those Infotainment Blues

You are driving down the road and your windshield fogs up. Easy. In the old days, you reached over and pushed a button for your defroster. How could we improve on that?


Now, we press on a new steering wheel button that does not control cruise control, radio volume, FM/AM/Satellite radio, change channels, tell us the instantaneous mpg, or whatever. This new button activates the robot. Push and speak. Meanwhile, the fog's getting thicker and visibility is diminishing.

The robot asks us what we want to do. Can't see much anymore. We say, "Defrost the windshield." Oops. We said it wrong.

Getting desperate. We scream "DEFROSTER!" The robot does not care that we are starting to freak out. It's focused on elocution and correct phrasing.

You blindly (literally) pull over to the side of the road and find the tiny knob or touch screen sequence that engages the defroster and allows you to see again.

Next, you visit your dealer and ask what's going wrong. The service advisor examines your car and takes you by the hand out to your car and explains how the robot works, how to sequence your requests, and how to articulate the commands. The advisor tells you that the vehicle is fine. Implicit in this is that your command of the technology is not so fine.

You leave the dealership and try to use the robot to call your sister, but end up dialing your mother-in-law. The connection was so fast and complex that it could not be stopped. Your mother-in-law hates you for not coming to Thanksgiving last year. (OK, she hates you for a lot more than that.) You act nice, but when the call is over, you scream at your car.

At home, you call the customer service line and scream at a young man who’s in a call center somewhere overseas. This person did not design the robot.

You hate your new car. You hate your dealer. You hate that damn robot in your car.

In the world of aftersales, we are used to customer emotions coming out when something is broken and/or the repair is long and/or expensive. We have more than 100 years of experience with these sorts of situations.

However, we do not have a lot of experience with situations where our customers are freaked out and everything is working just fine with their car - exactly as designed. There is nothing to be repaired or fixed ... except latent anger and a resolve never to buy the brand again.

This narrative is loosely based on a true story. Lest you blame this all on user error, it turns out that one of our more tech-savvy employees rented a car from the same brand this week. He was excited to see if his rental car’s robot was better than his own car’s limited, but reliable, voice capabilities. He had to break out the manual before leaving the rental lot.

Bottom line:
Apple has the highest market capitalization in the history of the world. They have two sorts of customers: (1) those attracted to their products, and (2) those pissed off with other's products. Apple products do not really need instruction manuals - a fact they delight in. Why can't the OEMs design their infotainment systems with a similar law of design? In my iPhone's settings, I can turn Siri off.

But, this is all beside the point. The folks who are in charge of customer care-and-feeding for 5.5 years of original ownership have little to say to the folks who design the product's attraction for the 55 minutes it takes to sell the car. The problem is that we've changed the game. It's no longer about fixing broken cars and trucks. It's about fixing broken customers.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Second North American Technician Survey - Day 2 of Launch

We’re off to a great start on the survey. Just two full days into it and we already have 3,800 completed responses, plus about another 250 nearly-complete responses. That’s a phenomenal start and will greatly enhance the validity of the results we get from this survey.

Below are some of the comments I’m seeing. For the most part, we are seeing two primary comments – “thanks for the survey” and “please give us some feedback/do something with the results”. We clearly have tremendous support for this survey, but it is going to be incumbent upon all the OEMs to make sure we get back to our technicians after this survey with some feedback.

Note the comments below are just a sample of the over 600 we’ve already received to the one question that specifically asks them about their thoughts on the survey….

“Good Survey” Comments:
  • This is the first time in 15 years I think I have ever taken a survey about my satisfaction of [OEM] and my work environment. I would like to see this more often and hopefully see some changes come from it. Thanks!
  • The survey was perfect. I'm glad that [OEM] takes the time to read comments from their technicians.
  • The survey is great and the ability to provide additional comments is very good.
  • Very thorough survey!
  • Survey was excellent Very pleased to have been a part of it.
  • Survey was good. Thank you for taking the time to ask.
  • Excellent I liked it. This is a way for you to hear what I have to say about my job, I already like my job but it can get better.
  • Very good survey, hope it makes a difference
  • Wow! - a long survey, but all questions seem relevant to issues that we face day to day and seem to qualify responses.
  • Good questions, long survey, but not too much fluff.
  • Thanks for your interest in what I have to say.
  • Great survey. Hope it makes a difference.
  • In order for this survey to be effective every technician MUST take it! I have been with [OEM] for 6 years and this is the first technician survey I have taken!
  • This is a very in depth survey
  • Survey was conducted well and length was not too long. Questions presented well with job specific categories.
“Provide Feedback/Use Results” Comments
  • If this doesn’t get read and taken seriously I will be upset i even took the time to take it.
  • Survey was good. Would like to physically see the results of all surveys gathered be heard and see what results come from them. You can take a million surveys and just wonder if anything was taken from them or if it was just a waste of your time.
  • I hope the time spent on this survey will result in some benefit to the dealership network and [OEM].
  • Survey is fine, would actually love to see something come out from doing these surveys.
  • Nice approach, now let’s see if they actually alter any policies.
  • Confirmation that this was read and not promptly filed in the garbage because nobody really wants my opinion which is based on fact.
  • I'd like to see positive change and hope this helps.
  • Please let us know when something from this survey is implemented-doubt it does.
  • Where can I see the results of the survey? I'd like to see the data collected. Thanks!
  • I hope someone reads this survey and makes some changes. I know I'm not the only one that feels like this
  • The survey is ok. But I want to see something actually change.
Bottom line: They care and want to count. Making a difference starts with digesting the implications of the survey, for your company, and then acting.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

MyGuy Customer Retention Practices – Hey, I Know That Stuff Already And I Am Not The Stereotypical OEM! I Can Prove It

David P. Carlisle

As I get older I find myself focusing on the simpler things in life. Understanding a customer’s experience is ultimately very simple. (1) You buy, (2) you maintain & fix, and (3) you buy again. It is a useful exercise to depict all this using common stereotypes. I call it “The Stereotype.” Don’t get defensive; stay with me on this.

You buy it … Stereotypically. In the old days, you researched what vehicle you wanted and did most of the shopping on the internet. You chose and negotiated on the Internet and by phone. You came in with lots of data and, after a lot of waiting, found out from the salesman that all this effort and collected data was irrelevant. You found out about additional dealer preparation costs and processing fees that were mandated by the state. The used car person assessed the scrap value of your current ride, and F&I browbeated you into ordering undercoating, extended warranties, and a security system for your new vehicle. Finally, your salesman said he needs you to give him “all 5s” on the survey the factory will send you … because his family depends on him as a breadwinner and he will get burned if he does not get the very top scores. Besides, he reinforced that you were the most important customer in his life. You emerged, feeling a little dopey after an hour or so, with a new ride and a monthly payment exponentially higher than you planned. OK, a lot has changed here. Now, you get coffee cups in the mail after you close the deal.

That takes care of the “buy.” On to service, repair and maintenance.

Next, you own that vehicle for about 5.5 years and take it in for warranty service, maintenance, and miscellaneous repairs. Your point of contact is the dealer’s service advisor. You really don’t want to deal with the technician who’s fixing/maintaining your vehicle because the tattoos are way too distracting. The service advisor used to work on the dealer’s lawn crew and he impressed the man with his entrepreneurial talent. Mow lawns, sell service??? Easy transition. By the way, one of my people’s sons recently started as a service advisor after finishing his undergraduate history degree and working as a bellman at a hotel. Now, this young man is a good kid; but, he has no mechanical knowledge and has never picked up a wrench in his life. The training was watching Ed for a day; then, go get ’em Tiger. … sell lots of flushes to make that $/RO bogie. This is typical, not stereotypical. Dealer Service Advisors are the real implementers of multimillion-dollar OEM customer retention strategies. Pretty cool. Reminds me of a 1994 Jeff Daniels movie. So, the Service Advisor closes out your RO and says he needs you to give him “all 5s” on the survey the factory will send you … because his family depends on him as a breadwinner and he will get burned if he does not get the top scores. Besides, he reinforced that you were the most important customer in his life. You finally emerged after a lot of up-selling, waiting, and unexpected charges. But, he’s not your guy.

OK, a lot has changed here. Now, the dealership surveys you before the factory does to really make sure you give “all 5’s” on the factory survey.

* * * * *

Of course, the latter maintenance and repair stereotype is not operative in your dealer network. You can prove it yourself just by looking at your defection rates. Hmm. Maybe that won’t work. There are five other tests you can use to show that you are different and not the stereotype.

#1. You have recently updated and documented service advisor best practices – and you train, certify, and measure compliance. This is the foundation. Here’s what I mean, by example; we worked with the top service advisors from four brands and recently did this. Our teams documented service advisor best practices and tied them to service market share. The bar chart shows the difference in market share for dealers spanning the range from always to never utilizing a pre-write-up (the advisor has reviewed each appointment and made notations regarding: this is a repeat customer; what was completed, declined, delayed last time; is there an open campaign or bulletin; what are their preferences for wash, alternative transportation, payment; how I can recognize and call them by name as they arrive – time, vehicle color, names) in advance of customer arrival. The numbers are huge. This best practice is good for dealers and good for service customers. OK, if you are not the stereotype, you’ve got something similar.

#2. You used these best practices to develop a training program for your Service Advisors. A book of best practices will not effectuate change – you need to go out there and make them into believers. You might be thinking that your training organization does this, so you’ve got this one covered. Sorry. Your purchasing organization has negotiated your trainers into a box where there’s no room for innovation, improvement, or excellence. The margins for investment have been squeezed to nothing and what you are buying is a decades-old curriculum brushed off and spruced up to look like whatever you want. Ask the trainers to show you their service advisor best practices and, if they show you them, look for antiquated ideas and concepts. If you pass this test (along with #1) with flying colors, you are not the stereotype.

#3. You’ve nuked your old customer service satisfaction surveys and rolled out a game-proof alternative. This is important. You need to measure true customer satisfaction, not how well your dealers beg for high scores. This is easy; all you need to do is have the first survey question ask, “Did anybody from the dealership tell you that you would be surveyed after the service visit?” If they say “yes,” then throw out that survey response – it has been tampered with. You will have to tell your dealers about this. This is pretty important in engineering a better customer experience at your dealers/distributors. A quality service satisfaction survey is your windshield for driving down the road. Oh, by the way, the survey needs to check and see if service advisor best practices were deployed. So, you really do need those best practices. Do all this (along with #1 & #2) and you are not the stereotype.

#4. It is as easy as 1,2,3 if you can now make sure that your service customers can make an appointment at your dealers. Most of your customers are now “Digital Service Customers (DSCs)” who use the internet in some manner to research and book service. In many cases, OEMs have brilliant web-based service strategies that digitally “walk” the DSC right up to the door of the dealer for service. New millennium technology meets 19th century prison protocols at this point. You need to take control and have a uniform, world-class,
appointment scheduling system. Best-in-class is Xtime. They pretty much own this space as it is defined by cost and quality. The choice is easy; you want a new cell phone? OK, do you go out and get a Blackberry (yuk!) or a new iPhone (of course!)? Same holds true for “i” Xtime. OK, if you’ve got Xtime, along with #1, #2, and #3, then you are not the stereotype.

Most probably, you are the stereotype.

#5. You, the factory, need to coddle and catch customers before they defect or spread bad word of mouth. This takes a world-class CRM/call-center strategy. GM is king of the mountain here. They have a room full of Volt advisors who are uniquely assigned to Volt customers to guide them along the ownership experience. GM delivers a Saturn-like customer experience from Saginaw Michigan. They have another group that I call “Santa’s Workshop” that proactively contacts and gifts customers who have recently had high-risk repairs (repairs that, even when done well, can tick off customers). So, you’ve nailed it and have #1, #2, #3, #4, and #5 – you are in nirvana and will pass purgatory and go straight to heaven. However, count yourself lucky if you’ve just got #5 nailed.

Bottom Line. You can carp on and defend what you are and what you are doing. Spend your precious time picking apart why The Stereotype does not pertain to you and your company. But, ultimately, you really are The Stereotype. It is time to do something about it.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Got the Grey Market and Counterfeits Blues? Don’t Give Up Hope

At this year’s NAPB, the topic of grey market and counterfeits commanded a lot of attention and discussion. As OEMs grow and expand their global operations they become ripe targets for grey/black market perpetrators. What’s bad about these sorts of parts? Lots. They are not “genuine”, but parade themselves as such and deceive customers. This destroys brand reputation and brand equity. Counterfeit parts are like phony $100 bills – counterfeit bills don’t work at ATMs and counterfeit parts don’t work on your car/truck/tractor. Grey Market parts might look okay, but they are likely to be superseded or meant for vehicles in other markets. We hosted a recent roundtable on this. Roundtable participants included domestic and import OEMs in both the auto and heavy equipment sectors, and the discussion focused on some of the countermeasures OEMs were putting to use.

For example:

  • OEMs revealed that dealers have become key partners in detecting grey/black market operations. OEMs educate dealers on how to identify black market parts and some OEMs even have a reward system for dealers that report grey/black market activities.
  • OEMs have also found success by partnering with customs officials and foreign governments. The more educated the officials are, the more likely they are to spot abnormal shipments, a win-win situation for both the officials and the OEMs. One domestic heavy equipment OEM has also started a government lobbying group to educate foreign governments about the importance of IP protection.
  • Another interesting method employed by one import OEM involves using a third-party webcrawler to search for violations online. This process has proven to be extremely successful for the OEM thus far, removing over $150M in grey/black market parts from the marketplace.
  • As a countermeasure on the dealer side, several OEMs reported tracking sales per UIO and/or utilizing RIM to spot unusual inventory movements (or lack thereof). Though determining if an inventory discrepancy is actually caused by grey/black market activity can prove to be difficult, these methods are a good starting point and may indicate a need for additional digging.
Though each OEM faces its own level of grey/black market activity, participants all agreed that the grey/black market was a growing problem and that industry collaboration on a global scale would be a critical step in reducing the market’s size and scope.

Bottom Line: If your company is worried about the proliferation of a grey/black market for your parts, here are five steps you can take:

  1. Educate your customers. Stop grey market and counterfeit at the point of purchase and installation.
  2. Partner with your dealers. Both your company’s and your dealer’s incentives should be aligned; dealers can be a powerful force out in the field.
  3. Educate customs officials. Catching the “bad guys” is their goal as much as yours.
  4. Do internet research. A huge chunk of illicit trade is done online. If your company doesn’t have the resources to do the research in-house, then invest in a third-party tool.
  5. Use your data. There is a reason your company tracks inventory. If something appears out of place, then do some digging.