Magazine article CRM Magazine

Driving Relationships: Track After-the-Sale Customer Issues, Because 'It's Not Just about Products'

Magazine article CRM Magazine

Driving Relationships: Track After-the-Sale Customer Issues, Because 'It's Not Just about Products'

Article excerpt

General Motors and Ford faced a challenging year in 2005. Under pressure to lower inventory levels the companies initiated employee pricing campaigns last summer. However, while lowering prices helped to move products, automakers and dealers are still in neutral when it comes to enhancing their postsale customer relationships.

"U.S. manufacturers want to embrace CRM going forward. The main issue is that CRM can't be addressed simply by having a CRM program in place. You must have a different attitude that it's not just about the products," says Thilo Koslowski, vice president and lead automotive analyst at Gartner. "Most innovative companies are looking at employing CRM throughout the organization to have a consistent strategy and message. That's important, but companies need to [do it in] different departments."

Honda's leasing agents have the authority to apply $1,500 to this effort, making it less painful for customers to return their cars, according to Koslowski. "That's a pragmatic way of empowering people within the organization to make consumer experiences more positive," he says. "If you really embrace CRM on a holistic level, it really becomes like a philosophy for companies."

One of the biggest challenges is synchronizing the experience between dealerships and the original equipment manufacturer (OEM), according to Koslowski. Vendors like Siebel Systems are attempting to help OEMs better the customer experience, and others, such as Reynolds and Reynolds, are servicing dealerships. Still, a disconnect exists between manufacturer and dealer.

Both dealers and manufacturers need to look past the original purchase and focus more on postsale concerns like reducing detection-to-correction (DTC), or the amount of time it takes from when a manufacturer is first made aware of a quality issue until it detects and corrects that issue, according to AMR Research. It takes manufacturers an average of 120 days to detect and correct problems, with each day costing $1 million when taking into account cost of service, labor, parts, and brand impact, according to Kevin Mixer, former vice president at AMR.

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As companies scramble to reduce DTC times, they also should be conscious of how doing so can save customer relationships. When a problem arises, organizations should work to communicate with consumers about the issue, Koslowski says. "Consumers value reliability and quality of vehicles, but 75 percent of U.S. owners value dealership and manufacturer relationships during the ownership phase. …

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