To address ailing image, Chrysler sets up phone lines
Pietro Gorlier: Customers should be communicating with Chrysler’s brands, not the company.
The company has set up toll-free telephone lines for its brands -- Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep and Ram -- that customers can call starting Monday, Jan. 18. Chrysler wants to address issues as fast as possible, says Pietro Gorlier, Chrysler's customer care chief executive.
The initiative echoes similar programs Gorlier set up when he was in charge of customer care for Fiat's brands in Europe.
Each brand will have its own phone number and will be responsible for developing its own methods. The company has hired an outside contractor, Convergys, of Cincinnati, to handle the calls at centers in Salt Lake City and Windsor, Ontario.
Says Gorlier: "The communication today is between the customer and the corporation. This step will move the model between the customer and the brand."
Gorlier says the phone lines aren't just for airing grievances. Customers also can use them for broader purposes, such as to book test drives or ask questions about warranty coverage.
"It is important to underline the concept of customer care, not necessarily customer complaining," says Gorlier, 47, who already has started picking up customer calls himself.
Dave Sargent, vice president of automotive research for J.D. Power and Associates, says the phones lines are a "good idea. For a company like Chrysler, who is fighting tooth and nail to keep every customer they've got, it can help if it's executed well.
"I think it's fair to say they still have some work to do, particularly in the product quality and reliability area. Our metrics have them improving, but with some way to go even to catch up with Ford and GM."
Sargent says Chrysler must be careful to manage customer expectations: "If the customer expects them to do something, they don't want to be palmed off."
Gorlier says each of Chrysler's brands will measure its performance -- and the performance of its dealers -- to determine how quickly and effectively it solves problems. He says Chrysler would like to provide customers with a plan for addressing their problems within 24 hours of the first call.
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