Lincoln embraces concierge approach
NEW YORK -- In its quest to improve customer service in dealerships, Lincoln is turning to a global organization of hotel concierges for training help and will set up a concierge service for shoppers.
Les Clefs d'Or (lay-klay-dor), an organization of 3,600 members in 43 countries, will help Lincoln develop a dealership staff training program at the brand's new Lincoln Academy. Les Clefs d'Or translates as "the keys of gold" and is known by its crossed gold keys symbol.
"You can expect to see their ideas of concierge service at our dealerships," Jim Farley, Ford group vice president for global marketing, sales and service, said at a party here where the 2013 Lincoln MKZ sedan was unveiled before the New York auto show.
Lincoln also said it would launch a service called Lincoln 24/7 Online Concierge in early 2013. The service, which will be staffed by Lincoln representatives who talk to shoppers live via computer, is designed for customers who want to research vehicles online but may not want to go to a dealership.
The service will help shoppers find vehicles in their areas and can provide price and feature comparisons between Lincoln and rival brand vehicles.
Lincoln is aiming to have some customer service initiatives running by the time the 2013 Lincoln MKZ arrives in dealerships in late 2012 or early 2013.
The Lincoln Academy training program is to launch this summer.
"All our competitors have great product and a great customer experience in dealerships," and Lincoln must do the same to compete, said Kevin Cour, Lincoln manager of sales and service. "We have to provide our dealers the skill to listen to their customers." The hospitality industry can provide that, he said.
Lincoln is also testing several other initiatives, including a test-drive program being piloted in New York, Miami and Los Angeles.
"We ask a customer, 'Where would you like to take your test drive?'" said Dee-Dee Boykin, Lincoln East Coast operations manager. Lincoln may also pay for dinner at a local restaurant along with the test drive. The service is called "Lincoln Date Night" because it means "you're dating the car," said Cour. The test-drive program may be integrated with the online concierge. Test drives could last up to 48 hours.
Bob Tasca Jr., owner of Tasca Ford-Lincoln in Cranston, R.I., and chairman of the Lincoln National Dealer Council, admitted some of the trial programs may be kind of novel for dealers.
"When something is a little uncomfortable, that's a good thing," he said at the Lincoln party in New York. "They're trying to think outside the box. You have to give the customer a reason to look at Lincoln."
Tasca said he believes Lincoln's dealer training programs "will help my people get to another level."
Lincoln is also considering other initiatives.
"We're thinking about celebrating the ownership of your automobile on the first, the second, the third and fourth" anniversary, said Farley. "It doesn't get done in this industry."
You can reach Bradford Wernle at email@example.com.