Mercedes' Cannon: Customer service is our top priority
Steve Cannon: A “renewed focus” on the Mercedes culture
Photo credit: JOE WILSSENS
DETROIT -- For years, Mercedes-Benz USA pushed sales relentlessly to meet ever increasing goals set by its parent company in Stuttgart.
But now there's a new U.S. boss. Since becoming CEO a year ago, Steve Cannon, 51, has made improving customer service the top priority at Mercedes-Benz USA.
That applies to everything the brand and its dealers do, Cannon said at the Automotive News World Congress.
"The need to deliver exceptional, truly differentiating customer experience has never been greater," Cannon said. "Our renewed focus on culture will help us live up to our tag line 'The Best or Nothing.'"
Mercedes-Benz USA, with its 359 dealerships, is working to improve the customer experience. It launched the Driven to Lead program and trained 11,000 customer-facing employees at a so-called boot camp last year, Cannon said.
In 2012, the automaker also conducted its first survey of dealership employees to measure how involved they were at their stores. About 15,000 workers participated, and dealers got the results for their individual stores, Cannon said.
"We found that 63 percent of the employees inside our stores are highly engaged. That's pretty good. But it also means that 37 percent of the people who engage our customers every day are either not engaged or in some cases actively undermining their stores. That is not acceptable," he said. "Our most engaged dealers are our most profitable dealers and deliver the best customer experience."
Mercedes-Benz USA also discovered that 70 percent of dealership employees had never driven one of the brand's vehicles. It launched the Drive a Star Home program, which will take a fleet of more than 700 vehicles to stores this year so dealership employees can drive them for a few days. "This is the kind of investment that you can only make if culture matters," Cannon said.
There is no guarantee these programs will boost Mercedes' customer satisfaction scores this year, he said. "But it's the leap of faith you make when people start mattering more than process."
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