M-B touts cultural change
Steve Cannon says purchasing decisions will be driven by the quality of customer-dealership interactions.
Steve Cannon, CEO of Mercedes-Benz USA, said that automakers must improve their customer satisfaction if they are to survive in a crowded industry and that the effort must involve dealership employees.
Cannon, 51, said improved quality by all automakers means that consumers' purchasing decisions will be driven by the quality of the interactions between customers and dealerships. And in an age when a consumer sitting in the service department lounge can reach hundreds of others instantly via social media, automakers and dealers must improve customer experiences.
"It's going to get harder and harder in the coming years to truly differentiate yourself on product alone," Cannon told the J.D. Power International Automotive Roundtable on Friday.
Cannon said Mercedes-Benz is in the midst of a nationwide drive to improve its customer-satisfaction scores, a drive that has included a survey of 20,000 employees at the 350 U.S. Mercedes-Benz dealerships.
That survey uncovered some uncomfortable truths, Cannon said, including that more than a third of dealership employees were either ambivalent to or completely disengaged from the company's success.
That was a problem, he said, because dealerships with the greatest levels of employee engagement were the most profitable, and those with employees who weren't actively engaged had more problems making money.
The brand was successful in persuading dealers to participate in the surveys and even more successful in convincing those dealerships that didn't score well that something had to be done.
Said Cannon: "I've been absolutely amazed at the level of activity that this single effort has spurred among our dealers."
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