Ford has been signing up dealers at the National Automobile Dealers Association convention for its SMART program, a way for customers to schedule service appointments remotely.
"It's a new online appointment tool that helps Ford and Lincoln customers book service visits, select their preferred advisers and any transportation-related support that they need," said Frederiek Toney, vice president of Ford's customer service division.
Ford previewed the program at the NADA convention last year. It's part of Ford's Consumer Experience Movement, a program launched by Ford and its dealers in 2011 to improve the customer experience at dealerships.
"We'll be aggressively going after the dealers in the first quarter," said David Ziegler, Ford customer service division's technology and innovation manager. "We will engage our field force to go out and talk to dealers and enroll in the program. It's pretty simple. We have a virtual consultant who will work with them on setup."
Ford is offering demonstrations and advice in New Orleans. Toney said dealers would be charged a "modest fee for the service."
Customers can set up appointments at fordowner.com or lincolnowner.com.
Ford started enrolling dealers in SMART Jan. 1 and has signed about 150. Ford ran a pilot version of the program last year with about 35 dealers.
"We'd like to get as many dealers enrolled as early as possible," Toney said. "But we expect it to take a full year to get fully enrolled."
Said Toney: "It's a continuing effort. There will be other phases of the program to further improve the customer experience."
The program is being spearheaded by Elena Ford, a Ford vice president who was put in charge of the consumer movement early in 2013.