Nissan exec wants faster customer satisfaction feedback

Nissan's Fred Diaz: "We believe that the industry has fallen into this trap of customer satisfaction that is managed by surveys." Photo credit: Greg Horvath

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. -- Nissan will attempt to speed up feedback from car shoppers and move beyond widely accepted customer-satisfaction practices.

“At Nissan we’re going to be killing customer satisfaction,” Fred Diaz, Nissan senior vice president of U.S. sales & marketing and operations, said today at the 2014 Management Briefing Seminars. 

“We’re working to move away from that because we believe that the industry has fallen into this trap of customer satisfaction that is managed by surveys, where OEMs and dealers alike are doing nothing more than chasing the score instead of optimizing the customer experience.”

Customer satisfaction impressions are typically gathered by either an automaker or a third-party data firm, such as J.D. Power, who surveys customers shortly after their shopping, buying or service shop experience. The responses are processed and shared with a business weeks, months or longer after the event.

Might be 'ludicrous'

Diaz acknowledged that altering its approach will be seen as “ludicrous” by some. But he said the goal is to provide immediate feedback on customers’ shopping impressions to learn what his retailers did right or wrong.

“We’re working to provide dealers immediate, actionable feedback from the customer on a real-time basis, Diaz told the audience. “And when I say a real-time basis, I mean while the customers are still in the store, or the very next day or within hours of them leaving the store.

“This allows a Nissan dealer to address the customers’ issues immediately and fix the processes within their store so that it doesn’t happen again,” he said. “The weeks or months that traditional customer satisfaction processes have typically taken -- we all know it’s far too late.”

Diaz said that changes in its retail and distribution chain are driving the brand’s U.S. growth. Nissan sales are up 13 percent for the first seven months of this year, its market share is up by half a percentage point to 7.9 percent, said the Automotive News Data Center. 

In a bid to improve customer satisfaction, Nissan is now freeing up its geographic U.S. sales regions to operate more flexibly, controlling their own profit and loss results, ad budgets and incentives decisions. The regions now have greater power to stock specific models that are in demand in local markets.

Nissan also has created a new executive position for a “vice president of customer quality” and chief customer officer to monitor the efforts.

You can reach Lindsay Chappell at lchappell@crain.com

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