LOS ANGELES -- At Lexus dealerships, the sale isn't complete when the F&I form is filled out.
In the ongoing customer service battle among luxury brands, Lexus dealers are following a corporate edict to hire and train vehicle delivery specialists and technology specialists. Those employees will handle delivery and answer the many questions that come later as customers acclimate themselves to high-tech features.
In that sense, Lexus is borrowing a page from Apple's "Genius Bar."
"This is upgrading the entire sales process, not just training our salespeople," said Tawan Perry, one of the Lexus trainers. "If a customer is driving the car after three years and he still doesn't understand the features, that's embarrassing."
It's not that the technology is overly complicated. Sometimes the level of customization is enough to baffle a customer.
How does someone program the SmartKey to unlock one or all of the doors on the first click? If I buy a new cell phone, will I lose everything that I have loaded up through Bluetooth with my old phone? Can I really make a dinner reservation with the Enform telematics system?
The delivery and technology specialists are paid a salary. Although their take-home pay is usually less than that of an average salesperson, the salary means there is no rush to get a buyer out the door and handle as many customers as possible to fatten their paychecks, said Lexus spokesman Vince Salisbury.
"Five years ago we had 5,000 calls to our customer service line regarding technology features," Salisbury said. "Last year we had 13,000 calls. So the technology is more challenging. And it's easier to explain in person than over the phone."