ford logo motor company automotiveOfficials at Ford Motor Company strongly believe that high employee engagement is the key to customer engagement. Focusing on that premise as its CX framework has helped Ford significantly improve its level of employee engagement, customer engagement and, as a result, brand loyalty.

“Customer engagement will never be higher than employee engagement,” Andrew Ashman, Lincoln Client Experience Manager, Ford Motor Company said during his session, “Beyond Satisfaction: Ford’s Pursuit of Loyalty,” at the 4th Annual Loyalty360 Engagement & Experience Expo held Nov. 10-12 in Dallas, TX.  

Ashman said Ford launched is Consumer Experience Movement launched in 2011. Together with a team of retailers from across the country, Ford developed an initiative that goes well beyond any company program launched to date.

“Instead of telling our retailers how to run their business, which is the basis of many other OEM programs, we focus on bringing new insights from employees and customers to the table and then leverage a coach to help them build an engagement plan that works for them,” Ashman said. “We can do all the process training we want, but we’re never going to be able to deliver an engaged customer without engaged employees.”

Engaged employees are very important in automotive retail, Ashman said.

“We are creating change by focusing on what is working, which is our ‘Bright Spots’ approach,” he explained. “It is a different approach to look at our business. We found this to be a catalyst for change. We found 40% of all dealership employees didn’t trust each other. We have 200 coaches go into dealerships 7-10 times a year and they serve as coaches, not consultants. It’s an ongoing process of innovating and driving change. We’ve had real substantive change due to our CEM and it rolled out in 1,250 stores this year covering 32 markets.”

Of the stores that participated in the CEM before this year, they’ve seen a 50% improvement in employee engagement.

“Employee engagement is critical,” Ashman said. “Celebrating Bright Spots changes the conversation. Celebrating Bright Spots gets them engaged.”

Ashman said that former Ford CEO Alan Mulally changed the culture at Ford.

“He knew we had change the way we looked at things,” Ashman said. “People want trust, being in control, respect, and relationships. Engagement is an emotional connection beyond reason. Loyalty is driven by a combination of satisfaction and engagement.”

Dealers who sign up to participate in the CEM are assigned a professional coach who gets them started on the road to self-discovery with a Team Member Engagement Survey designed to elicit honest impressions from both management and staff about the quality of the work environment. Once the survey is complete, the coach meets with managers to go over the information and develop a plan of action. The coaches also gather information through Mystery Shop Reports, which are aimed at evaluating the relationship between store employees and customers, and Customer Viewpoint Reports−which capture feedback from all customer sales and service encounters at the dealership. The process is designed to provide dealers with comprehensive and valuable insight into their leadership, culture, and employee engagement.”

By changing its approach from focusing on the problems to looking at the moments “when our customers love us,” Ashman added, “our solutions have been much more powerful. The customer verbatims of ‘happy’ customers told us that when we do it right, it is because of the people that they interacted with. They had an emotional connection with the people that served them and this gave them an emotional connection to the brand. This change in approach and the use of the positive verbatim comments has allowed us to increase customer loyalty by five percentage points in sales and seven percentage points in service.”  

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