Mazda wants to elevate its customer engagement, heighten its customer loyalty, and spark its brand advocacy. As a result, it has taken a new approach to these critical customer engagement pieces.

Tim Manning, Vice President of Customer Service Operations for Mazda North American Operations, talked to Loyalty360 about this new and vibrant approach.

Can you talk about Mazda’s new approach to customer loyalty and what role dealers will assume?

Manning: In an effort to improve our customer loyalty, we have shifted our business to focus on the customer experience and the engagement with the Mazda brand. By exposing Mazda’s unique heritage and values, we intend to capture our customers’ attention and build a strong relationship throughout their ownership. In doing so, Mazda hopes to be the only brand in consideration for our owners when the time comes to service their car or buy a new one. Because both Mazda and our dealer partners own the responsibility for this relationship, we are working very closely with our dealer partners and their employees to create a culture which prioritizes the Customer Experience by making sure every interaction is memorable and focused on the customer’s individual needs. Through the interaction between our customers and our dealers, we must make sure that our brand, heritage, and values come to life.

What factors led to this new approach?

Manning: While Mazda has always considered customer loyalty an important part of our business philosophy, in recent years this focus has been refined and intensified. Our business focus is shifting from one of quantity and scale to one that emphasizes quality of business and the depth of engagement we have with our owners. The past has made it clear that to build a strong, profitable foundation for Mazda and our dealer partners, we must do so through customer engagement and loyalty.

What goals do you have to raise brand loyalty and customer retention? 

Manning: Mazda’s goal is to rise to the top of the industry in brand loyalty ratings. In order to accomplish this goal, we must establish relationships with our customers and cultivate these connections over time. We strive to be part of our customers’ lives, not only through our products, but also through our dealers delivering our unique brand value throughout the ownership life.  Ultimately, we want every owner to be proud of their decision to buy a Mazda, choose to stay with Mazda in the future, and be our strongest advocates to friends and family about their experiences.

How important is customer loyalty to Mazda and has the definition of customer loyalty changed or evolved in recent years?

Manning: Customer loyalty in our industry is usually defined as “retention rate” or “repurchase rate”. Under that definition, conventional thought is to care about the customer as they get closer to the time of repurchase – towards the end of their ownership cycle. At Mazda, we believe in nurturing that relationship through the entire ownership cycle. Strong bonds can only be built over time through delivering exceptional experience extending throughout the ownership period. Metrics such as repurchase rate or retention rate are the results of customer loyalty, but not our goal. Our goal is to engage with our customers to develop relationships that get stronger over time. With that in mind, we are focused on delivering engaging and memorable experiences to our owners throughout their time with Mazda. Whether it is in the sales process with an engaging test drive, how we care for their vehicle during their service and maintenance interactions, or by inviting owners to join Mazda at a motor sports event or community activity, we strive to make Mazda a valued partner in our owner’s lives. 

How will this transformation take place?

Manning: Mazda is implementing changes both at our U.S. headquarters and within our U.S. dealer network. In February, every U.S. employee at Mazda, more than 800 employees, and more than 100 employees of our key business partners, attended a two-day event that focused on the Mazda brand and what makes Mazda unique and special within the automotive industry. We also spent a day focusing on the importance of the Customer Experience and how every employee can bring a new mindset and approach to their individual jobs, which can benefit our owners and dealers.

Knowing that a single event does not result in meaningful change, we have several sustainment activities planned and in process that will continue to reinforce these key messages. Over time, we will see a strong customer-centric culture in place at Mazda that will guide all of our activities and make sure our brand is among the most respected in the U.S. 

For our dealers, Mazda, together with our partner Strativity Group, has developed a comprehensive program that will focus on enhancing the customer-centricity of our dealerships.  The program includes leadership training to create a positive working environment, individual employee training and role playing, and comprehensive reviews of all customer touch-points for each dealership to identify areas of opportunity. Every aspect of this program is designed to enable our dealers to create unique Mazda experiences that will engage our owners emotionally with the Mazda brand and the dealership. This is the foundation for a strong, sustainable business that will attract the best employees and customers who appreciate everything Mazda has to offer.

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