How would you fancy going on a ‘date’ with a car manufacturer? It’s just one of the ideas Lincoln is considering as it overhauls its customer care programme.
At the New York motor show last week the Ford-owned brand revealed not only some new metal – in the shape of the striking MKZ luxury saloon, which is the first car from Lincoln’s new design studio headed by Max Wolff – but also a raft of plans aimed at improving customer service.
Lincoln is making a push further upmarket, and trying to woo customers from brands such as Lexus and Cadillac. It feels that it needs to offer a top-notch experience for people who might be interested in buying its products and those who already have.
Take Lincoln Concierge for example. It’s a 24/7 online service where potential customers can talk face-to-face (albeit via the medium of the internet) to a Lincoln specialist who can answer queries about model range, specifications and even compare Lincoln’s variants against those of a rival.
Lincoln studied Google research that shows that internet shoppers spend up to eight hours researching their purchase and visit on average 18 sources during this process. But online consumers also reported lower customer satisfaction compared to conventional shoppers.
The manufacturer has also set up a new Academy to train dealership personnel. Lincoln is taking this so seriously that it has commissioned the services of Les Clefs d’Or, the official organisation of hotel concierges in the USA, to help train its experts in professional service.
Lincoln Date Night is another of the company’s ideas, this time to reward people who want to test drive a car. If you show that much commitment, the manufacturer will take you out to dinner to get to know you better (and won’t even insist on splitting the bill afterwards).
The company is also considering fitting RFID (radio-frequency identification) to its vehicles so that dealers know when a customer has rocked up on the forecourt. The concept is that dealers can identify an existing customer arriving at their premises, greet them personally, call-up a history for their vehicle and know precisely why they’re visiting before they’ve even walked through the door.
In an age where many car companies are desperate for every sale, it’s heartening to hear some plans from Lincoln that put the customer first, rather than treat them like a cash-carrying target.
Do you think this could work in Europe? Would you rather do it all over the internet in the same way as buying music and groceries – as car brand Dacia has starting doing on the continent – or run the gauntlet of car dealers using every trick in the book to separate you from your hard-earned money?