DOWN THE ROAD Chrysler invests in customer service
(Patriot Ledger Quincy MA; 07/04/98)
Coming soon to a neighborhood near you may well be a new look at your local
Chrysler, Plymouth, Dodge or Jeep dealership. The old sign could be replaced
with a new one featuring five stars on it.
"The five stars really mean something," explained James P. Holden, executive
vice president of sales and marketing, as he unveiled the new sign recently.
The five stars indicate a dealer has made a significant investment in upgrading
the dealership facility, its technology systems and the training of employees
to provide the best possible customer service. Chrysler describes the effort,
Customer Connect, nothing short of the re-franchising of its dealership
Customers should notice some differences immediately. For instance, the five-
star dealership likely will have a computer kiosk in the showroom or a computer
on the sales person's desk that allows the customer to configure a vehicle and
receive a price quote. (The same information will be available on Chrysler's
Internet web site.) "This takes the confusion, misinformation and mistrust out
of the process," said Holden.
All customers of the service department at a five-star dealership will
receive a follow-up phone call within 24 hours to see if they are satisfied
with the repair work. If not, the dealership will fix the problem. In addition,
the problem will be followed back through the process to determine what and
where things went awry.
"Most programs in the past aimed at driving up customer satisfaction scores
for the manufacturer surveys and the J. D. Power surveys. We'd send cookies and
give away oil changes to get good scores," said Rob Robbins, president of
Crestwood Dodge, a five-star dealership in Garden City, Mich., where Chrysler
unveiled Customer Connect to reporters. "Now the focus is on process change
that drives real customer satisfaction."
Dealers like Robbins go through a self-evaluation process to demonstrate
they are ready for five-star inspection. Chrysler representatives then validate
if the dealership meets the standards and requires a 90-day probationary period
to ensure the dealership maintains the standards. The dealership then is
certified as five star and signs are installed. The dealership is audited on
occasion and if it is not living up to five star standards, the dealership
receives a 90-day warning before the signs are removed.
Currently, 32 percent, or 800, of Chrysler dealers are five-star dealers.
Chrysler's goal is to eventually have all dealers certified, though no
dealership franchise will be canceled if the dealership fails to be certified
as five star. As incentive, however, five-star dealers receive benefits other
Chrysler dealers do not: advertising the five star status; E-mail customer
referrals from Chrysler's web site; and direct mail advertising explaining what
the five stars mean and what the dealership has done to achieve five-star
Michelle Krebs is a columnist for Motor Matters.