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Holden executive director of customer experience Peter Jamieson

GM HOLDEN has announced an overhaul of its customer and aftersales servicing programs in a bid to better compete with its rivals as it transitions from local manufacturer to full-line importer in a year.

The car-maker launched its new customer-focused strategy, dubbed Complete Care, at its GM Australia Design Studios in Port Melbourne this week, describing it as “a culture, rather than just a program”.

Forming a key part of Complete Care will be a new 24-hour ‘Take Your Time Test Drive’ that allows potential customers to take a new Holden car at their own leisure and on their own timetable.

Announcing the strategy this week, Holden’s recently appointed executive director of customer experience Peter Jamieson highlighted the renewed focus on the customer.

“We are putting customers at the centre of everything we do and that means changing the way we think about customers and customer experiences,” he said.

At your service: Holden will refocus its customer service efforts back on the patrons as part of a new strategy.

At your service: Holden will refocus its customer service efforts back on the patrons as part of a new strategy.

“Products are critically important, no question about it. It is obviously important that we redefine this brand. What’s just as important is that we redefine how we think about our customers and what they expect out of their auto manufacturer.

“If we take the time to understand individual customers with their individual needs, I personally believe we can earn customers for life. And that is a space that nobody else is occupying in this market.”

Mr Jamieson said that while Holden had made “huge strides” in its service levels in recent years, he admitted there was “a lot of work to do”, adding that it was feedback from customers that led to the 24-hour test drive.

“Customers told us that the current test drive process wasn’t a great experience,” he said. “Customers are busy and don’t have the time to take an hour out of their day and don’t like the perceived pressure of having a salesperson next to them.

“Customers can now take one of our vehicles, when it suits them and test drive the vehicle of choice in their environment for up to 24-hours.”

Holden’s performance in the annual JD Power Customer Service Index Study has fluctuated in recent years. The company’s ranking rose dramatically in 2014 to fourth place – up from second-last in 2013 – but it took a hit last year, dropping below the industry average to third-last.

Mr Jamieson highlighted some recent programs that have helped ensure a lift in customer satisfaction as measured by its own metrics, including the introduction of lifetime capped-price servicing, the launch of Holden Financial Services and Holden rental services.

He added that changes would be rolled out everywhere the company has contact with customers, including the customer contact centre, which will shift focus from simply taking and making calls to employees “becoming customer account managers” with more responsibility for individual cases.

“It’s about listening to our customers, hearing their feedback, responding and taking action,” he said

“It’s about helping our teams become, not just sales people or service people, but customer champions that understand customer needs and are creating solutions for those customer needs. And it is about taking actions on things that irritate our customers.”

Mr Jamieson highlighted one process he discovered after starting with Holden that was an example of poor service.

“It’s about making sure our customers have great experiences when they call us for things such as radio PIN codes,” he said. “We had a process where customers had to call us, then we would refer them to a dealer and then charge them for the privilege of getting the radio PIN codes.

“Simplifying those things, removing barriers to getting access to the things customers need.”

Mr Jamieson said he hoped to improve customer interactions wherever they occur, and signalled his plan to change dealerships into “transport hubs” where customers could experience Holden’s product offering and even track the progress of a car they have ordered.

“Where of course you can come and get your new vehicle, or service your existing vehicle,” he said. “But maybe you want to experience the latest vehicle, take your time and have a test drive of that vehicle. Or perhaps you want to swap over your vehicle and use another vehicle.

“Perhaps it’s about experiencing that vehicle that is yet to arrive on our shores, that is being built somewhere else in the world, through virtual reality. That feels like a very different dealership of the future.

“We plan to surprise customers with how different we will be. We are going to be market leading but we are going to be different.”

By Tim Nicholson