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Ford dealers offer online service scheduling

Ford has become the first car manufacturer in Britain to provide on-line booking of vehicle servicing and maintenance. A new interactive website, 'fordserviceonline.com', enables motorists to obtain an all-inclusive price quotation for scheduled vehicle maintenance and selected repairs, and book a guaranteed appointment with a UK-based Ford dealer of their choice.

This booking system is now available in the UK following its global launch in September 2000 and a successful British trial programme earlier this year.

A total of 150 Ford dealers in the UK now offer the online booking facility. Half of Ford's 400-strong UK dealer network will offer this facility by the end of the year, followed by remaining dealers in 2002.

The new website, 'fordserviceonline.com', is meant to extend the customer relationship beyond the sale and is intended to boost customer satisfaction and loyalty by providing a “quick, convenient means of arranging vehicle servicing and repairs”.

Philip Parke, Ford customer service division marketing manager, said: "Fordserviceonline.com is an innovative, pioneering initiative which delivers real customer benefits. It provides our customers with a quick, convenient way to obtain an exact price and a guaranteed booking, at any time of the day or night. The system is very easy to use and provides the motorist with unprecedented flexibility and choice. With the planned introduction of a dedicated fleet management interface, fleet operators will benefit too."

As the motorist browses through the Ford dealerships in his or her area, the dealer's computer system interacts with the motorist's PC to show prices and available time slots. By typing in either the vehicle registration or vehicle identification number, the customer enables the system to identify all relevant information, including repair and pricing details specific to their particular vehicle.

When a specific dealer has been selected and the customer is satisfied with the quoted price, a 'real-time' appointment can be booked using an interactive workshop calendar. All information is simultaneously transmitted to the dealer, which allows the dealer to identify the correct parts for repair in advance. The booking process calculates the time required for the work and the customer is informed of the likely time at which the vehicle will be ready for collection. If repair work is needed, but the exact nature of the problem is not clear to the customer, the system allows the customer to highlight any concerns in their own words, for a qualified technician to investigate. The customer receives an e-mail by return to confirm arrangements, followed by a reminder on the day prior to the appointment.

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