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Satisfaction survey boost for Mercedes

Mercedes-Benz UK has revolutionised its customer satisfaction through its network and products.

It has finally attained a podium finish in the JD Power vehicle owner satisfaction survey, coming third with an overall satisfaction score of 80.8%. For a manufacturer which was ranked 22nd five years ago – the worst performance for a major prestige brand – coming third this year is a finish which it wants its retail network to be proud of.

“We have delivered on our promise for customers,” said Mike Belk, managing director of Mercedes-Benz Customer Service. The 2004 results had been a sign that “things had to change”, Belk said. The Mercedes network had gone through a major reshuffle from 2002, which had left new franchise partners operating from temporary sites while their permanent showrooms were built, and dealership staff were not clear what their new employers wanted or whether their jobs were secure.

“Some of the performance at that stage was clearly down to the new network, and some of the product quality concerns,” said Belk. Problems dogged some models, leading to thousands of cars being involved in recalls, particularly the E-Class, SL-Class, CLS-Class and A-Class.

Belk said this drove the brand to focus on getting a podium position in JD Power and “to be best in class, to be significantly better than BMW or Audi”. He discounts Lexus, in its ninth year in JD Power’s top slot, due to its low volumes – 10,122 registrations in 2008 compared with Mercedes’ 74,883. 

However, he admits he would enjoy knocking Lexus off its perch.

The fact that Mercedes-Benz overtook Lexus to take first place in the New Car Buyers Survey last year shows that it has a customer service culture across the board, said Belk. He added: “Staff in the dealerships absolutely believe they can beat Lexus.”

On service alone Mercedes came fourth in this year’s JD Power survey, compared to 26th in 2004. Its CLK-Class and E-Class models also featured in the top 10 ranked cars for owner satisfaction, signalling that quality and reliability issues are being left behind.

Belk said: “Service satisfaction doesn’t sell the next car, but it can stop the sale. It’s primarily the product which drives desire and emotion to purchase. That has to be supported by rational reasons such as fantastic service from a dealer that cares about customers.”

“The expectation of our brand is not to be 22nd, it’s to be number one. Our efforts were focused on getting products to fulfil customer expectations in being the best, in the middle of creating a new network to deliver that great experience too.”

Since 2004, its Class Leaders On The Road programme has been run every 18 months. Mercedes’ management go out to the network to update all dealership staff on progress made and where additional focus needs to be, and listen to their feedback from the front line.

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