Mercedes-Benz dealers are bringing more car buyers back into their aftersales workshops, following initiatives agreed between the network and the manufacturer.
Simon Oldfield, managing director of Mercedes-Benz Group Customer Services, said customer retention had been in decline in recent years but is now improving within the franchised network.
Oldfield’s focus is on maintaining the momentum which saw Mercedes recover from abysmal satisfaction ratings to third in the JD Power survey last year and scoop an Institute of Customer Service accolade in the spring.
This year it dropped to fourth in the JD Power study as Jaguar knocked it off the podium. “Others are accelerating faster than us,” said Oldfield, and he needs Mercedes to keep up the pace.
Some dealer incentives have been refocused onto “local action plans” which are tailored to each particular retailer’s needs, rather than a nationally imposed programme. Examples could include improvements in test drive activity, complaints handling processes or the service waiting area.
Last autumn Mercedes launched a programme entitled ‘Best Premium Franchise’, giving the network the vision of where the brand wants to be in three to five years’ time.
It wants dealers to think of their dealership as a single business model, rather than as a collection of departments.
As an example, the network is putting more focus on selling older used cars and retaining those customers through the workshop.
This can mean a mindset change for the sales and service departments, as in some instances a reduced internal labour rate might be necessary to keep reconditioning costs down and ensure the older stock remains profitable.
Business managers, sales executives and service advisors can now offer used Mercedes buyers a fixed price service care package, which enables them to bundle the cost of one to four years’ servicing into their finance, or pay it on a monthly direct debit plan.
More than 2,500 customers have taken this up since its February launch, and it has now been rolled out to the Smart brand too.
The success of Mercedes’ fixed price menu servicing programme has led to a pilot at three retailers of fixed price common repairs.
Another pilot scheme at Mercedes-Benz Worcester, Service Differentiation, is now in its final stages. It offers different levels of cost and convenience to cater for the time-poor and cash-rich, and vice-versa.
And a programme called Mercedes-Benz To You has been running to entice lapsed customers back into the network by offering them a free diagnostic check by a mobile service technician.