In 2011, Ford launched the Consumer Experience Movement (CEM), a revolutionary initiative based on the concept that creating a world-class consumer experience hinges on having a world-class employee experience inside Ford dealerships.
Co-created by Ford and a group of dealers, CEM started with 116 dealerships in the U.S. Three years later under the leadership of Elena Ford, vice president, Global Dealer & Consumer Experience, the initiative has gone global with 1,050 dealers around the world voluntarily participating in the program. Today, all business key metrics – from customer satisfaction in sales and service to new vehicles retailed – point to marked success.
Business metrics show that from 2011 to 2013 customer satisfaction in sales and service in dealerships participating in CEM was up 3 percentage points compared to dealers not involved with the program. Dealer sales and service loyalty were up 3.4 and 5.3 percentage points respectively. And new vehicles retailed were up an impressive 22 percent.
"The Consumer Experience is at the heart of what Ford Motor Company is really all about," said Ford. "It brings the company and dealers together and truly brings the One Ford plan to life by uniting all of us toward the common goal of providing our customers with an exceptional experience."
At the core of CEM is the belief that employees who are highly engaged at work have the greatest ability to develop long-lasting relationships with customers and foster a sense of trust and respect. That, in turn, builds customer loyalty.
"One of the things we learned through CEM is that 'satisfaction' is just not enough," said Ford. "Delivering a high quality car is just the beginning. If we want our customers to love Ford we have to go beyond that and deliver an incredible experience that will keep them coming back and get them talking about Ford with their family, friends and neighbors."
The type of comments that consumers share with others about their experience buying and servicing their vehicle has taken on even greater importance in a day and age when social media is so pervasive.
"In certain parts of the country, more than 50 percent of dealer sales come from online leads," said Ford, emphasizing the importance of dealers building and maintaining a solid online reputation.
How CEM Works
Dealers who choose to participate in CEM are assigned a professional coach who works with them to complete a Team Member Engagement Survey, which is designed to elicit honest impressions from both management and staff about the quality of the work environment.
"The coaches work with the dealer principal and the management team on the results from the survey, and they identify areas of opportunity they want to focus on to improve employee engagement," said Ford.
The goal of the process – which also includes data culled from mystery shoppers and customer feedback – is to give dealers comprehensive insight into their dealership’s leadership, culture and employee engagement.
"In order to have engaged employees it’s important that all departments throughout the dealership – service, sales (new and used), finance, parts, body shop, etc. – communicate with each other, and that’s not something that comes naturally," said Ford. "It’s something that has to be driven by the dealer principal or the general manager. And that’s what CEM does. It helps people develop a better understanding, an appreciation for each other and an environment for teamwork and engagement."
Dealerships like Pat Milliken Ford in Redford Township, Michigan, are seeing positive results from their participation in the CEM.
"It’s allowing our customers to love us … I can’t put a dollar figure to that," said Peter Battle, general manager, Customer Service Division, Pat Milliken Ford. "But I think any one of us could put a value to loyal customers who come back…to repeats and referrals, and customers who love us for service and not just for sales."
Matt Demmer, general manager of Jack Demmer Automotive Group, which operates a Ford dealership directly across the road from Michigan Assembly Plant in Wayne, Michigan, views the CEM as a way to differentiate his business from other dealerships.
"We’re in an A-Plan market. The pricing is set, so it’s the customer experience that has to set us apart," he said. "My whole goal is to grow our organization to serve more customers and to keep them happy and loyal and coming back. So CEM, to me, was a no-brainer."
CEM Goes Global
After building a foundation with dealers in the U.S. and seeing positive results, it was time to take CEM global, according to Ford.
"We’ve taken what we’ve learned in the U.S., shaped it and rolled it out across the world," she said.
CEM migrated first to Canada where 55 percent of dealers are currently participating in the program. Other parts of the world presented unique challenges.
"The biggest push and discussion was around getting Europe launched," explained Ford. "Europe has been going through very difficult economic times and one could say it was a tough time to ask dealers to enroll in CEM and start on that path, but they’ve embraced it in a very dynamic way."
The big five markets in Europe are very engaged with the CEM. There are currently 110 dealers enrolled in the program and a total of 250 expected by the end of the year.
Dealers are also beginning to enroll in Mexico, Australia, China, India, Thailand and South America. "The whole world is doing CEM, and we anticipate we will have 30 percent of total Ford dealer volume enrolled by the end of 2015," said Ford. "It’s an incredible journey.