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Ford Wants To Change The Way We All Buy Cars Forever

Dealership / 4 Comments

Ready to take delivery of your new F-150 in a "celebration room?"

Automakers like to talk about sales of certain new vehicles as "conquest" sales. These are sales to customers who've previously owned cars from another brand. The Volkswagen Atlas is a perfect example of a car with a high number of conquest sales, with almost 70% of them being sold to first-time VW owners. Conquest sales are the kind every automaker wants because it's not only a chance for them to sell a car, it's an opportunity to score a new customer that will hopefully stay loyal to the brand. Ford, however, thinks it has a new way to ensure its customers don't stray to the competition: a loyalty program.

Much like coffee shop punchcards, FordPass Rewards, the name of the Blue Oval's new program, rewards customers who buy or lease a new Ford vehicle by giving them points that can be used towards complimentary maintenance, parts, service, or even a new vehicle when it comes time to replace their old one.

"The customer experience is the most important area we can invest in to become the world's most trusted company," said Elena Ford, the company's chief customer experience officer. "The real measure of our success as a company is keeping customers' loyalty over time." The FordPass Rewards program is a move taken straight out of the tech and hospitality industry's playbook, but it's only one of five initiatives Ford is taking to establish more personal relationships with its customers.

Another is Ford Mobile Service Pilot which, as it sounds, is a new service program that sends technicians to customers' homes and workplaces so they can perform maintenance or light service on their vehicles and tend to recalls. Ford already has a similar program in California but is expanding it to include Texas, Illinois, New Jersey and Florida. If it's a hit in those states, Ford will likely bring the program and its trained technicians in Transit vans to other parts of the country.

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Getting a Ford technician to come for service in the first place will involve chatting with service agents from Ford's new call center in Houston. Agents on the line will work with customers using an "own the call" model, which means that they stay with a caller rather than handing them off to specialized departments as the call progresses. When not calling in for service, lease customers in select areas can work with a personal lease assistant from Ford's Early Lease Renewal program to renew their agreements or hear offers about vehicles tailored to suit their needs and tastes.

Perhaps the biggest evidence that luxury automakers set trends the rest of the industry eventually follows is Ford's Signature dealership program. Ford Signature is a network of 70 dealerships around the world that aim to increase transparency in the sales and service experience by offering customers an alternative pressure-free buying experience. These centers replace deal desks with purchase rooms and complete deliveries in "celebration areas." Owners taking their cars in for service can also observe technicians doing work on their cars in real time via monitors inside the dealership.

While the network is slated to expand to 300 dealerships by year's end, Ford has thousands planned for following years. Programs like these are unusual for the industry, but if any automaker were to do it, it'd be Ford. The company recently began experimenting with ways it can evolve to meet the needs of the customer of the future by taking radical steps that traditional automakers don't seem ready for.