Saturday, October 12, 2013

General Motors - Driven By The Customer

General Motors is tackling quality - real and perceived - with new measuring tools, helping customers with their infotainment technology struggles through call centers and online through social media sites while trying to provide a friendly dealer environment by remaking their stores and using the Disney Institute to train dealership staff.

"It’s about making GM a customer-centric company… and working to ensure that everything we do is driven by the customer” according to a very impressive and well-credentialed Alicia Boler-Davis, General Motors Senior Vice President of Global Quality and Customer Experience who, in my view, has the biggest job in the auto industry - hitting head on: 1. Customers’ perception of GM vehicles, brands, and image before they step into the dealer showroom, and, 2. the relationships customers have with GM and dealership personnel throughout the sales, service and ownership experience. There's a history to overcome.

Difficulty using infotainment and technology features can be a dissatisfier so GM has 50 in-vehicle technology experts or "Connected Customer Specialists" in the field, covering 85 percent of U.S. markets to work with customers and dealership staff to quickly address customer questions about vehicle connectivity and infotainment systems. GM's new Customer Engagement Center in Warren, Michigan, will have about 300 advisors by the end of the year and there's one dedicated Infotainment Call Center in Texas with fully functioning infotainment systems, so advisors can re-create exactly what their customers are experiencing. GM's effort in what-they-call Human Vehicle Integration (HVI) has resulted in MyLink, IntelliLink, and CUE, the Cadillac User Experience.

Drive quality is now measured with a tool that was purchased from Austrian company AVL that provides a numerical assessment of drive quality and enables GM to precisely benchmark the competition. Boler-Davis says "The AVL tool allows us to take the customer’s requirements and translate them into technical specifications that our engineers use to deliver the driving experience that customers expect."

Product quality has been a legacy issue for GM but that is already changing with the 2013 J.D. Power Initial Quality Survey, ranking GM the best automaker for initial quality for the first time and being the only automaker to have fewer than 100 problems-per-hundred-vehicles. Eight of GM vehicles placed first in their segment. No other automaker had more than three. And half of GM's models scored in the top three in their segment. 2013 J.D Power Vehicle Dependability Study ranked GM vehicles highest in four separate segments and 11 GM models either received a segment award or placed in the top three in their category.

In the 2012 Consumer Reports Annual Reliability Survey, all four of GM U.S. brands improved their scores and are now ranked above the industry average. Cadillac improved 15 places and is now ranked the most reliable U.S. brand. Consumer Reports now recommends 16 GM vehicles, up from 11 the previous year.

Boler-Davis says "Warranty costs are another way to gauge the quality of our products, and so I’m also pleased to point out that – on a per-vehicle basis – we have spent less than, for example, Toyota on warranty repairs for the last five years."

2014 Chevrolet Impala
It's a critical time for GM that will introduce 28 new vehicles in 2013-14 alone, as they turn 70 percent of their North American lineup by the end of next year. It's that new vehicle market reception that will make or break a brand and so far GM looks like they're making it.

"...our goal at GM is to provide the best overall customer experience in the industry." I believe positive parting memories of a vehicle influence future purchases so GM is on the right track.