Monday, June 13, 2011

The Improving Quality at Ford Motor Company

I wholeheartedly echo the observations of ASQ CEO Paul Borawski and Bennie Fowler, group vice president of quality at Ford, that quality must focus on more than product - it must focus on the entire customer experience  Like many Americans, I have experienced the cycle of quality doldrums and resurgence in the automotive industry; and in my case, particularly at Ford. My wife and I have been Ford owners ever since we first learned to drive – over 30 years ago. My first car was a 1970 Ford Torino; my wife’s first car was a Ford Maverick. We have owned Mustangs, Mustang II, Bronco IIs, Explorers, Ranger, Festiva, Aspire, Windstars, SportTrac, etc. We each, independently, made the mistake once of trying another brand, and we vowed never to repeat that mistake. My wife had purchased a brand new Jeep CJ7, and while it was fun to ride, a piston blew out at just 30,000 miles – and Jeep refused to cover the repair. I once owned a Toyota small pick-up, which I really enjoyed but had to give up as my family grew in size; and a 1/2 ton Dodge pick-up – that I absolutely hated. Today we own a factory-ordered windviel blue 2005 Mustang GT convertible and a 2008 Edge Limited (our second). We love them. Excellent design, styling, comfort, features, finish, and reliability.

Our lone complaint with Ford - all automotive companies really - is the lack of service competency and overall consistency among their dealer network. The service department at our local Ford dealer is deplorable. Very unpredictable. Rarely have they diagnosed and resolved a problem upon the first visit. They are just not customer focused. We have driven out of our way, to a different Ford dealer in another town, just to receive the level of service and customer focus we deserve.

I have the great fortune of having a neighbor who is the general manager of a car dealership for a competitive brand. His dealership is actually part of a network that owns car dealerships of just about every automobile manufacturer. Although I am not a fan of the brands at his dealership, my neighbor provides exceptional customer service – to everyone in our neighborhood. He cheerfully exchanges vehicles for a day, regardless of the brand, to take a neighbor’s car in for an oil change, warranty work (he drives the neighbor’s car to the authorized dealer), routine service, and even major repairs. Furthermore, all of his employees offer the same level of service for their family, friends, customers and neighbors.

We put our 2005 Mustang GT convertible in storage for the Minnesota winters. “Sally” (based on a 1966 song by Wilson Pickett) has never seen a snowflake. Every year for the last 6 years this same neighbor has provided me with a lease vehicle for the winter; sometimes new, sometimes gently used. Customer perceptions of quality are reality. While I am forever grateful to my neighbor for his creativity and resourcefulness to put me into these special lease vehicles, my experiences with the product quality of these other brands only further solidifies my brand loyalty to Ford Motor Company vehicles.

Now, please work on your dealer network performance to improve the Total Customer Experience!

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