Ford invests in customer support, dealer training

The Ford Motor Company of Southern Africa has established a new dedicated state-of-the-art technical training centre close to its vehicle production plant in Silverton, Pretoria.

Neale Hill Ford South Africa Managing Director 1800x1800

“It is our training hub for all of our dealerships in terms of our aftersales business and the technical side of the business. This is so important in looking after our customers’ vehicles and keeping them mobile and to support our dealer network across South Africa," said Ford South Africa MD Neale Hill.

“Its focus is on improving the quality of aftersales service, which is a key driver of our commitment to delivering customer service and satisfaction,” he said.

The 850m2 technical training centre comprises four classrooms of 60m2 each that cater for 20 people for classroom training. The classroom and practical training provided in the centre are focused on electrical and electronic training for both diesel and petrol engines as well as automatic and manual transmissions, steering systems, chassis and brakes.

Hill said the emphasis of the training is on electrical and electronic training because of how quickly vehicle technology is progressing and how vehicles are moving more into the electronic sphere than previously.

He said the centre also has an engine and transmission specialist area, an area designed for basic and advanced electrical and electronics training and dedicated facilities that focus on fault diagnosis training.

“When you get an electrical challenge in a vehicle, it is a gremlin that is often very difficult to find, especially if it's intermittent,” he said.

Hill said the centre also has a virtual training studio for training Ford dealers across the sub-Saharan Africa region, which is also supported from this centre.

He added that Ford Services Engineering Operations consists of a number of different skills teams that make up such an essential part of providing support to their customers.

For example, it includes service engineering, technical service operations, Ford South Africa’s warranty team, the company’s technical hotline to provide over-the-air assistance to Ford dealers, and the extended warranty and vehicle personalisation teams.

Hill said the Silverton facility was Ford SA’s primary technical training centre, but it also has a satellite training facility in Stellenbosch in the Western Cape that provides support to the western half of the country and Namibia.

He stressed that these technical training facilities complement Ford SA’s key focus on customer experience and giving customers an experience that build brand trust and a brand relationship over time to build long-term brand loyalty.

“We started our journey a number of years ago but believed this was an area of our business that we really needed to put a lot of emphasis on and work in conjunction with our dealer network.

“We created an entirely new department aimed at looking at the experience our customers have with the brand, both with the Ford Motor Company as well as with the dealer network,” he said.

Hill said Ford SA has also established what it terms the Ranger support team because the Ranger is such a critical vehicle in its portfolio and production facility.

He said it was absolutely crucial that Ford SA had a dedicated team that looked at how to keep customers on the road through a proactive approach once they were notified of a roadside assistance callout.

Hill said they have a single case manager who oversees a customer’s case from start to finish, adding customers do not have to rebuild the relationship and repeat their story with different people in the call centre, which only adds to frustration.

There is also a full team of technical and parts specialists behind the scenes supporting the response that they give to their customers, he said.

Hill added that customers’ safety is important in South Africa, and Ford SA has a facility as part of its roadside assistance, which is delivered through the AA, that provides armed security to customers who feel unsafe.

He said mobility is also important and Ford SA has a warranty loan vehicle programme that provides customers with a like-for-like replacement vehicle to keep them mobile and their businesses operational if their vehicle is in for a warranty repair.

Hill said Ford SA has also expedited the repair processes and the delivery of parts and case tracking to ensure customers get back into their vehicles as quickly as possible.

“In addition to that, we also have a facility where we monitor what is happening in our dealership workshops.

“If we find a vehicle is sitting in a workshop for longer than four days, we start proactively tracking that, engaging with the customer and making sure that we get that customer’s vehicle repaired and mobile again as quickly as possible,” he said.

Hill said recent customer research it had conducted indicated that customers have experienced a 50% improvement in turnaround time for major repairs, their overall impression of Ford has improved by 11 percentage points and trust in the brand has risen by 56%.

“The journey is far from over but the Ford SA team is fully committed to continuing this work because it makes a massive difference when customers feel that their investment in a brand is respected, trusted and they are also treated with honesty,” he said.

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