How Ford Retail realised its moment of truth – Case Study
If it was possible for companies to bottle those magic moments when they make a customer happy, or land a sale, you can rest assured they would.
UK car dealership Ford Retail recognised that a successful sale was, unsurprisingly, linked closely with a happy customer. Happy both before and after the sale. Happy enough to return again in the future.
It was also realised that customer “happiness”, or satisfaction, wasn’t necessarily linked to one thing, such as a friendly salesman or an impressive product, but more often than not to a series of happy interactions – or Moments of Truth.
So in 2009, Ford Retail engaged Derbyshire customer service experts Customer Plus to design, brand and deliver a customer experience improvement programme to raise the bar of customer service standards across its 74 UK dealerships.
The programme, branded Moments of Truth, was exceptional in that it was to engage every single one of the 2,800 frontline and backroom staff operating at all of the branches.
More than one year on, and still on-going, Ford Retail’s Moments of Truth campaign has recently been announced winner of the Customer Care category at the 20th annual Motor Trader Industry Awards – the motor industry’s flagship awards.
More demanding customers
John Leathem, customer relations director for Ford Retail, said: “Moments of Truth is one of the most significant initiatives Ford Retail has ever undertaken. Given the current state of the economy, Moments of Truth is more important than ever as customers become ever more demanding.
“Customer service and value for money will be at the top of their agenda; this is how we will stand out from the competition.”
The challenge faced by Customer Plus to create a consistent approach and response across Ford Retail’s entire UK network was enormous. The 74 dealerships, all owned by Ford Retail, which in turn is part of the Ford Motor Company group, had been largely used to operating independently of each other. The focus here then was on efficiency, creating standardised processes and procedures. Previously, the emotional side of customer experience had not been addressed formally, and individual branch managers dealt with this as they saw fit.
Customer Plus had to ensure that every staff member bought-in to the central message that every single action they made, however small, could spark a “moment of truth”. It could be as simple as answering the phone with a positive attitude or smiling when customers walk through the door. Yet it could also be treating a colleague or subordinate well behind the scenes. Everything has a knock-on effect for customer services.
Customer Plus had to create a full awareness and understanding of the contribution that a great customer experience made to the business success of Ford Retail. It had to develop a model which articulated the link between employee behaviour, customer experience and business outcomes. It had to design, brand and support a change programme which would become the norm. It was important that this did not die a gradual death as soon as the external consultants had handed over the project fully to Ford Retail staff.
Richard Beevers (right), managing director of Customer Plus, based in Duffield, Derbyshire, said: “The scale of the Moments of Truth programme has been pretty ambitious, as it has involved every single member of Ford Retail’s staff, from board directors to cleaners.
“Yet, however well designed a training programme of this type is, it is also essential that the staff approach it all with an open mind. As job roles become more and more demanding, it would be easy for employees to reject this kind of programme – or at best treat it with a degree of cynicism. Fortunately, and to their great credit, we’ve had nothing but positivity from Ford Retail.”
Beevers added: “It’s been immensely rewarding and very well received, both by Ford’s staff and their customers. It’s fantastic that the judges at the Motor Trader Awards have also recognised the significance of this programme.”
Customer Plus is no stranger to dealing with large organisations. Its portfolio includes the likes of Capita, Greene King brewery and chemicals giant Akzo Nobel. It has also worked on a regular basis with Birmingham City Council, including the recent design and delivery of a large-scale office relocation “change” programme for staff.
Moments of Truth is a £1.2m training programme. Customer Plus was keen to ensure that the size of the project did not mean it would be over-complex, but that it retained very simple and easy-to-understand messages. It initially set out a nine-step approach:
1. Establish a simple and compelling customer service vision
This is where all parties agreed upon the Moments of Truth concept
2. Identify model customer service behaviours
Customer Plus surveyed Ford Retail customers to determine their likes and dislikes, which gave six key behaviours to follow: Be efficient; keep your promise; be helpful; be polite; make it personal; go the extra mile
3. Create a brand identity
Ford Retail’s corporate colours and fonts were used to produce a range of brand concepts which were voted for at the Ford Retail Managers’ Conference. All letterheads, booklets, brochures, presentation aids, posters and point-of-sale items were branded with the selected identity
4. Establish a steering committee to ensure progress and terms of reference
5. Create a simple performance management and reward system
Customer Plus worked with Ford Retail to develop and manage the Who Made the Moment? scheme, where customers, colleagues and managers were encouraged to nominate staff who demonstrated the six key customer service behaviours
6. Devise a customer experience workshop
The Moments of Truth workshop was piloted four times with a cross-section of employees in order to agree the final content. It was then piloted fully in the Yorkshire region, with letters, launch events, workshops and workbooks
7. Appoint Champions of Change
Employees from each Ford Retail branch were asked to volunteer to become Champions of Change to help drive the programme forward in their own area. Responsibilities would include on-going motivation and helping their colleagues to complete their Moments of Truth workbooks
8. Roll-out of the Moments of Truth workshops to all staff in all regions
This exercise has now been completed for all 2,800 staff
9. Monitor and sustain progress
Customer Plus measured the reactions of employees following every workshop. More than 95% of the submitted evaluation forms rated the programme as “useful” or “very useful”. Further staff survey results indicate that Ford Retail is now a better organisation to work for. Nominations are continually fed through to Ford Retail management for the Who Made the Moment? scheme. And the Moments of Truth 24 call back system, where customers are telephoned within 24 hours of visiting a branch, suggest a significant improvement in customer satisfaction compared with previous measurements.
Further to the implementation of the above steps, Customer Plus is still working closely with Ford Retail to develop other initiatives for sustaining the programme and including Moments of Truth as part of the induction training for all new employees.
As part of Moments of Truth, Customer Plus designed a 150-page workbook, which guides staff to achieving an NVQ level 2 in customer service or a Ford Retail Diploma.
The Motor Trader award follows further recent successes for Ford Retail. In May 2010, the group joined Virgin Media and Santander in being awarded “training mark” accreditation by the Institute of Customer Service (ICS), in recognition of Moments of Truth.
The same month, Ford Retail reported “a substantial profit increase” for the year ending December 31, 2009, turning a pre-tax loss of £0.85m the previous year into a pre-tax profit of £15.7m, despite the challenging economic conditions.
At the time, chairman and chief executive Chris Hayden singled out Moments of Truth for taking customer service “to new levels”.
As CEO Chris Hayden stated after attending a Moments of Truth workshop in Warrington: “When Customer Plus started on this journey, it faced a major challenge – to develop a one-day programme that would engage everybody in the business, from director to car cleaner, and ensure that everybody left fully understanding what they needed to do. My own experience demonstrated very clearly that Customer Plus has achieved that objective and more.”