Ford has taken heat from critics and consumers who claim that the company hasn't done enough to distinguish its Lincoln brand. If you're one of those folks, perk up: Ford has heard your complaints, and it's launching two new initiatives that should give Lincoln the luxury veneer it needs.
The Lincoln Academy
On the sales front, Ford has launched something called the Lincoln Academy. At heart, it's a training program for Lincoln sales and service associates, with special guidance provided by the international association of hotel concierges known as Les Clefs d'Or.
The idea is to help Lincoln employees create first-class, personalized experiences for customers, whether those customers are shopping for rides or driving in for tune-ups. As Jim Farley, Ford's Group Vice President for Global Marketing, Sales and Service, says: "We realize that great new vehicles are only one part of Lincoln's transformation... Outstanding cars like the all-new Lincoln MKZ have to be matched with personal and innovative customer service at every step."
If Ford's approach sounds a little familiar, it should. As competition for the consumer dollar increases, companies of all stripes -- automakers, videogame outfits, clothing stores, and more -- have begun to realize that customer service is an important way to put themselves ahead of the pack. That's why GM sent so many folks Disneyland last year, and it's in Ford's best interest to follow suit.
The Lincoln Academy training program kicks off this summer, which means that the Lincoln customer service experience may see a full makeover in time for the fall shopping season.
Lincoln's 24/7 Concierge
In a recent study conducted by Google, researchers discovered that folks who surfed the web to do research on new cars were far less satisfied with their shopping experience than people who skipped the internet altogether and did their homework the old-fashioned way: talking to friends, reading magazines, and visiting dealerships.
If you've visited an automaker's website lately, that shouldn't come as a shock. Most of those sites are tricky to navigate, and many are still built in Flash, which makes it impossible to bookmark pages for later reference.
That's why Ford is planning to roll out Lincoln's 24/7 Concierge. It will be part of the Lincoln website, and according a company press release, it will include:
- A personal, guided walkthrough of all aspects of new Lincoln vehicles, services and competitive comparisons
- A personalized portfolio, logging all customer vehicle preferences, which then can be shared with the customer's preferred dealer
- The ability for customers to save and access their portfolio information from virtually any platform, including laptop, iPad or smartphone
The Lincoln Concierge is slated to launch in early 2013.
All together, these two Ford programs are meant to create a seamless, personalized experience for Lincoln customers, from the web, to the showroom, to the shop. We won't be able to vouch for that until both are up and running, but on paper, at least, it's one of the best coordinated customer-service initiatives we've seen. Fingers crossed...