Do Car Companies Really Care About Me?

The above title is a question that customers ask themselves all the time, “Do car companies really care about me?”  The simple answer is Yes!  But a better question is – Do they hear you, known as the “customer’s voice?”  Let’s first look at several ways that customers talk to manufacturers in “Manufacturer Talk” so-to-speak…

  1. Warranty Claims – You take your car into a dealership and tell them you have a rattle noise at 35 MPH.  The dealer performs diagnosis and makes an educated diagnosis that the problem is a loose muffler hanger.  They tighten it, submit a Warranty Claim to the Manufacturer that gets processed to their mainframe as data.
  2. Customer Relations – You have taken your vehicle to 2 dealers and your rattle at 35 MPH is still there.  You call the manufacturer’s Customer Relations department (known as CR) and you file complaint for resolution.  The CR department follows-up with dealerships to ensure a quick resolution of the concern.  These interactions are documented and processed as data in their mainframe.
  3. Field Engineers and Reps – Nobody seems to know what’s wrong with your vehicle and you request a Field Rep, Technical Specialist or Engineer to investigate your vehicle for a problem resolution.  They investigate your vehicle concern, work with the dealership for a proper diagnosis and repair, determine that the cause is a deformed torque converter dust cover.  They replace the dust cover and the problem goes away.  They submit their report which is now processed and stored as data on the manufacturer’s mainframe.

These are the 3 primary methods that manufacturer’s hear your voice – individually that is.  However, does this mean that on a production level for a production change, field fix, TSB (Technical Service Bulletin) or recall that the manufacturer truly heard your voice?  Yes and no is the true answer…  Manufacturer’s response for a change follow these priorities – in which their primary goal is “Six Sigma”, which is basically the perfect vehicle with no customer complaints.

  1. Safety Concerns – Safety concerns are the #1 priority of a manufacturer in order to comply with NHTSA (National Highway Transportation Safety Administration) requirements and minimize litigation expenses.
  2. Repeated Failures – When enough customers have their vehicle fixed for the same complaint and same resulting fix, there becomes and increase in customer contacts to the manufacturers and a rapid spike in part sales for a particular part(s).  An investigation is now launched via data analysis to determine the rapid increase – that person would have been me in my previous professional career.
  3. Undesirable Characteristics – There is an industry term known as “Normal Characteristic of the Vehicle.”  This means that the vehicle or component area is operating for functioning as designed.  However, with that design, there may be inherent characteristics that are undesirable to customers.  Example:  A piston noise when first starting the car in the morning due to increased piston skirt clearance designed into the engine.  It’s operating normally, and some engines may exhibit this noise, but the customer does not feel comfortable or safe hearing it every morning…
  4. Undesirable Features – These are vehicle features that are designed and operate normally.  However, the ergonomics, appearance, smell, etc., may not be what many or most customer’s expect in a vehicle to purchase.  Thus a decline in vehicle sales.
  5. Costly Production – Many manufacturers have many different models or components that use different part variations or designs.  This becomes very costly to produce tooling and job runs for each part.  A part consolidation is typically in order to combine various parts to one or two common designs in order to maximize production quantities and reduce tooling setup costs.  Bottom line is significant cost savings and increased profits – another common term is “Continuous Improvement” as part of the Lean Six Sigma or Lean Manufacturing concepts.

What does all this mean you might ask?  The Customer Voice, from a manufacturers point of view, is a very serious and complex business issue.  The dealership is responsible for the “Personal Touch” of the customer and addressing all of their concerns.  The manufacturer hears your voice through a very complex web of data that indicates vehicle sales, market share, production costs, and profits.  Through this analysis, and if out of line, and investigation is launched to determine its cause.  If a customer does not pursue the proper channels to report and resolve their concern, their voice is not heard by the manufacturer.  You might be thinking that “they don’t want to hear my concern,” but believe me they do.  Your voice prompts many actions on the manufacturers part.  The end result is a better, more attractive, more reliable, and more affordable vehicle when you are ready to purchase your next vehicle.

So the next time you have a concern regarding your vehicle, don’t get mad or upset, Just Speak UP!

Jack Miller – Manufacturers Representative


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