For the Nissan Motor Co., the numbers are being safeguarded by Doug Betts, Nissan's senior vice president of Total Customer Satisfaction. Betts is an engineer by education and training who joined Nissan almost three years ago after ten years with Toyota. Prior to that, he has served eight years with Michelin when Carlos Ghosn ran the American operation.
Betts' marketing is focused on consumer oriented methods around the concept of total customer satisfaction. "As our product quality has significantly improved, our dealers have told me their warranty work has gone down as much as 50% to 60% in the last year. So, now it's very important the dealer be very efficient, professional and reliable doing maintenance work," Betts explained. "If we don't help fill-up our dealers service bays with maintenance work to replace warranty work, it's going to put a lot of pressure on them for profitability."
Asked about the company's improved CSI concept, Betts said: "The idea originated in Japan. The basic idea is that the service department could run more efficiently if there was input from the manufacturing side of the business. Take a plant with two lines; cars are coming off the line every 26 seconds. When something goes wrong, it's suddenly wrong on every car - plant operations are standardized. Before there's time to make the problem go away, another car is coming off the line. So, the factory must be good and efficient at repairing cars under these difficult conditions."
He added, "At the end of a line there's not a huge repair area to put the cars in and fix the vehicles and move on. That's why the factory service people can get so good at quick repairs because they are exposed to the way the plant works and functions. We are always looking for every tenth-of-a second in improved efficiency. There is a need to eliminate any time that is being wasted. Our factory repair teams are accustomed and exposed to this way of thinking."
According to Betts, the plan was started a year ago with a pilot activity that used people from the plants in Japan to go to dealers to study, analyze and work with them on service operations in order to find ways to make the operations more efficient. The said plan does not only concern services on the Nissan mud flap and other parts. It intends to delve deeper to target holistic approach. He said, "In the pilot dealers, we found huge gains in dealer efficiencies. This has resulted in the dealers being able to schedule more work in the same day and make more money."
The result is faster service and limited delays. "For example, if a customer called to make an appointment and instead of being told, 'I can get you in four days from now," he was told "we can get to you today or tomorrow.' That is an improvement," Betts noted. "One of the things we've been able to implement is a system called, Assist, for the things that are or can be electronically diagnosed with computers. A print-out tells the tech what is wrong with the vehicle and what parts and tools are needed to fix it."
"Efficiency, at the end of the day, always goes to the consumer. Dealership owners expect a specific return on their investment. It may take time, but it always does. And this can generate even more business and profits," Betts concluded.
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Ryan Thomas is a native of Denver, Colorado. He grew up in a family of car afficionados. He now resides in Detroit where he owns a service shop and works part time as a consultant for a local automotive magazine.