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Pontiac customer service is marketing opportunity.

In today's competitive automotive environment, customer service drives customer loyalty. If a customer has to return to the dealer more than once to fix the same problem, you may no longer have a customer.

At Pontiac our strategy is simple--if we want to be in business down the road, we must address not only the initial quality of the product but the service of the product as well.

One way we are improving customer service is through our Pontiac Assistance Centers (PAC), which support car owners, dealers and service technicians. Instead of a traditional customer service department operating as a separate corporate entity, we integrated the function into our overall marketing strategy to provide a level of service that strives to exceed even the customers' expectations.

PAC is part of our strategic plan to translate customer service into sales.

This strategy appears to be paying off as our internal reports of the customer satisfaction index (CSI) has improved from 80 in 1986 to 86 in 1990.

PAC has five assist numbers--one each for customers, dealers, fleet owners, service technicians and roadside assistance. The PAC is staffed by more than 150 employees who receive at least five weeks of training on systems, equipment, company policies, warranties and a basic understanding of automobiles.

The facility even has specially designed telecomm devices to accommodate the hearing impaired.

To handle this volume, Pontiac uses AT&T's Megacom 800 service and an AT&T Definity Generic 1 Communications System with automatic call distribution to process and route calls as they are received. AT&T worked with General Motors' Electronic Data Systems (EDS) to design and implement the center, which includes hardware, software and network support.

One of the services offered by PAC is roadside assistance. If customers have car problems on the road, they can call the toll-free 800 number where advisors will talk the owner through the problem to determine if it's something they can fix themselves, such as replacing a fuse, or if assistance is needed.

For example, a "check engine" light on the dashboard panel is often not necessarily a critical warning. By asking some questions, chances are that our representative can make the decision that it would be okay for the motorist to drive the car home and take it to the dealer the following day.

If towing is required, the PAC advisor goes into a database to find the nearest Pontiac dealer and the dealer's recommended towing service. The agent, not the motorist, calls the towing service and makes arrangements to have the car picked up. The agent then calls back the customer to advise when the tow truck will arrive.

Dealer assistance

The Roadside Assistance Center is an example of how we can better address customer concerns to help ensure that they will come back to buy another Pontiac. All of the customer and dealer related telemarketing programs are designed with that idea in mind.

We want the customer to stay loyal to the dealer and all of our efforts are directed to doing whatever we can to help the dealer. We encourage and promote whatever it takes to make them heroes in the eyes of their customers.

If dealers want to know anything from account credits to the latest financing promotions or customer warranties, they can get it from PAC.

These efforts appear to be paying off as the dealer toll-free number is receiving approximately 500 calls per day. Moreover, members of Pontiac's Service Advisory Council have had nothing but praise for the service.

A quick fix

We talk to at least 100,000 technicians a year and gather information on procedures to fix various car problems. Dealers don't always have the instant access to information that Pontiac can provide. Instead of spending an inordinate amount of time trying to find and then fix car problems, technicians can call the 800 number and get immediate technical assistance to help them to fix the car right the first time.

While you really can't fix the car by phone, you can give the technician information that leads to the solution. When they report back to us that the solution worked, we add it to our "fix file." The fix file has been standardized on a host mainframe computer by EDS and all GM divisions have access to the fix file data-base.

The technical assistance area handles more than 2,300 calls per week. Because many requests for information are repetitive, the center uses a voice messaging system with an automated attendant to route calls for repair information on specific models.

This is another method of saving time for the technician if the center's lines are busy.

We are using the latest information technology at PAC. The telemarketing operation is able to provide fast solutions to caller concerns and problems. Our ability to respond quickly to those problems gives us an edge in demonstrating our commitment to customer service.

It's not coincidence that our assistance center is on the same floor as the executive offices at Pontiac. John G. Middlebrook, Pontiac's general manager, makes a point of regularly dropping by the PAC to listen in on customer complaints. Hearing customer concerns helps him get a handle on how the company is doing in addressing service and quality issues.
COPYRIGHT 1992 Nelson Publishing
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1992 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Pontiac Assistance Centers' toll-free phone lines
Author:Curry, Charlene; Colyer, Jim
Publication:Communications News
Date:Nov 1, 1992
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