DaimlerChrysler Services Mexico (DCS Mexico) provides service and financial solutions for dealers and consumers throughout 31 Mexican states, supporting Mexico’s Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep, Mercedes-Benz, Mitsubishi and Smart dealers and customers. DCS Mexico’s customers include not only dealers, but also consumers attempting to secure financing through the dealers. There are 124 Chrysler, Dodge and Jeep dealerships in Mexico, along with 19 Mercedes-Benz dealerships and 43 Mitsubishi dealerships that are all supported by DaimlerChrysler Services Mexico.
The company’s credit analysts are long-term employees accustomed to doing things in a methodical and often lengthy fashion. They viewed their role as gatekeepers preventing risky deals from being written, rather than facilitators looking for creative ways to put together deals that provided wins for the consumer, the dealer and DCS Mexico. As a result, consumers often grew weary of the process and sought financing elsewhere. Banks have entered aggressively into the Mexican automobile financing market, using three primary strategies to erode DCS Mexico’s market share: reducing the application review time, offering attractive financing rates and options, and providing personalized service to the dealers, in some cases visiting the dealers every day to physically pick up new applications.
DCS Mexico implemented a plan to regain market share. The first move was to reduce approval time. Initially, it could take DCS Mexico credit analysts two days or more to verify and approve an application.
“In this competitive industry, speed gets us business,” said Terry Chier, director of división automóviles, DCS Mexico. “But to improve our customer service in this regard required quite a culture change, shifting our culture to a customer-centric focus. We needed to spend time building more awareness about how customers wanted to be treated.”
The organization turned to Advantage Performance Group and Frogkick Inc. to help with sales and leadership training. Dealer relations managers (DRMs), retail credit analysts (who analyze credit applications from consumers who are interested in financing or leasing a vehicle from a dealership), zone managers (who manage the sales and credit process) and credit supervisors (who directly manage the credit analysts) all took part in the training. “As part of the training devised by these two teams, we asked several dealers to come in to speak directly with the DCS Mexico staff,” Chier said. “We wanted the credit analysts to hear directly from their customers—the dealers.”
In order to maximize the effectiveness of the training, Chier invited a cross-section of dealers, bringing the voice of the customer to the analysts. “We deliberately chose some who were happy with us and some who were still seeking improvements to our service.”
Part of the training also focused on developing a collaborative relationship between the dealers’ sales force and the credit analysts. “We combined the salespeople and the credit analysts in the same learning programs with the explicit goal of helping both groups understand the other’s perspectives,” Chier said. By developing stronger relationships going forward, DCS Mexico ensured that dealers would be well served and that DCS Mexico could recapture business lost to banks.
The learning at DCS Mexico is ongoing. Supervisors and managers have focused discussions before training occurs in order to ensure that the learners understand the business outcomes expected as a result of the training. After the training occurs, similar conversations take place, reinforcing the training, and specific action plans are put in place to ensure long-term change.
Today, many applications are approved in less than 10 minutes. “Even though we can’t always offer the most attractive rates to the consumer, we are winning more business by providing the services that dealers and consumers demand. We can’t always be the lowest rate, but we can provide the best service,” Chier said.
On a recent dealer satisfaction survey conducted by Gallup, dealers’ satisfaction with the credit-analysis process jumped 13 percent, and their satisfaction with the service provided by credit analysts jumped 11 percent. “In just one year we’ve achieved tremendous results,” Chier said.
Jeff Tucker is a partner with Advantage Performance Group, a human performance improvement network. Greg Gunther is the managing partner of Frogkick Inc., a custom training firm. They can be reached at email@example.com.