Exciting customers is about to become more than a mission statement at Porsche Cars North America. The theme will govern a new program to train 5,200 people employed at Porsche’s U.S. dealerships beginning later in 2017.
As part of the program, which is dubbed Excite, Porsche last month selected the Disney Institute to help it fine-tune plans and carry out the training. The effort likely will bring all customer-facing dealership personnel to one of the brand’s two U.S. Porsche Experience Centers.
As another step in this long-term initiative to improve the customer experience, Porsche also is asking dealers to designate a customer experience manager in their stores. For many dealerships, that is likely to be a new, stand-alone position.
Though many dealers are wary about increased costs for both the training and the new management position, the dealer body is generally on board with the initiative.
The aim is to increase brand loyalty among Porsche customers and ease their interactions at Porsche’s 189 U.S. dealerships, said Klaus Zellmer, CEO of Porsche Cars North America.
“We need to stand on two legs,” Zellmer told Automotive News. “We have one very strong leg: product. But standing on one leg is not good enough for us. So the second leg for me is the issue of customer experience.”
Both Zellmer and his predecessor, Detlev von Platen, now Porsche’s global sales chief, have called for Porsche and its dealers to improve the brand’s customer satisfaction performance. Porsche has lagged in some J.D. Power rankings over the years, though it is improving. Hitting the top of such rankings across the board will require a cultural shift both at the corporate and retail level, von Platen said.
“It starts with Porsche AG — it’s the way we deliver our service to our dealers,” von Platen told Automotive News. “Which counts if we want them to be perfect in delivering an unexpected service to our customers. It’s about culture and consistency.”
Excite is being piloted in the U.S. market and will eventually go global, von Platen said. Porsche isn’t sharing a dollar estimate on the cost, but he said the company and dealers will share in the expense.
Dealers are expressing cautious optimism, though they don’t yet know the specifics of the coming requirements.
“It’s great that our team members have immersion at these experience centers because it does give a beautiful flavor of what our brand is all about,” said Todd Blue, CEO of Indigo Auto Group with three Porsche stores in St. Louis, Houston and Rancho Mirage, Calif. “So I’m all for that. It will actually help us as dealers with team member loyalty and retention because they know they’re part of a very special brand. It’s Disneyland for adults.”
Training excursions to the centers in Atlanta and Los Angeles may also help cut down on more expensive travel to Europe for dealership managers, said Blue, who is also a member of the Porsche Dealer Board of Regents.