Lincoln Benchmarking Hospitality For Luxury Brand Reinvention

Ahead of the 2012 New York Auto Show, Lincoln held a preview launch event for the new 2013 MKZ sedan. This is the car Lincoln is pinning a revival of the luxury brand on. You’ll notice a more refined and sleek exterior design. The most distinctive side is really the back where the tail light become a thin graphic element. While a portion of the event was about the car, Lincoln spent a lot of time talking about how they are planning to transform the Lincoln shopping and buying experience.

Held inside the lobby of the Gehry designed IAC building on the west side of Manhattan, Lincoln created a mock interior with components from their new dealership design package. Seating, tables and wall units carry a design theme derived from the hospitality world. The new dealership design is mostly black and white with subtle traces of color coming from leather seating.

Beyond the physical design of the sales environment, Lincoln announced details of how it intends to reinvent customer engagement and the service experience. Here again they’ve literally taken a page from the hospitality industry. Lincoln will partner with Les Clefs d’Or – the international association of hotel concierges to develop a training program called the Lincoln Academy for dealership sales and service associates. Les Clefs d’Or members are regarded as top of the industry in hotel hospitality and are known to go to great lengths to serve guests. Lincoln also intends to select Luxury Culture Ambassadors who will work within dealerships to develop and fine tune customer service practices. They are looking to hire individuals with hospitality experience for the program which will begin later this summer.

Lincoln also previewed a digital shopping venture called the 24/7 Online Concierge. Internet users will be able to video chat with a trained concierge who will provide a personal, guided walkthrough of all aspects of new Lincoln vehicles as well as review competitive products. The concierge will also provide a personalized portfolio logging vehicle preferences and options. This portfolio will be accessible via laptop, smartphone or tablet anywhere and can easily be recalled by a dealer associate.

These are some steps Lincoln is taking but they are considering others to make the ownership experience more premium. They are considering a ‘date night’ test drive package where Lincoln will provide customers with two-day loaner car and include dinner at a local restaurant for free. They also want to make ownership more special but celebrating buyer anniversaries. This might include a professional car cleaning and detailing. One other idea is to make the dealerships RFID enabled so when an owner visits the dealership, the staff is alerted instantly.

Full Press Release Here:

 Lincoln Transforms Customer Experience at Each Touchpoint – from Shopping to Ownership

DEARBORN, Mich., April 2, 2012 — Lincoln is reinventing how it interacts with customers, collaborating with a world-renowned organization of hotel concierges to create a better service experience. In addition, Lincoln will be providing around-the- clock online concierge services.

“We realize that great new vehicles are only one part of Lincoln’s transformation,” says Jim Farley, Group Vice President, Global Marketing, Sales and Service. “Outstanding cars like the all-new Lincoln MKZ have to be matched with personal and innovative customer service at every step.”

Les Clefs d’Or and the Lincoln Academy

For the first time in the automotive industry, Les Clefs d’Or – the international association of hotel concierges – is sharing its expertise helping Lincoln to reinvent how it serves customers.

Les Clefs d’Or is consulting on the new Lincoln Academy, a sales and service associate training program for Lincoln dealership personnel aimed at training them to deliver the same personalized service experiences customers receive at top luxury hotels.

“We are very pleased to be working with Les Clefs d’Or, as no one knows how to surprise and delight luxury customers better than a concierge who wears the Golden Keys,” Farley said. “Our pioneering collaboration with Les Clefs d’Or is another proof point showing how serious Lincoln is about delivering world-class customer service.”

The Lincoln Academy is a long-term commitment to culture change in dealerships. Shaping the curriculum is a team of training professionals with direct experience in the hospitality industry. These Lincoln Luxury Culture Ambassadors will apply their expertise in client service to the new Lincoln training curriculum. The program for the Lincoln Academy kicks off this summer.

 The Lincoln 24/7 Online Concierge

For times when shoppers and customers are not able to make it to a dealership, Lincoln will begin offering a new online service available around the clock. It will offer people a more personalized experience, including live interaction with a highly trained concierge who can engage through interactive video.

The Google 2011 Automotive Shopping Behavior Study indicates that customers spend up to eight hours researching their purchase and visiting on average 18 sources during this process.

Internet users, however, are less satisfied overall with their experience, with lower satisfaction levels in 16 or 18 shopping measures compared with those who did not shop over the Internet, according to a ResearchNow consumer survey.

Starting early next year, Lincoln 24/7 Online Concierge will help create a smoother transition between the research online shoppers do and the experience they have in dealerships.

The new online service will be accessible through the Lincoln website, It will provide a more seamless transition between the customer’s online research and the initial visit to a dealership through:

>A personal, guided walkthrough of all aspects of new Lincoln vehicles, services and competitive comparisons

>A personalized portfolio, logging all customer vehicle preferences, which then can be shared with the customer’s preferred dealer

>The ability for customers to save and access their portfolio information from virtually any platform, including laptop, iPad or smartphone

>Full access for the customer’s dealer of choice, to customer profile and saved vehicle information

Lincoln also is creating an iPad App for dealer sales associates to use to walk their customers through the next phase of the shopping process.

Other ideas are under study, as well, aimed at deliver more personalized experiences for Lincoln customers throughout shopping, buying and ownership periods.

“We won’t stop exploring different ways to be more than just a purveyor of luxury motor cars,” Farley said. “We are just as committed to making our customers be more efficient as we are to creating a stand-out Lincoln lineup of vehicles, both now and in the future.”

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