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At Lexus Dealerships, the "Genius Bar" Will Soon Be Open... In Your New Car

Posted by Dale Buss on April 12, 2012 06:02 PM

Lexus is doubling down on customer service. Borrowing a page from Apple, the luxury brand known for coddling customers is helping its dealers create a sort of automotive Genius Bar of technology and delivery specialists to help buyers figure out all the state-of-the-art features on their vehicles.

"We're focusing on improving the delivery process, so [dealers] are hiring for new positions aimed at improving customer satisfaction," Mark Templin, general manager of the Lexus division, said. Many of Lexus's 230 U.S. dealers will staff up their sales departments by as much as 20 percent as part of this sweeping initiative, Vincent Salisbury, training manager of the company's Lexus College brand-education operation, told brandchannel.

For one thing, of course, Lexus wants to avoid the kind of fiasco that swept over Ford last year when MyFord Touch came without adequate customer or dealership-staff instruction and whacked the brand's "quality" ratings in J.D. Power and Consumer Reports evaluations. 

But even more, Lexus recognizes the need to do a better job of helping its customers understand and fully utilize the intricacies of the proliferation of new interior technologies in its vehicles, ranging from Bluetooth to digital-audio systems to the brand's Enform telematics system to in-car internet connectivity. Its customer-service lines got 13,000 calls last year about navigation, audio and other infotainment technologies, up from about 5,000 calls two years earlier.

So dealers are sending new and existing personnel to Lexus College in California for a half week's training in the brand's new initiative; a total of 2,400 dealership personnel are supposed to go through it by the end of June. Many of them will go back to Lexus dealers and become full time "delivery" or "technology" specialists. Lexus borrowed this idea from Apple's in-store Genius Bar as well as from a handful of its own dealers who had been using it.

"Technology issues are easier to explain at the dealership when you're with a real live person as opposed to doing it over the phone," Saqlisbury said. "That's what's really driving this."

And, of course, the fact that with Lexus's new approach, brand loyalty "improves significantly."

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