Starting next week, Chrysler is going to get serious about quality.
That's when each of its top 300 executives will get on the phone and call a customer who recently bought a Chrysler, Dodge or Jeep vehicle and ask a simple question: "Having any problems?"
This won’t just be one call to one person, then a toss of the cell phone into the drawer, either. Those 300 executives are going to call one customer a day every day until Chrysler chairman and chief executive officer Bob Nardelli is satisfied that if his customers have troubles, their problems will be fixed. Nardelli, by the way, is going to make the calls, too.
"The aim is to get in touch with our customers because they are more than just numbers," said Doug Betts, vice president and chief customer officer for Chrysler, which means he's in charge of ensuring quality.
"When a person is happy with his or her car, they tend to tell five other people,” Betts said. “But when they’re unhappy, they tell 50 people — friends, relatives, neighbors and fellow workers. A positive experience obviously sells more cars. An unpleasant experience doesn't. If a person we call has a problem, it's up to us to make it right.
"The No. 1 influence in buying a car isn't having Consumer Reports recommend it, it's having a friend or family member recommend the car because they had a good experience with it. When you get favorable recommendations from family and friends, it doesn't take long to turn around the quality image."
Cars.com senior editor David Thomas was part of a roundtable with Chrysler president Jim Press at the Detroit auto show in January, and he asked Press point-blank about the company's low quality rankings by J.D. Power and Associates and Consumer Reports.
Press answered that quality wasn't a major concern for the company, and that those ratings were based on perception and not reality.
Setting up a phone tree to address quality was Nardelli's idea, and it shows he's obviously concerned about quality — perceived, real or both.