By Ulysses Ang
PK UMASHANKAR, or Uma as he prefers to be called, has his work cut out for him. Faced with softening sales at Ford Philippines, the new managing director isn’t fazed. A mechanical engineer by education, and a customer service guy at heart, Uma won’t simply focus on chasing market share; instead, he’s looking to transform Ford into a customer-centric car company.
The building blocks were set by his predecessors — a wider dealer network and programs that include reduced maintenance costs, but Uma is going further, providing the “soft skills” his team current lacks.
“I spend every day reviewing all open customer issues,” said Uma, during a meet and greet with the media late last week. “Customer experience is an investment, and I have engaged my dealer partners in a more collaborative listening space. With their cooperation and the help of my team, we have started key initiatives to connect with our owners more directly.”
True enough, when going through the various customer issues, Uma has nothing but praises for his team and his dealers on how they handle the technical side of things. Where they can improve is the speed and quality of the response.
“When a customer brings his car in, the last thing he wants is uncertainty. He doesn’t want to hear his service advisor saying, ‘I don’t know when your part will arrive,’” he said.
This is where Uma’s expertise comes in.
In his previous assignment in Thailand, he managed to streamline parts sourcing and delivery across the Ford network with the use of technology. Using a special bot or program, he effectively cut the time needed to find a part from hours to minutes. Even better, he can definitively tell the lead time it takes to ship and deliver the part to the customer. The best part? He’s able to leverage Ford’s entire network of parts warehouses globally instead of focusing on just one or two regional parts facilities.
“If it requires us to ship a part from South Africa or pull a part from the production line to get a customer’s car running, we can do it,” revealed Uma. Needless to say, Ford guarantees that the price of parts will remain the same for the customer. It’ll be Ford Philippines who’ll shoulder the necessary freight costs.
The Philippines is the second market in the Southeast Asian region to use this global parts sourcing and delivery system. One dealer is already pilot-testing the program and plans are under way to roll this throughout the rest of the network.
“As a brand, Ford is very strong here in the Philippines,” said Uma. “By focusing on bettering our customer experience, we see it as a way to sustain and further our strength here in the country.”