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Ford heir to lead global push for better service

Ian Thibodeau
The Detroit News
Elena Ford

Ford Motor Co. announced Monday Ford family heir Elena Ford would lead a push to enhance customer experience as the company's chief customer experience officer.

Elena Ford, great-great-granddaughter of Henry Ford, said Monday in an interview that she plans to focus customer service points developed closely with CEO Jim Hackett, which deal mostly with the speed and ease of service in Ford vehicle service departments.

The new role comes amid an ongoing series of shifts and slashes under Hackett's global restructuring of the 115-year-old automaker. The CEO aims to cut $25.5 billion in operating costs and incur $11 billion in costs to restructure the company's global footprint, part of which will involve white-collar layoffs.

"It's really a key part of the redesign," Elena Ford, 52, said Monday. "The customer experience is about building trust. We need to enhance what we're doing to keep them."

Elena Ford will report to Joe Hinrichs, Ford president of global operations, in her new role. She's been Ford's vice president of global dealer and customer experience since 2013, and joined Ford in 1995. 

In her new role, the company said Elena Ford will be responsible for honing in on customer "pain points" throughout the entire ownership process, which spans from first contact with the company and servicing a purchased or leased vehicle to getting getting a consumer into a new vehicle at the end of a lease.

She spent time in dealerships and service departments in the U.S. and China to prepare for the new role by examining bottlenecks in the service process and analyzing customer feedback.

"Elena is the ideal leader to take on the challenge of bringing Ford to world-class levels in terms of customer experience," Hinrichs said in a statement. "She has a genuine passion and unwavering focus on doing what’s right for our customers and a deep connection with our dealers. She has the ability to work across the Ford organization and regions and will ensure that everything we do is designed around the customer."

The new role will work in both Ford's customer service division and the sales and marketing wing of the company. While the automaker works to trim excess in its white-collar ranks and in its vehicle development processes, Elena Ford will get the dealerships operating at the level Hackett wants to see.

Said Elena Ford: "We have a very clear picture about things that go well and things we can improve."

Twitter: @Ian_Thibodeau