Car Industry

FordPass Rewards lets Ford drivers earn points toward service costs

Think of it as frequent-flyer miles, except for oil changes and tires.

Ford

The FordPass connected-car app is getting an update that's intended to help make Ford customers more loyal to the Blue Oval's dealerships, the company announced Thursday. FordPass Rewards will allow owners to accumulate points, sort of like airline frequent-flyer miles, that can be used to pay for services, parts and potentially even a new car.

The program officially launches Thursday, though anyone who bought a new Ford vehicle since April 2 automatically received 42,000 points in their FordPass Rewards account. Those 42,000 initial points are typically enough to pay for a car's first three service appointments, Jason Sprawka, Ford director of customer experience in North America, told journalists at a preview Wednesday.

FordPass already has 1 million active users.

Ford

Customers also earn 5% back, in the form of points, on the purchase of Ford-branded parts, such as Motorcraft, as well as on the parts and labor cost of any services performed at Ford dealers. Those accumulated points can be banked to save for major services, or used at any time. Customers can use the points to pay for everything from oil changes to new tires -- and the points can potentially even be put towards a new car lease or purchase. There may even be other ways to use points down the road, Sprawka hints: "These exciting earning and redemption offerings are just the beginning."

The goal of this loyalty program is part of a far-reaching emphasis on what Ford terms customer experience -- making customers happier with the Ford brand. Elena Ford, the automaker's chief customer experience officer (and great-great-granddaughter of Henry Ford), said Ford wants to focus on promoting retention, enrichment and advocacy among its owners. That means keeping them loyal to Ford, possibly encouraging them to buy an additional vehicle and getting them to espouse Ford's values to others.

With FordPass Rewards specifically, the goal is to bring customers back to dealers for services. While about 60% of all Ford service appointments are for oil changes, Ford says only 52% of customers come back for future services. All told, only around a third of new Ford customers buyers return to the dealership for any type of service. The loyalty program could help bolster those numbers, Ford hopes.

Elena Ford was named Ford's chief customer experience officer in October 2018.

Ford

"We have good loyalty, but we want more," Elena Ford said. "Ultimately we know It's more valuable to retain a customer than to win a new one."

Ford had a loyalty program before, but it was only offered at about 300 of the company's more than 3,000 US dealers, Sprawka said. To make FordPass Rewards successful, he said, Ford knew the company needed to roll out the program nationally: "Every dealer that is capable of enrolling in FordPass rewards is active in this program."

Other efforts to improve the customer experience during service include an ExpressDrive program at about 2,000 dealerships, which involve service bays dedicated to completing routine maintenance in one hour. "When someone shows up at the dealership expecting to be in and out within an hour, we have to be able to facilitate that," said Frederiek Toney, president of Ford's customer service division.

The automaker will also work to bolster training programs at community colleges to help funnel more new workers into vehicle-service careers. "We have a huge technician shortage," Toney said.