Chrysler to Open Call Centers on Sunday to Improve Service

Chrysler Group LLC, the U.S. automaker operated by Fiat SpA (F), plans to keep customer-support telephone lines open on Sundays to improve its relationship with car buyers.

The Sunday call-center hours are part of an effort by Pietro Gorlier, head of Chrysler’s Mopar brand service, parts and customer care, to better meet consumers’ expectations.

Gorlier is pushing franchise owners to carry replacement parts for vehicles made by other automakers and to open their shops on Saturdays. He is also beginning an effort to keep more service centers open on Sundays. Chrysler moved its call center support work to North America last year from India, and customer call-wait times were slashed, he said.

“As a customer, I look for having service on Saturday and Sunday,” Gorlier, 48, said in an interview last week at Chrysler’s headquarters in Auburn Hills, Michigan.

The automaker last year opened its call center on Saturdays, and the number of calls has since doubled to about 20 percent of weekday traffic, said Paul Alcala, head of Chrysler customer care and call centers.

Callers under the old system typically couldn’t reach a live representative for more than 2 minutes, and that time has been shortened to 30 to 45 seconds, Alcala said.

“I wouldn’t say that it was set up to get rid of people,” Gorlier said of the previous system. “But the most important driver was to contain costs, and the best way to contain costs is to reduce the number of calls you have.”

1.5 Million Contacts

The automaker gets about 1.5 million customer contacts, including calls, letters and e-mails, a year, Gorlier said.

Chrysler also has begun contacting customers about recalls if they haven’t responded six months after a campaign, he said. The automaker is piloting a program to call some customers who may have a recurring repair problem.

“We try to detect potential future problems,” Gorlier said.

Gorlier has targeted getting 80 percent of Chrysler’s about 2,300 U.S. dealers open on Saturdays. About 72 percent of dealers are now open then, up from 60 percent in 2009, he said.

“We’re more or less growing one point every month so we should be in good shape to get to 80 for the end of the year,” he said.

Sergio Marchionne, chief executive officer of both automakers, is pushing Chrysler to raise global sales 32 percent this year and turn its first annual profit since emerging from bankruptcy reorganization in 2009.

Mopar Partnership

Chrysler also announced today that Mopar is partnering with Magneti Marelli, Fiat’s auto-parts unit, and Shell Lubricants, the maker of Pennzoil motor oil, in a deal that will allow Chrysler’s franchises to fully service rivals’ vehicles.

Chrysler dealerships last year performed some maintenance on more than 2.6 million competitors’ vehicles. The deal with Magneti Marelli, beginning this month, will provide Chrysler’s dealers with replacement parts for vehicles made by General Motors Co. (GM), Ford Motor Co. (F) and Toyota Motor Corp. (7203)

Magneti Marelli is beginning by supplying brakes, shocks, oil filters and other items, and more parts will be added during the year, Chrysler said in a statement.

Chrysler dealers will be able to service about 85 percent of the vehicles on the road, Gorlier said during an event at a Mopar facility in Center Line, Michigan.

“We want to become, as I said, the single source of parts for our dealers,” Gorlier told reporters today.

To contact the reporter on this story: Tim Higgins in Southfield, Michigan, at thiggins21@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Jamie Butters at jbutters@bloomberg.net

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