Samir Cherfan, Managing Director at Nissan, Middle East speaks about Nissan’s dedication to ‘excellence in service’ through innovation and personalization at all stages of the Customer Journey. He places emphasis on ‘continuously listening’ to customers at all touch points of the sales and post-sales process and customizing service to their needs accordingly. In this interview, he sheds light on the various processes through which Nissan is ‘Enriching People’s Lives.’
Q: Nissan has secured multiple top awards for its vehicles in 2016. What factors have contributed towards this achievement?
Samir Cherfan: We continuously strive to provide our customers with the highest standards of quality within our innovative offerings, which is reflected throughout our product line-up.
Securing top awards is a testament to our commitment to this region. At Nissan, we are continuously listening to the needs of our customers, and developing products and services as per their requirements, which is in line with our promise “Innovation that Excites”.
For example, most recently we conducted a study that revealed that the GCC market demanded for two new versions of the Nissan Patrol, one of them being the Nissan Patrol Desert Edition – a bespoke version of the Nissan Patrol that takes its already legendary off-roading abilities to even greater heights. The model which was built on customers’ demands eventually won an award at the annual Middle East Car of the Year Awards.
Q: Nissan seems to have a car for everyone. Do you have varied approaches in catering to the broad spectrum of customers coming to your dealerships?
Samir Cherfan: Given the wide spectrum of target customers our line-up caters to, we continuously craft targeted and personalized communication strategies that tackle our audiences’ needs and interests when it comes to the models they would be interested in.
Those strategies are usually holistically integrated, ensuring we go through a seamless experiential journey catering to their needs.
Once at the showroom, the dedicated sales consultants are trained to provide personalized communication depending on the models each customer is interested in. Nissan provides a customized customer journey within the showrooms. Dedicated certified consultants for sports car, SUV champions & state of the art NISMO corners are examples of how we tailor our approach to our customers’ specific needs.
Q: In what ways do you feel your services are distinct from your competitors?
Samir Cherfan: Nissan’s vision is “Enriching people’s lives”. Ensuring experience excellence, we offer several services to our customers. Dealers GPS location pre-defined on Nissan NAVI system, showroom valet parking, welcoming greeters and showroom lounges are some examples of how Nissan distinguishes its services from competitors.
In our service centers, we have quality-oriented frontline people ensuring excellence in providing customer service at all touch points. In addition, we provide Nissan-trained technicians focusing on high quality repair standards by utilizing only Nissan Genuine parts.
Q: What kind of Customer Support do you provide at different stages of the Sales process as well as post-sales service?
Samir Cherfan: Our first step in sales includes consulting and understanding our customers’ needs, which is then followed by a test drive experience of the preferred model. If and when a customer purchases the car from us, we ensure satisfaction post-delivery of the model.
When it comes to service, our call centers ensure customer satisfaction post-service. In addition, we remind customers if their service is due, and raise awareness on the importance of timely service maintenance at Nissan authorized service facilities. We also offer mobile assistance (i.e. towing service) in case of emergency breakdowns.
Q: What are some key essentials of Customer Service that you focus on at your Customer Service Training Center?
Samir Cherfan: We follow a high standard of training at our customer service training centers. We ensure our staff is highly trained and has the expertise, knowledge and skills along with the right process to ensure we are providing excellent customer service to our customers.
For our service centers, we highly focus on training our staff on the importance of communication transparency to explain each and every single maintenance or repair tasks carried out on the car.
Q: In regards to service and maintenance, what are the most common issues that customers bring their vehicles in for at your service centers and in what order of priority and timeframe are these issues resolved?
Samir Cherfan: Customers bring their vehicles in for service mainly for periodic maintenance (70%), general repairs (20%) and body repairs (10%).
The most critical point for us at our service centers is to ensure the availability of spare parts at all times. This is why we try to identify customer concerns prior to scheduling maintenance or repair appointments.
In cases where we do face a shortage in spare parts, we use emergency air shipment to have the parts delivered at the earliest to ensure that our customers can get their vehicle fixed at the earliest.
Q: What additional Customer Support channels are available for customers to contact you with regards to issues, feedback, inquiries and so forth? Furthermore, are these channels available 24/7?
Samir Cherfan: Nissan, Middle East has developed its own Regional Customer Communication Center to support the local contact centers of the dealerships and allowing customers to share their feedback directly with the manufacturer.
We receive inquiries, escalated complaints and feedback from all over the region through our phone numbers, website, email and social media platforms, since our contact centers’ objective is to tackle and resolve escalation requests, we operate 5 days per week from 9 to 6 PM; any request received outside the working hours is picked up and responded to on the next working day.
At our regional communication center, Nissan Middle East team handles all requests received and communicates with customers directly to resolve any matter in coordination with all the concerned departments within Nissan Middle East and the local dealers.
The same team also handles all requests received through our social media platforms directly, some are answered live and some are taken offline and resolved immediately.
Q: What are your processes for measuring Customer Satisfaction during sales and post sales service?
Samir Cherfan: There 2 ways we measure customer satisfaction in the region:
- Monthly CS Survey – survey conducted 7 days after the completed service and actual delivery of the vehicle to the customer. This works as a measure of the customer’s overall experience post purchase or following a vehicle service.
- CS Competitive Survey – a survey conducted annually, comparing Nissan customers’ experience with key competitors’ customer experience. The results also indicate Nissan’s CS performance ranking against the competitors.
Both the surveys are measuring customer satisfaction level based on the Sales & Service Processes, Consultation & Explanation Skills up to the quality of the vehicle during delivery and compared against specific commitments used as reference in further enhancing the overall customer experience at all touch points.
Q: Please share some upcoming developments for customers of Nissan in the near future.
Samir Cherfan: For sales, we are working on incorporating exciting digital tools within the showrooms. We intend to enrich the customers’ interaction with immediate response to his/her needs (car configurator, stock availability, accessories etc.) all to be displayed live on a digital tablet with the sales consultant.
For aftersales, we will be implementing tablets to register the customers’ requests prior to any service is done. Through the use of digital platforms, we plan to provide transparency to our customers by sharing pictures of the parts that have been replaced.
About Samir Cherfan
Samir Cherfan is the Managing Director of Nissan Middle East FZE. He is the man behind the growth of Nissan brand across 21 countries with over 200 employees distributed through several main hubs.
With an engineering background, Cherfan has a strong history in car brands as he joined Renault in 1992, where he stayed for 20 years prior to joining Nissan organization in 2012.
Cherfan describes himself as a leader who is a coach to his team and sets them on the path to success. He is a sports enthusiast and likes to explore new cultures globally.
Cherfan has always been passionate towards cars. As an engineering graduate, he joined Renault in 1992 and progressed in the initial 11 years of his career with varied management positions linked with research, development, purchasing and manufacturing.
A further seven years were spent in vehicle program management where he was given the role of Program Director for the mid-range segment for international markets. In parallel, in 2008, he was assigned to the important mission to lead the cross functional activities in order to optimize the fixed costs of the organization directly reporting to the CEO and the COO.
In 2010, Cherfan moved to the front line as Managing Director – Renault Retail Group in Paris, the position from which he joined Nissan Middle East in 2012 as Director, Sales & Marketing Nissan Middle East before being appointed Managing Director with the overall responsibility for both Nissan and Infiniti brands in the Middle East.
In 2013, due to his wealth of knowledge in the region, Cherfan has also taken the role as Managing Director of Nissan Saudi Arabia, the distributor company of Nissan in the Kingdom as a complement to his regional responsibilities.
During his extensive career path Cherfan was rewarded with a number of prestigious awards in recognition of his leadership achievements including:
Global meet local, Top 100 Leaders in the MENA Region’ Award by Forbes Middle East. Under his leadership, Nissan Middle East, in 2014, has been for the third consecutive year the most awarded automotive brand in the region with 15 awards, reaching close to 40 awards since 2012; achieved three Guinness World Records, has received above 30 product awards from the market since 2012; and has also received prestigious internal awards such as 3 AMI Chairman Awards and a Finalist CEO Brand Award as a recognition of Nissan Regional performance
He is an engineering graduate from Polytech, Paris, 1992 and speaks French, Arabic and English fluently.