our management approach to Customers

Topics Discussed in this Section:

Customer satisfaction speaks to what we believe as a company. Customers trust GM brands, operations and dealers around the world to provide them with quality products that will help them keep their families safe. We understand that this trust is easy to lose and difficult to regain. Today, we are more focused on this responsibility than at any other time in our history. Our goal is to satisfy our customers to a level where they are not only loyal to our brands and products, but also recommend them to others.

Everything we do is grounded in an intent to deliver the highest possible levels of product quality. Our brands, products and services aim for benchmarks in studies measuring quality and consumer satisfaction. Accordingly, our focus on product quality aligns the entire company with the goal of exceeding customer expectations and providing customers with the best overall experience.

Vehicle Development Process

This total focus on the customer defines how we develop, engineer and manufacture our vehicles with quality and durability goals in mind, starting with the vehicle development process. We harness customer feedback from global markets to help shape our customers’ product experience, using our GM Compass customer survey to gather preferences on a variety of issues —from performance and efficiency to how people interact with their vehicles. We also are continually refining our vehicle development processes to help deliver products our customers want that meet their expectations for quality, safety and performance. The latest version of our Global Vehicle Development Process was released in 2016 and included additional explicit steps to improve safety and quality assurance.

Building a Defect Free Culture

The Global Vehicle Development Process is rooted in a cultural commitment to design, engineer and build defect-free vehicles. Building upon GM’s foundational “Who We Are” and “How We Behave” foundational statements, employees are committed to a goal of delivering defect-free vehicles as a value supported by key initiatives and behaviors. This commitment is supported by three elements:


Product Safety,

which in recent years has been enhanced through several organizational changes, including the formation of a Global Product Integrity organization, the restructuring of our global vehicle safety and safety field investigation process, as well as implementation of our Speak Up For Safety program, Prevent Repeat Defect process and Safety Incident Protocol.


Systems Engineering,

which is being applied to our processes through a new organization that defines functional content, assigns function ownership and uses a new IT-based system to help map, flow and trace requirements across our complex systems network.


Quality Chain,

which is an interconnected system of tools and methods that illustrates required collaboration and drives visibility into how design, systems and process failure modes can be mitigated. This helps drive enterprisewide engagement so all issues can be corrected across all systems and processes.

Each element is interdependent, enterprisewide and designed to be sustained over the long term to facilitate the learning, practice and perfecting that are required to achieve a defect free culture.

Our Global Product Development function has translated GM’s vision of zero defects into values and behaviors that are meaningful for employees. These behaviors include a renewed focus on product safety, which we are strengthening with continuous improvement in our Global Product Integrity organization, the Speak Up For Safety system and a restructured safety field investigation process.

We are also emphasizing systems engineering companywide. This requires all people to practice the discipline of systems thinking, understanding how their individual roles contribute to the bigger picture rather than thinking in silos. Related to systems thinking is our quality chain construct. GM has quality tools that work as interconnected processes and cross system and organizational boundaries. Using these tools together is helping us build discipline into our process for identifying and addressing failure modes.

These product development-centric elements are foundational to building a defect free vision and completed by our Launch Excellence initiative. The initiative uses an Affinity Diagram to help teams focus on what must be true in terms of process and discipline to successfully navigate vehicle development.

Quality Assurance

All manufacturing operations that require ISO 9000 certification — a set of international standards on quality management and quality assurance — are certified. Globally, we have transitioned to the new ISO 9001:2015 standard, which is aligned with the most recent trends. All operations have completed the transition and certification in 2018. We have three component plants certified to the IATF 16949 standards. We also maintain a Global Manufacturing System (GMS) that informs all aspects of our business and is even more rigorous than external standards.

Initial quality has evolved as a measure of issues that customers may experience with their vehicles in the first months of ownership. In recent years, user-friendly infotainment systems, seat comfort, knob and handle placement and other features have replaced component failures as top quality issues. The key metric for GM to measure initial quality is 12 Months in Service Incidents Per Thousand Vehicles (12 MIS IPTV).

It’s also important to understand that quality today goes beyond reliability to encompass often intangible experiences. This is why we are taking more scientific approaches to translate customer input and feedback into technical requirements that define the overall driving experience. Consider, for example, the sound of an engine start or transmission shift, the feel of buttons when pushed or the sound doors make when closing. Such quality attributes often can be difficult for customers to describe and quantify. New advanced tools and approaches, such as Human Vehicle Integration, help to translate customers’ requirements into technical specifications and, ultimately, vehicle designs.

The implementation of updated tools and programs is helping GM employees around the world react better and faster to the needs of our customers. For example, our Global Product Development organization has completed the highest level of Design for Six Sigma training, a process that focuses on customer issues and solutions. We also have migrated all of our plants around the world to the highest quality levels with the goal of shipping defect-free products. Operational Excellence has been implemented across the enterprise as a proven, systemwide and data-driven approach to confronting business issues and identifying lasting solutions.

The goal of these and other programs is to take action as early as possible in the vehicle development and manufacturing process to promote excellence at product launch. This “quality across the enterprise” approach drives behaviors and actions throughout the company to result in brands, products and services that meet or exceed the expectations of our customers.

We measure customer satisfaction progress primarily through the Net Promoter Score (NPS), which is an important key performance indicator that gauges how likely a customer is to recommend our products

Dealer Quality Programs

Our commitment to quality and customer satisfaction extends to the experience customers have when they visit our dealerships. It is essential that we maintain a consistent level of sales and service excellence to earn and maintain customer trust. Two elements of quality management systems help us achieve this consistency. We use Standards for Excellence (SFE) to measure dealers and Essential Brand Elements (EBE) to update and measure dealerships on the achievement of brand standards relating to the quality and effectiveness of dealers’ interaction with customers. The variable compensation of each dealership depends on the level of achievement under the SFE and EBE programs.

We also maintain the Mark of Excellence program, which annually recognizes high-achieving dealers, sales consultants, sales managers, service managers, service consultants, service technicians and parts teams. Out of GM’s 4,144 Chevrolet, Buick, GMC and Cadillac dealerships across the United States, 3,184 dealers and more than 65,210 dealer employees are enrolled in the Mark of Excellence program.

We provide both technical and nontechnical training and tools to dealerships to help them meet or exceed their customers’ expectations. This training includes modules for sales, finance, front office and management staff; apps for sales and service; and various reference documents such as FAQ documents. Different departments in the dealership relating to sales, as well as service, must maintain a certain level of training performance by meeting technical and nontechnical criteria. For example, to self-authorize warranty claims, a dealer must maintain 100 percent training for technicians at all times. Our GM Internal Audit Staff ensures dealer compliance by auditing all dealerships on a rotating basis. Dealers are required to achieve third-party Automotive Service Excellence certification of their facilities, an industry standard and a customer-recognized seal of quality. Furthermore, while ISO 9000 certification is not mandatory, many dealers are ISO 9000 certified.

Customer Experience

We recognize that overall customer satisfaction is a function of both quality products and customer interactions to create a distinctive customer experience. This requires having a 360-degree view of our customers that enables us to recognize, understand and serve them best.

We make great efforts to make sure that our customers can share their concerns with us at any time. Our Customer Assistance Center is integrated with our U.S. dealer network, field organization, technical and parts assistance, engineering, product quality teams and OnStar and Roadside teams. Any GM employee or customer can easily report a concern or comment through the Center’s website, email address or phone hotline, where our dedicated team works to quickly incorporate feedback and resolve concerns.

We measure customer satisfaction progress primarily through the Net Promoter Score (NPS), which is an important key performance indicator that gauges how likely a customer is to recommend our products. In 2018, 86.9 percent of customers responding to the survey were satisfied, exceeding our goal of 86.1 percent. Every customer also receives a dealer assessment, the Customer Satisfaction Index (CSI), that asks for feedback on both their sales and service experience at dealerships. In 2016, we incorporated questions associated with an NPS into our CSI survey and in 2017, expanded the CSI to a common global survey. We use the true NPS calculation, as we believe this data best represents customer satisfaction because it is a measure of advocacy. In addition to our internal metrics, we monitor third-party measures of customer satisfaction and quality to gauge our progress.

Regardless of whether we are using an internal or external measure of success, we are gratified to see progress, but will be satisfied only when we are exceeding the expectations of each and every GM customer.