Turning customers into ambassadors helps the luxury division attract new buyers.

There’s no denying that an entirely new model range, including the Navigator debuting here at the New York Auto Show, is helping Lincoln’s sales growth. But Kumar Galhotra, president of The Lincoln Motor Company, says that customer service is equally important.

“The two key parts to our plan are our products and our experiences,” he says. “Both have to go hand-in-hand.”

Part of the reason? Galhotra says shoppers in the premium space want to be wowed and treated well, not just given a wonderful end product.

“Luxury is evolving, luxury isn’t just about the product anymore,” he says. “Luxury is expanding more and more into experiences, so besides the product, we need to provide a great experience for our consumers at every touchpoint with our brand – at our dealerships during purchase, during service, during all of those experiences."

That’s why Lincoln has focused so much on rethinking ways in which its owners interact with the showroom. The company is trying to remove any friction points for busy luxury customers: Coming to the dealer for service can be annoying, so Lincoln will pick up your car and leave a loaner in its place, a process called Lincoln Pickup & Delivery ­– that is included as standard on new vehicles. Lincoln is also trying At-Home Test Drives, again catering to people who don’t want to or can’t come to a showroom for a traditional test-drive experience.

“Successful, affluent people are very, very busy, and time is the ultimate luxury for them,” Galhotra says.

How do these steps help Lincoln grow? When customers try the services or experience the brand’s luxurious new dealerships, they become “brand ambassadors” who tell other people about their experience.

“It’s the focus on consumer needs,” Galhotra says. “It certainly improves our consideration.”

Need some evidence it’s working? Lincoln recently jumped up several spots to the number-three position in the influential J.D. Power Customer Service Index rating.

Thanks to those steps, as well as new models like the Continental and refreshed MKZ, Lincoln has seen “a substantial inflow” of new customers, both from luxury brands and from “German and Japanese” luxury carmakers, Galhotra says. In 2016, U.S. Lincoln sales rose 10.4 percent. So far this year, the brand’s sales are up 8.7 percent.

The new Lincoln Continental is also driving growth for the brand. “That performance has been very good,” Galhotra says. More than 11 percent of Continental buyers are also opting up to Lincoln’s fully loaded, expensive Black Label trims, too.

Going forward, Galhotra says Lincoln is “studying” whether the brand should expand into other car segments; he says there’s potential for growth in both sedans and SUVs but wouldn’t comment specifically on what new models are under consideration.

Live photos: Sebastian Blanco / Motor1.com

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