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VOLVO

Incentive Program for Superior Dealer Service

As part of an incentive program to encourage


excellent
service support for its cars, AB Volvo, ,hJ.o*pu.ry,.
international headquarters in Sweden, ran a worldwide

competition for service technicians. Winners


became

members of VISTA (Volvo International Service


Techni_
cal Associa[ion) , Their achievemenb were
recognized at
weekJong festivities in Sweden.
In the United States and Canada, a year_long battery
of tests distinguished superior mechanics. The WSTA
III

North American program was labeled ,.most

successful,,

by AB Volvo. Fourteen of the 42 international


finalists
were Americans and Canadians. An American
achieved
the highest score ever recorded on the final
tests.

Volvo's comprehensive scheme is to ,,help dealers


profit through balanced. service.,'Balanced service in_
cludes shop management, technical proficiency,
and
owner-dealer relationships.
\4STA III concentrated on improving technical pro_

ficiency, with secondary rewards for gooJ shop manage_


menr. It urged technicians, ,,Fix ir right the first
time ar a
reasonable price."
Volvo of America wanted its technicians to be
aware

recognition winners would receive.


Like a sports car rally, \{ISTA

III

used checkpoints

marking participants, progress_four series of written


tests

and two phases of hands_on tests leading to a finale

in Sweden.
The first yardstick was a series of four open_book
written tests administered quarterly, which all American
aurl Canadirn Vohro technicians lvcrc cligible tu take.

For completing one to four tests, technicians re_


ceived token ad specialties-a pocket screwdriver with
a
Volvo-VISTA III inscription, a money clip, a key tag,
and
a

mug-and up to

100 award points per tesr. The points

were redeemable for prizes listed in five award folders.

A technician with a 60 percent or bettcr

average

score on all four tests qualified for a rank.


Master technicians obtained average scores of 75
percent or better on the tests; they earned 400 extra
points, in addition to those accumulated per test, and a
recognition award. They had to be completely certified
by NIASE (National Institute for Automotive Service
Ex_

or hold a
Journeyrnan,s License.
NIASE, a nonprofit, independent organization dedicated
cellence)

provincial

to professionalizing the field, awards certificates ro


top technicians. A Canadian organization awards that
country's mechanics similar provincial
licenses.

Journe;,rnan,s

Certified technicians averaged 7b percent or more

on the tests, but were required to hold only partial

NIASE certification and did not need a provincial


Jour_
ne)'man's License. They received 100 points for taking
each test, plus an extra 200 points, plus an award of
recognition.
"Even without NL{SE ccrtification or drc provincial
Journepnan's License, you still can be numbered in a
small yet respected group of professional Technicians,,,
Volvo told these mechanics.

Quality technicians scored 60 to 74 percent on the


tests. They received, in addition to points accumu_
lated earlier, 100 points and honorary awards.
Ranking technicians were given VlSTA_imprinted
belt buckles and appropriate certificates ancl patches,
Vlaster anct cer.tilicd technicians were given King Louie

four

ou/

608

Case 17

blue weatherproofjackets stitched with patches denoting


rank.
Only master technicians, however, could enter the
semifinals,
Eleven Regional Volvo Training Cenrers held semifi_
nals. This second measuring point screened out all but
the most highly skilled workers in the Volvo of America
region; competitors were tested in hands-on and closed_

book written exams, Each center's three highest scorers


were eligible ro compete in measuring stick B_the finals

at the

{z

Volvo

New Jersey headquarters-a three-hour and 20_

minute hands-on test.

For h,vo days,42 Americans and Canadians Iabored


to solve eight servicing problems. Under identical condi_
tions, each repaired car brakes, rear axles, automatic
transmissions, and electrical systems,
By completing the tasks, contestants could earn a
total of 400 points. Bruce Donaldson of Almartin Motors
in South Burlington, Vermont, achieved 390 points, the
highest score ever attained in a VISTA program. Earlier
written test scores determined winners in the event

of a tie.

AII finalists received plaques and VISTA III official


finalist watches.
"Your performance will be advertised,', Volvo Vice
PresidentJohn Theis told finalists at an awards banquet.
'Volvo owners will be made aware that they can totally
rely on dealer service operations which ernploy \|ISTA
and NIASE certified technicians,,' Notices appeared in
national, regional, and local publications. Volvo,s maga_
zine for its dealers, Pnspectiae, listed the fabricated situa_
tions each finalist faced.
"How well would you have done?', the magazine

ship, a top money-earner, and the most respected in your

zone. You will benefit from your course participation


and all the world will know it," Volvo told Grand prizc
wnners.
VISTA III's secondary objective was to reward eIfi_
cient shop management. It encouraged teamwork ancl
gave points redeemable for prizes to Volvo service malagers. Each dealership's technicians' combined te.sr
scores were added together and averaged; teams averag_
ing scores of 75 percent or better received recognition,
Each team member obtained I00 additional points an<l
the service manager won 400 prize points. Volvo hostecl
members of the top team from each region at a special
banquet.
Volvo's printed communication with the 1,400 participating technicians and service managers was simple.

Prior to the program start, it mailed mechanics kils


presenting the program and containing a prize catalog,
It also mailed a pop art poster to dealers for in-shop
display-and a second one to record the mechanics' success. Volvo sent participants scorecards after each test;
the cards also listed the total number of points accumulated. To redeem points for gifts, technicians could return prize coupons printed on the back of the scorecard,
Eighty-five percent of all Volvo technicians enrollecl
and participated in VISTA and g3 percent of all Volv<r
dealers enrolled. The promotion met approximately 90
percent of the qualification objectives for master, certified, and qualiry technicians; Volvo said participation was
excellent.

AB Volvo, the international headquarters, recognized the United States program as the best of all nations
involved.

asked its readership.

Eleven Americans and three Canadians finished


with grand honors; these men went to Sweden. During
their one-week, all-expense-paid trip they, along with 2g
mechanics from other countries, toured Volvo headquar_
ters, attended honorary dinners, and met with Volvo ex_
ecutives.

These expert technicians received blazers, trousers,


and patches. They were presented as a group ro their
peers from around the world.
'VISTA will have helped you become a rechnician
who has no superior; a major contributor to your dealer-

Discussion Questions
1.

Evaluate Volvo's incentive program for improving


dealer service. What are its major strengths? Are
there any weaknesses? What would you have done

differently?

2.

How might programs such as this help to foster


channel member cooperation and reduce conflict
in the marketing channel?