GM's quality and service chief Alicia Boler-Davis wants to use the "voice of the customer" to both solve current problems and prevent issues on future models.

General Motors plans to use customers’ comments — and complaints — to guide the company’s designers and engineers as they develop new products.

That will be a critical role for the new “Customer Engagement Center” at the company’s chief technical center in Warren, Michigan. The new initiative is also designed to improve the customer experience for GM owners by staffing the new Engagement Center with advisors trained to reach out to new owners to answer questions and to resolve most issues on the spot.

“We’re not waiting for customers to come to us,” said Alicia Boler-Davis, vice president of Global Quality and U.S. Customer Experience. “We proactively reach out to offer support and open a dialogue with our Chevrolet, Buick, GMC and Cadillac customers. This includes our social media team interacting on Facebook, Twitter and popular vehicle forums to offer assistance.”

GM has been trying to shift to a more customer-focused approach, especially since emerging from its 2009 bankruptcy. And the move has strong support from the top, Mark Reuss, president of North American operations, frequently making calls to customers to help resolve problems he has learned about through sources such as a personal Facebook page.

Resolving problems, however, is only one of the goals. At the same time, GM is implementing procedures to channel data from the centers to its designers and engineers to capture the voice of the customer for further improvements in vehicle programs.

The Customer Engagement Center is part of a broad shift in GM’s approach to information technology, or IT, the maker recently announcing the latest in a series of IT centers opening up across the country, including facilities near Atlanta, Phoenix and Austin, Texas.  Until now, the maker has largely outsourced such operations to partners including EDS and HP.

Approximately 300 advisor positions will be located at the GM Technical Center in Warren from the consolidation of other business operations.

But some of the advisors will be based on the same floor as Boler-Davis in GM’s Global Headquarters in Detroit, a move the maker says should speed up the ability of the Engagement Center to respond to customer concerns.

“At GM, we value the relationships we have with our customers and we want to exceed their expectations at every touch point,” said Jim Moloney, general director of Customer & Relationship Services. “This is another example of the company-wide changes that are taking place at GM to get everything right for the customer.”

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