Linda Marshall is new to the automotive business, but not to the idea of customer service. Marshall, who became president of OnStar in February, has spent 25 years in the telecom business for companies like Verizon, Sprint and Nextel. "I've always been customer-focused," says the new head of the GM communications and telematics division. "I started on the customer side of the business and wanted to stay there."
The Michigan native followed her former Nextel boss Dan Akerson back to the state after Akerson became GM CEO in September. She succeeded Chris Preuss, who left the company to launch a communications consultancy. Marshall says that defines what OnStar is about. What makes her job easy, she points out, is that OnStar doesn't have an awareness problem. "My mantra is to always keep the OnStar brand high in unaided awareness."
While safety and security is a big part of what OnStar is known for, the company will also have a growing role in GM's in-car entertainment, mobile-application and navigation platform, under the Chevrolet MyLink, and GMC and Buick IntelliLink names.
Vijay Iyer, director of OnStar public affairs, says that while OnStar is now an in-box option for non-GM vehicles, the division drives purchase consideration for GM. "We are among the top three or four reasons people buy a GM vehicle," he says.
Marshall says that OnStar's essence is the connection to a live person, but that the division's relationship to the Link systems GM is rolling out in its divisions is intended to be invisible to the consumer, with OnStar's backend IT systems powering voice-command programs for MyLink and IntelliLink.
The company is offering a new GPS program that lets owners tell their smartphone where they want to go and get the directions sent to their car. Once the driver arrives near the destination, the directions continue on the phone if the driver is continuing on foot. "It's all seamless to the customer. What you get with IntelliLink or MyLink is a powerful IT infrastructure and call center," says Marshall.
She says OnStar's "Push On" campaign, which launched March 15, and gets owners of GM vehicles to use their OnStar "On" buttons, has increased call volume from an average of 100,000 calls per day to 150,000. Marshall says a second effort is coming up to tout the ForMyVehicle in-box OnStar (an OnStar system mounted on a mirror that can be attached to the window of any vehicle.)