Arranging a service appointment by app, or streaming music in the car: Joana Gramaxo makes sure that customers in Portugal know that they are in good hands after buying a car. Together with her colleagues in the Customer Service team at the location in Sintra, Portugal, the marketing specialist develops concepts with which Mercedes-Benz and smart partners create a great customer experience in their dealerships and workshops. In her interview, Joana Gramaxo tells us why she dreamed of working for a major vehicle brand as a teenager, and what she particularly loves about her job.
Ms Gramaxo, what does a successful customer experience look like to you?
Making the customers feel completely at ease. Customers expect quality and luxury from Mercedes-Benz - and that naturally applies to both our vehicles and our services. In our team, we make sure that no wish remains unfulfilled for our customers, whether it's a tyre change or our digital services. When our customers bring their vehicles to the workshop, they should not have to worry about anything. Our service has a high impact on how our brand is perceived. And of course we want everyone to love Mercedes-Benz (laughs).
How do you achieve this?
To achieve this, we work very closely with our partner network here in Portugal. We inspire our contacts in the car dealerships and workshops with ways of making our customers' lives even easier and more comfortable, and also provide them with the tools to do so. One example is our Mercedes me Service App , which informs customers in Portugal about their next service appointment, allows them to make a workshop appointment simply by clicking - and in future it will even allow them to follow the status of their vehicle live and almost in real time.
What else is available to partners besides these technical tools?
We are developing completely new service models for our partner network. That's why, when I started here in the team, I also set up our Business Development Centre. This includes the distribution of our digital services, for example. With Mercedes me, we offer a whole cosmos of digital services for every aspect of the vehicle, depending on the market: from music streaming and parking assistance to finding the nearest electric charging station. Digitalisation is fundamentally changing our understanding of being on the move…
... and how will we be travelling in the future?
In the future, the vehicle will become more and more part of our digital world. There is also a trend towards mobility as a service. Many people, especially young people, prefer to borrow a vehicle when they need one. We are developing new service packages to respond to these new demands, and digitally complement the customer journey. I’m in a team of six and we are part of the Business Development Customer Services team. The exciting thing for me is that everyone is an engineer, except me (laughs). The technical know-how of my colleagues is essential for my work. When we develop new concepts, they know exactly how the processes in the workshops have to be designed to make the service a success. In addition, the dialogue with our partner network is particularly important to me.
How do you specifically work together with the car dealers?
We use a platform through which we continuously exchange information with our partners. Accordingly, the experiences from the car dealerships are often already incorporated into our concepts during the first brainstorming session. And we organise workshops, webinars and events for our partners. Here at the Sintra location, we have our own training centre for employees working in dealerships.
What actually excites you about marketing and communication?
The storytelling. Marketing is all about conveying emotions with good stories, and showing what wishes our products can fulfil. I love to work creatively. That's why I studied marketing and public relations in Lisbon. Then I went to Belgium and England for my Master's degree. By the way, working in communication for a major car brand was my dream as a teenager.
Why for a car brand in particular?
I'm not necessarily crazy about speed, technology and horsepower (laughs), but I find the product very exciting from a marketing point of view. A car is certainly a special and important investment for many people. Every car purchase is associated with emotions. I was attracted by the idea of being part of this. So when I came back to Portugal after my time in England, I applied to a number of vehicle brands - also including marketing at Mercedes-Benz, of course.
We continuously exchange information with our partners. Accordingly, the experiences from the car dealerships are often already incorporated into our concepts during the first brainstorming session.
And that is how you came to Mercedes-Benz?
Yes, but that happened a little later. In 2004 I saw that the company was advertising a job in the brand communication area for smart. The brand was still quite new on the Portuguese market back then. I was very interested in this, especially as I drove a smart myself at the time. I applied and it was a perfect match. Our team then built up the smart brand in Portugal. Today I am accompanying our Mercedes-Benz brand on the next important step for our costumers.
You mean in the area of digitalisation?
Yes exactly, our vehicles are already top class, and with Mercedes me we are building the bridge to the digital world with our products. This is the next step in premium service, with which we are completely changing the understanding of personal mobility - and also an important step in the further development of the brand. With my work, I am preparing the market for this next stage of digitalisation. That is very exciting. My job never gets boring.
And what is so special about Mercedes-Benz for you?
There are high standards in the company, not only when it comes to producing outstanding vehicles, but also where the treatment of employees is concerned. There is a very pleasant culture here, with a lot of trust and respect. What I particularly appreciate is that there are always new challenges, and that I have the opportunity to develop and grow. I think that's important. In short, I love my job.
Lastly, a more personal question. Where might we find you on a beautiful Sunday morning?
In summer, mostly in the sea doing stand-up paddling. I love drifting along the coast on the board, enjoying the sun and discovering the landscape. The Atlantic coast here around Lisbon and Sintra is simply gorgeous, and the water is so clear that it's often possible to see right down to the sea bed. That's sheer relaxation for me.
Joana Gramaxo (47) has loved being creative since she was a child - whether playing with her twin sister or telling stories. She later turned her passion into a profession, and initially studied marketing and public relations at the Instituto Superior de Novas Profissões in her hometown of Lisbon, Portugal. For her Master's in European Public Relations, she moved to Leeds Beckett University in England. Today, the marketing specialist not only brings all her creativity to bear when developing new service concepts for Mercedes-Benz, but also when it comes to her family. Once a year, Joana Gramaxo organises a family rally in which her seven siblings have to find their way to an unknown hotel as a paper-chase, where a relaxing weekend together awaits them as a reward.