I’m a bit of a car nut. I love driving cars. So does my wife. We both autocross one of our cars most weekends in the New England summers (FYI AutoX is a great way to hone your driving skills and be a safer driver). We love our cars and I’m pretty passionate about the whole driving experience.
In my post from CES this year, I noted that every single automaker seems hell-bent on making the car the center of their customer’s digital world. No doubt manufacturers hear the siren call of customer data; imagining all that they could do with such rich information. But it’s inside-out because, even for car-lovers like me, the car is not the center of my digital universe and I doubt it ever will be. Why? Because my car doesn’t go with me wherever I go. But you know what does? My phone.
Presenting and hosting a panel on digital transformation at this year's CES gave me the opportunity to wander the 2 million square feet of exhibit space and assimilate some of the changes coming our way:
Welcome To The Age Of Invention. For me, the most exciting aspect of CES is the sheer volume of innovative, inventive startups that are tapping into the power of sensor-enabled technology to create new products and services. Many of these companies are funded through crowdfunding platforms like Kickstarter, gofundme and indiegogo. The pace of innovation will accelerate as high-school kids use their fertile imaginations to tap into the technology that’s now second nature to them.
The Internet Of Things Will Fuel Rapid Digital Transformation. Based on the sheer volume of internet connected devices coming on the market this year, we’re going to see an explosion in the Internet Of Things (IoT). Everything – from wearables that track everything from your health and fitness to the temperature of a newborn child, and in-home appliances that interconnect to create a home environment tailored to your preferences – everything is now designed with sensors that collect data that's used to deliver better customer outcomes. Or at least that’s the promise. Sensors can and will improve our lives – giving us more data and insight about our environment and allowing us to tailor experiences to be more finely tuned to our personal desires. The data provided by the sensors in the Internet Of Things is the fuel for further digital transformation.
A few days ago, at an event hosted by Continental, Deutsche Telekom AG, Fraunhofer ESK, and Nokia Networks, I came across an interesting example of an emerging mobile Internet-of-Things (IoT) solution: the initiative to “connect the Autobahn” in Germany. The goal of the Digitales Testfeld Autobahn initiative is to develop a platform that allows a wide range of players to access a common platform for digital services in the context of Germany’s road infrastructure. The event also included a test drive to highlight how driving “assistants” in connected cars could communicate with a latency of about 15 milliseconds. Discussions at the event underlined several insights that CIOs should consider when devising mobile IoT solutions:
Ecosystem partnerships create more value for IoT solutions than standalone approaches. At the event, Deutsche Telekom’s CEO, Continental’s Head of Interior Electronic Solutions, Nokia’s VP of Strategy, Fraunhofer-Institute’s Head of Embedded Systems, and Germany’s Minister for Transport all pointed to the necessity for close cooperation to make the “digital Autobahn” platform work. Proprietary OEM technologies will not boost the connected road infrastructure. Continental told us that open IoT systems create more value than closed systems for the company and its customers. To uncover its true potential, the “digital Autobahn” platform will also need to be open to third parties like weather forecasters, retailers, and entertainment companies. This means that CIOs need to support open APIs.
Admittedly, going away for two weeks of vacation in July hit my fast forward button. But even so, memories of our Customer Experience Forum East in New York in June are still fresh in my mind.
If you were also at CX East, here’s a reminder of what happened on Day One. And if you weren’t there, here’s a preview of the types of things you’ll see at our Customer Experience West in Anaheim on 11/6 – 11/7, and our Customer Experience Forum EMEA in London on 11/17 – 11/18.
Before the event we surveyed our attendees. That let me open the forum by summarizing their challenge: Although their executives’ high aspirations for customer experience do them credit, their success to date lags far behind their goals.
Megan Burns, Vice President and Principal Analyst, Forrester
Megan showed the surprising findings of a recent study on what drives a customer experience that results in customer loyalty. Guess what? For customers of most industries, emotions matter more – often far more – than whether a brand met their needs or he level of effort needed to get their needs met.
Stephen Cannon, President and CEO, Mercedes-Benz, USA
When I was 10 years old, I heard my father and my Uncle Bob talking about the car they’d most like to own. Noticing me, Uncle Bob asked, “How about you, Harley? What car do you want to drive when you grow up?”
I immediately answered, “A Mercedes!”
My father’s eyes widened as Uncle Bob replied, “You have excellent taste.”
Forty years later, Mercedes-Benz still symbolizes “excellent taste” for me and millions of other people around the globe. It’s not just about high quality: The Mercedes brand sets a standard of comparison; it’s shorthand for “great experience” and “luxury.”
And that’s why we’re so excited that Stephen Cannon, the president and CEO of Mercedes-Benz USA, is our lead-off industry speaker at Forrester’s Forum For Customer Experience Professionals East next week in New York. Cannon is just perfect as the keynote address for an event with the theme “Good Is Not Good Enough” — because for Mercedes-Benz, just being “good” would be a serious disappointment.
As we approach the event, Stephen was nice enough to answer some of our questions about the Mercedes-Benz customer experience. Check out what he has to say — and I hope we both see you out in the audience next week at the New York Hilton.
Q: When did your company first begin focusing on customer experience? Why?
It’s that great time of year when I finally get to talk publicly about Forrester's Forum For Customer Experience Professionals in New York at the end of June. If you’ve ever been to one of our events, you know that we always have a theme, and this year that theme is “Why Good Is Not Good Enough.”
We picked our theme because of the good news/bad news story told by our Customer Experience Index (CXi) results this year. First, here’s the good news: The number of brands in the “very poor” category of the CXi is down to one out of 175 brands we studied. What’s more, only a handful of brands — 10% — are in the “poor” category. Together, those findings show that as customer experience improvement efforts got traction over the past year, the number of truly awful experiences dropped like a rock.
Now for the bad news: Just 11% of brands in the CXi made it into the “excellent” category.
Taken together, those two pieces of news mean that most brands are bunched up in the middle of the curve — not awful in the eyes of their customers but not differentiated either. I think of this situation as “okay is the new poor” or, in my darker moments, “the year of ‘meh.’” Regardless, it adds up to the same thing: A merely good customer experience is no longer good enough if you want incremental sales, positive word of mouth, and better customer retention.
At the intersection of technology, mobility, and consumer centricity, the automotive industry is kicking into gear. From the International Consumer Electronics Show highlights early this year to commercials aired during the nightly Winter Olympics coverage this week, it’s hard to miss the news and promotions around increasingly sophisticated in-car technologies. Vehicles are:
Evolving as channels for media consumption. Last month, Pandora announced that it would begin monetizing its in-car audience by integrating ads into its in-car stream tailored to consumers en route.
Becoming an extension of your network of connected devices. Google’s latest partnership with Audi, GM, Honda, and Hyundai promises to put Android OS-synched cars on the road this year.
Emerging as self-regulating “smart” devices in their own right. BMW’s recently launched “i” series boasts a navigation function that identifies the most energy-efficient route according to range and environment, along with other technology that improves vehicle performance and safety.
To better compete in the US luxury automotive landscape, leadership at Audi of America had focused on improving three fundamental areas: the brand, the products, and the dealership. And they had made huge progress.
But according to Jeri Ward, director of customer experience at Audi of America, “The customer experience had not kept pace.”
Troubling data points made that clear: Customer loyalty was at 40%, and sales satisfaction was in 26th place out of 31 brands. But what really drove the problem home was this quote from an Audi customer: “The whole time the salesman spoke with me, he was eating Skittles out of a bag in front of me.”
Just imagine that you’re trying to buy a $60,000 to $90,000 car from someone who can’t be bothered to stop cramming junk food into his mouth. Would that work for you? I didn’t think so.
In this excerpt from Jeri’s speech at Forrester’s Forum For Customer Experience Professionals East, she describes some of the tangible actions Audi took to solve this problem by creating a customer-centric culture that inspires passion for the Audi experience. The results the firm’s efforts produced are a testimony to its success: In just three years, sales satisfaction went from 26th place to 12th place, and the company has experienced 30 months of record sales.
As always, we welcome your comments! And if you're interested in seeing more great speakers like Jeri, check out our upcoming Forum For Customer Experience Professionals in Los Angeles in October and London in November.
The rise and rise of cloud has been dominating the headlines for the past few years, and for CIOs, it has become a more serious priority only recently. People like cloud computing. Well - at least they like the concept of cloud computing. It is fast to implement, affordable, and scales to business requirements easily. On closer inspection, cloud poses many challenges for organizations. For CIOs there are the considerable challenges around how you restructure your IT department and IT services to cope with the new demands that cloud computing will place on your business - and often these demands come from the business, as they start to get the idea that they can get so many more business cases over the line for new capabilities, products and/or services, as they realize that cloud computing lowers the costs and hastens the time to value.