Despite a tremendous dedication to technical expertise in automotive, there is a dangerous lack of knowledge surrounding a secondary tier of excellence in the industry—that is, the customer experience. While there appears to be a deep commitment among OEM executives to change and improve in this area, there doesn’t seem to be any real progress being made. Leadership is not fostering real transformation within their companies, and no one is taking responsibility for making true change happen. Everyone is waiting for someone else to do it, and in the meantime nothing is getting done.
One reason for this hesitation is the belief that technology alone can fix the problem. While digital is a critical component in realising truly customer-driven experiences, corporate behaviour sets the standard for how the company will evolve. Businesses need to understand that digital is more than just an IT project; it needs to be embedded in the company culture. It is a fundamental shift in how a business will be run in the future. Leaders need to ask their employees for the ambition and curiosity that can revolutionise the way a company interacts with its customers and markets.
I’ve seen many companies where the executive team has this ambition, but two levels down in the corporate structure that high-level drive meets with opposition and resistance by employees who want to hold on to how things have been run in the past. Business processes need to be fixed to help employees get past their fear of failure and allow creativity to grow. The status quo needs to be defined as failure and people incentivised to try new ideas and ways of doing things.
Challenge your direct team
Challenge your data and hold your leaders responsible to their commitments to cultivate change. Challenge your vendors and treat them like real partners in your journey to digital bliss. The advertisers, marketers, and other third-party vendors that you use have touchpoints with your customers that you don’t have. Use them.
Use them to help measure brand awareness, market sentiment, and customer satisfaction. Businesses need to be less arrogant and actually listen to what the outside world is telling them. And when change begins to take place, don’t dilute it with static business processes. Roadblocks will be everywhere, but dealing with them proactively with new thinking will be key. All too often, big initiatives wind up as minor process changes in the status quo that don’t create results for the organisation. Real ideas are written off, and these initiatives fail.
Lead by example
Fully support those in the organisation who are truly trying to create change—regardless of where in the organisation. Praise them, help them, incentivise them—they are your change agents! Also, make sure you aren’t leaving behind nontechnically savvy employees due to learning hurdles. Educate them. These people have value and experience that are critical to assembling the overall wealth of knowledge contained in the employee base. As the world goes digital, everyone in the organisation needs to adapt to the new rules of the game.
As we all know, in the business world a great product is necessary to success, and European auto engineering is the best in the world. However, even those companies with superior products still need to become masters of the customer experience. It’s an emerging second pillar of excellence in this industry and failure to achieve the highest standards will result in stagnant growth.