by Randy Pennington

How my car dealer changed my perspective on technology and the customer experience

Feb 08, 2019
Technology Industry

Customer-facing applications and solutions generate lots of attention in the DCX discussion. But technology plays a role in even the most analog customer experiences. Find out why you should replace DCX with CXD.

car salesman auto dealer keys
Credit: Thinkstock

You’ve seen the statistics or at least ones that are similar:

  • Usabilla reports that 67% of digital transformation efforts are led by evolving customer experiences driven by “increasingly digital customers” in search of memorable digital experiences.
  • 85% of customer interaction will be managed without a human by 2020 according to a Gartner study.

No wonder your project list is filling up with requests for customer experience applications and solutions. The customer-facing initiatives have a certain “cool” factor to them. They don’t, however, address the not-so-visible impact technology and data have on creating amazing customer experiences.

Did I tell you about my new car?

I picked up a new automobile in December 2018. That’s not special. People do that every day – at least for now.

What makes it worth sharing is that I wasn’t looking to change. I was two years into a three-year lease on a vehicle that my wife and I completely enjoyed. We had even laughed that we could safely ignore the end-of-year ad campaigns from our preferred brand.

That changed with a call from the sales manager of the dealership with which I’ve done business for over 25 years.

 “Mr. Pennington, would you be interested in moving up to a 2019 edition of the same vehicle you are driving today? It should cost you nothing out of pocket and the same lease payment?”

“Wait a second,” I questioned. “I get a two-year newer vehicle with all of the same features and all of the free service that comes in the first year for nothing down and no change in my payment?”

“Not exactly,” she said. “There are several new technology features included that your current vehicle doesn’t have, and you get more on the free service. We have the new vehicle in the same color as your current one, or you can change if you prefer.”

How could I refuse?

The sales manager’s calls to my mobile device and a couple of texts to coordinate meeting times were the only “digital” interactions in the entire process. Everything else was decidedly analog. Make no mistake, however. Digital technology planed a crucial role in my experience.

Here’s how it worked

Sewell Automotive, the company where I purchase and service all my vehicles, has the tag line “obsessed with service in 1911.”

That might be an understatement. With 13 vehicles in 26 years, I am a tenured member of the long list of customers who identify only as “driving a Sewell.”

The company’s outward commitment to customer service is obvious. Its continued investment in technology is less visible, but just as crucial to creating meaning customer experiences.

Their tools allowed them to combine my customer history, vehicle service records, projected resale value of my existing vehicle, available brand incentives, and any year-end tax considerations to determine if they should even bother to give me a call. Once the data pointed me out, the sales manager could make her call with confidence and integrity.

CXD is where the war for customers will be won

DCX and DX are the accepted acronyms for the digital customer experience, but my experience doesn’t fit under those labels despite the important role technology played in the process. Experience says that there are a number of customer interactions that fall into the same category.

How about if we changed the way we talk and think about the role digital plays in the customer experience? Let’s forget DCX and DX. The more expansive and accurate acronym is CXD (Customer Experience to the Power of Digital).

This change is more than semantics.  DCX and DX terminology place technology on an equal level with the experience. That’s not the way it works for the best companies in every industry.  For them, the customer is at the heart of every successful transformation effort. A profitable customer experience is the goal. Technology is simply the tool.

Changing the focus from DCX to CXD refocuses your organization’s priorities, efforts, and resource allocation.  This shift moves boardroom conversation away from individual projects designed to either create new opportunities or fend off outside disruptors. Likewise, it frees CIOs and their teams from a specific technology focus such as mobile, social, or the internet’s next evolution.

Adopting a CXD philosophy makes it easier to differentiate the tool from the goal. Here are three ways CIOs and CTOs can help their organizations make the shift.

1. Be amazing on the basics

Usabilla’s “Age of the Digital Customer” report reported that 81% of marketers believe inaccurate or inconsistent data is the primary challenge for improving how their companies use digital to power experience.

Imagine the long-term impact of the Sewell sales manager not being able to deliver on the promise made during that first call. If the data is wrong, the relationship is in danger of being ruined. The same can be said of the network and application that allowed her to target me in the first place.

Both the information and the technology you provide are core functions for every aspect of your business. Even the most human activities and interactions are powered at some level by digital technology.

The business needs you to deliver fast solutions to what they view as relatively simple requests. In other words, they want you to be amazing at what they view to be the basics. Making the products and services you provide reliable, seamless, and easy to use is the foundation on which every transaction and relationship are built.

2. Lead your team towards maturity

Sewell definitely exemplifies Stage 6 of the Customer Experience Maturity Model. Its highly engaged team members utilize customer insights to drive strategic and operational decisions. Every action and interaction is designed to deliver the brand promise though a sustainable process.

Their success isn’t because they made the conscious decision to chase digital transformation. It is because they chose to be obsessed with customers and grow leaders that have that obsession as a core value.

That’s not the case with most organizations today. Usabilla’s survey of senior leaders across North America, Europe, and Australia found that 63% of those in organizations of more than 5,000 employees are not confident in their organization’s digital maturity.

Organizational structure and operating processes can create a feeling of us versus them between IT and the business it supports. Without intentional focus on creating a mature customer experience culture, IT staff can view themselves as second-class citizens as creative ideas from the business are thrown over the wall and added to a never-ending project list.

The pressure to complete endless urgent projects has the unintended consequence of isolating your team from how their work contributes to the mission and vision. The business views IT as disengaged while your team views the business as unrealistic and unappreciative of their contribution.

3. Forget “one and done” thinking

Adopting digital strategies is not like paining your house. You can’t do it every 5 years and ignore it in between.

Salesforce found that 67% of consumers and 74% of business buyers say they’ll pay more for a great experience.  There is no delineation between digital and analog. Millennials (the largest living adult generation) and Gen Z (who are set to become the largest living generation in 2019) are both digital natives. For the oldest of them, there is almost no difference between the digital world and what we now think of as “real life.” That small difference is non-existent with the youngest.

The sooner your organization recognizes that digital devices are an appendage rather than an accessory the better your chances of success. The change that Gen X and Baby Boomers call the “digital transformation” is what they consider normal.

Within 5 years there will be no need to differentiate between the types of customer experience your organization delivers. You can speed that journey if you stop focusing on DCX and start promoting customer experience in its broadest definition to the power of digital.