About two years ago, our IT group began focusing more intently on the customer experience. In some ways, it was new territory for us because, as employees of an automaker, we don't shop for cars like everyone else--we order them internally.\nAs a result, we weren't as aware of the customer experience as we should be. At the time, customer experience was also emerging as a hot topic for our vendor partners. They were doing customer journey mapping, so we brought that idea in-house; the strategy group liked what they saw and committed to doing a full customer journey map, including all of our customer touchpoints--what's working well, pain points and what we should focus on in the future. Today, our development plans are based on those customer touchpoints.\n \nim DiMarzio, CIO at Mazda North America Operations.\n\nWe quickly realized that we needed to implement a technology foundation that pulled together dealerships' sales information with their service information so we could really understand our customers across all our engagements with them. As a result, we're now able to see, for instance, that a customer has bought two Mazdas in the past three years, has been in for service five times and has bought accessories from us.\nNow that we know the history of our interactions with customers, we can embed that intelligence into our business processes. For example, we can make better decisions about what customers to include in marketing campaigns--we don't need to send coupons for discounts on service to people who have just brought their cars in for appointments.\nThis capability will set us up for future customer interactions involving connected cars. Vehicle events will one day be able to trigger alerts to the call center or the CRM system. For example, we could send service coupons to people whose "check oil" indicators light up.\nDealerships rely on service for revenue and profitability, but there's a lot of competition for that business. We're working to make it easier and less intrusive for the customer to come to us. For example, service reps can now register customers in the service lane using a tablet so the customer doesn't have to come inside. Customers can also make appointments online, and dealers can receive information ahead of time on how to serve the customer better. For example, they could be advised to check their inventory to see whether they need to order parts ahead of time.\nThe automotive market is seeing a lot of changes, thanks to technology. In customer satisfaction surveys, drivers report being happy with car quality but they're more concerned about the technology in the car, especially the entertainment system. We've equipped our salespeople with an iPad app that helps them easily access information about those features so they can move customers through the process quickly.\nOur philosophy in IT is to bring innovations and ideas to the business. We've evolved to where we participate in brainstorming sessions with the business on how our processes can be more efficient or serve customers better using newer technologies. Our IT managers are bringing ideas to the table, not just listening. Part of IT culture change is to be an active participant in the business.\nJim DiMarzio is CIO at Mazda North America Operations. He is a member of the CIO Executive Council.