by: Mike Gorun
The title of this blog post originated from a thought-provoking interview with Chad Mitchell, senior director of digital communications at Walmart. In the interview, he lays out a philosophy that every industry – especially automotive – should embrace. The main point he makes is that our digital and physical world is evolving at light speed and, the car business especially, tends to find itself far behind leading brands when it comes to customer experience, communications and… well, adopting new things.
As an industry, we tend to sit back and wait for “new” things to be proven before we even try them. That “sit back and watch” strategy typically finds us scrambling to catch up when that new thing punches us between the eyes and we realize that we need to be doing (or adopting) this “thing.”
Think about it – there was a time dealerships didn’t believe they needed a website. Now we’re arguing the effectiveness or necessity of social media platforms, advertising, online sales and F&I transactions – along with in-store technology designed to expedite transaction times. And while we do that, the competition is embracing these new tools and attracting consumers.
Mr. Mitchell isn’t suggesting that businesses drop their tried and true core processes, but states that they should, “try things quickly and be willing to shift and go in a different direction. Don’t be afraid to take chances and learn.” For a leader in an organization as big as Walmart, one would think that perhaps caution would be the better part of valor and, the most prudent business decision. One can only imagine the challenges an organization as large as Walmart experiences when it comes to customer experience, loyalty and reputation. With so many locations, customer touchpoints and the sheer volume of customers, Walmart has challenges on a store-by-store level and overall as an organization. It’s certainly possible that employee interaction and the customer experience at one location can differ from another, simply due to management, staff, location and resources. Well, the key to success, according to Mitchell, is to determine what new endeavors require more care. And, in the retail business, he states that the one thing which should be at the top of the list is customer experience and loyalty.
As consumers get groomed by major brands to expect certain types of transactional experiences, they naturally expect those same frictionless experiences from other retailers they do business with, including auto dealers. Conquesting the competition is sure to become more prevalent for forward-thinking organizations that adopt new technology and offer an easier customer experience and transaction. That’s why most major automotive groups produce and roll out technology, products and services designed specifically to nurture customer loyalty.
It would be a wise decision for us all to pay attention to what’s going on in the world and not drag our feet when it comes to trying new things. While change can be scary, it’s also inevitable. It’s much better to be leading the pack than trying to catch up with it. This doesn’t mean that you should abandon the things that have earned customer loyalty. Core values and tried-and-true processes that your customers love should always be handled – and changed – with care.
Mitchell makes a great final point in the article where he states, “We don’t want to break the heirloom china; we want to break the paper plates.”
Don’t be afraid to try new things, adopt new technology or change processes. Just be prepared to react and alter paths should you find something either failing or succeeding. By doing this, your business should be more future-proof and in-line with customer expectations and, in turn, enjoy greater customer retention, loyalty and acquisition.
Bio: Mike has a variety of professional automotive and business development credentials having of 18 years of operational management experience on the OEM side with Ford, Nissan and General Motors. As a true Internet pioneer, Mike combined his knowledge of wholesale and retail dealership operations with emerging internet technologies and created CarSmart.com in 1994. Later acquired by a publicly traded corporation it was the largest automotive internet acquisition at that point in time. Mike is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin with degrees in Industrial Education and Process Engineering.