It Is Time to Personally Connect With Customers

June 12, 2019

In a world of same-day delivery and instant gratification, customer expectations have increased across industries.

Many auto manufacturers fall short when it comes to providing meaningful interactions throughout the customer journey, including through digital channels. How can they connect with consumers on a more human level?

While cars have become ever more advanced, styled, and technology-rich, purchase and service environments have stayed largely the same. Many automotive manufacturers have handed off the customer experience (CX) to dealers, disconnecting themselves from it entirely. According to Deloitte’s 2018 Global Automotive Consumer Study, 78% of surveyed consumers rate the customer experience as a somewhat important or very important factor in choosing a vehicle.

The survey results indicate that manufacturers also may be missing an opportunity to deliver on the promise of CX after a vehicle purchase. Nearly half of survey respondents (48%) were never contacted by the manufacturer after acquiring their vehicle, and 22% were never contacted by the dealer.

The time has come to rethink the experience provided to consumers throughout the entire customer journey—and to make it more human. While automakers have a history of creating evocative brands, the advantages once derived from branding efforts or manufacturing efficiencies can no longer deliver a competitive edge on their own. Thriving in a technology-fueled world requires automakers to connect with their customers on a more personal, emotional, experiential level throughout the buying and ownership experience. Why? Because how we feel is what sticks with us. Great experiences build connections. Strong connections create loyalty. Loyalty drives business results.

Getting the human experience right requires automotive companies first to understand human values both inside and outside of the category transaction—something technology and data analytics can help achieve. Values can shift based on a customer’s mindset and moment on the journey, making it critical for companies to understand which experiences and digital touch-points can help drive loyalty and business results in every moment.

Next, automakers and dealers can assess their organizational readiness to react to and deliver on these values and develop a plan to respond. It is critical that the human experience be more than just a marketing initiative. Achieving this goal may require auto industry leaders to design and execute programs that embed and link the CX with the workforce experience. Moments that matter in the shopping, financing, and servicing experience are critical to conversion and to any meaningful sustained relationship with the customer. Creating a human experience—designed with human values in mind and enabled by programs, technologies, and interactions that deliver on the natural desires of the customer and the workforce—is the new focal point for many organizations.

Companies that have identified human values and organizational readiness may then focus their leaders and people on these principles:

Be obsessed with the individual. Find ways to know customers, delight them, empower them, hear them, and engage them. Every interaction is critical and provides automakers the opportunity not just to meet expectations but to exceed them. If you are not one that easily remembers details about every customer, take notes.

Proactively deliver on human needs. Automakers can seek to anticipate and understand an individual’s needs before he or she can even state them, and find ways to empathize and to personalize based on those needs. This means from time to time reevaluating customers’ values and levels of engagement to maintain lasting loyalty.

Instill an authentic human focus across the organization and beyond. Automakers can build an organizational culture where human needs and desires are at the center of everything the workforce and partners do—where everyone “shows up” to deliver on the human promise. According to one study, companies that build a seamless and innovative workforce experience show double the customer satisfaction. It is critical that all levels of an organization embrace the approach and work together to advance it.

Moving From ‘Doing’ to ‘Being’

Embedding these principles effectively requires organizations to shift from merely “doing” customer-focused actions to “being” obsessed with human experiences. Ensuring that every aspect of an enterprise is part of the human experience focus is a team sport, including the way it imagines, builds, sells, and delivers its products or services.

Effectively creating a more human experience also requires that organizations change their definition of success to one that reflects the holistic customer life cycle and value from product or services relationships. Today, many companies think “company-out” and not “human-in”—seeing needs and opportunities from the perspective of the company, not the customer. Automakers, for example, could focus not on the number of vehicles sold but instead on the number of miles driven.

Companies that evaluate service based on customer lifetime value leverage technology and insights infrastructure to predict patterns and uncover hidden customer preferences. These insights help enable the organization to know which levers to pull in order to enrich customers’ lives. Notably, this requires the organization and its leaders to activate a winning team of employees and partners that will deliver the human experience in a seamless, consistent, global manner.

Ashley Reichheld, Jannine Zucker, Maggie Gross, Oliver Page and Bradd Craver. (2019). “Automakers’ Big Opportunity: Drive the Human Experience”. Retrieved from