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Putting customers in the driving seat - lessons from a CX transformation

When the country’s best-selling car maker embarked on its “Drive Happy Project” initiative, it had to address a range of customer pain points, redefine the relationship between IT and marketing and bring its extensive car dealer network along on the journey.

CX transformation: putting customers in the driving seat

So how did Toyota create that seamless integration between online and offline in the car buying journey that customers were looking for? Attendees at the Marketing Association’s CX Conference 2019 in Auckland on August 13 will hear Toyota’s Shaun Crooks (Team Lead Digital) and Morgan Dilks (Marketing Manager) recount what was involved in transforming the car maker’s digital presence, the problems encountered and the lessons learned along the way.

As Toyota’s technology partner on the project, Intergen was there throughout, lending supporting and learning as well. We caught up with Shaun and Morgan ahead of their CX2019 presentation to get a flavour of the insights conference attendees will gain.

What was the key impetus for the “Drive Happy Project”, Toyota’s effort to redefine its customer experience?

SC: It was literally asking the question, are our customers happy? We did an awful lot of sentiment mapping to see what parts of the customer journey made them unhappy. It turned out that one of the key pain points along the way was haggle fatigue, the dance around the price when dealing with a salesperson. So we removed that stress and uncertainty by giving customers surety around pricing.

Related to that was customers’ desire to have a better experience when they dealt with Toyota online. Until recently, our online marketing really amounted to a picture of the car and some words to go with it. We wanted to make those online interactions more empowering by giving customers tools to do their own research about our vehicles. That led to the ‘compare’ feature, which lets them put one car up alongside another car and compare all the specifications and the ‘build-your-own’ tool, where they can add and remove accessories, change the colour and see how the car will actually look. It is all done through an intuitive interface.

How important do you consider the customer experience to maintaining Toyota’s 32-year reign as New Zealand’s best-selling car brand?

MD: It is massive and more important than ever. There’s no doubt that Toyota makes great vehicles, but so do a lot of other car makers. Increasingly, the point of difference has to be the experience of owning a vehicle.

Customer expectations have evolved faster than our industry has. That’s true for how people research products, and the options they expect to have when it comes to deciding on a purchase. The automotive industry, like a lot of others, is ripe for disintermediation.

We asked ourselves, how does Toyota New Zealand rise to that challenge with a lot of other providers looking to get in between us and our customer? How do we get close to our customers ourselves without having to always rely on third parties to broker that relationship for us? The Drive Happy Project was the answer to those questions.

What was the key to bringing Toyota’s workforce and partners along on the journey?

MD: It had to be led from the top down. Our CEO had the strategic vision and energy to push the business to make this change. It sounds obvious, but the customer has to sit at the centre of everything we do. So rather than leading with sales figures, we are just as focused these days on customer engagement figures.

SC: We had to mature very quickly as a digital marketing team and learn a lot of IT disciplines, such as Agile, which may have fit very well with the Toyota philosophy, but less so with marketing philosophy. We embraced the whole idea of working very quickly in sprints. We had to make the Toyota New Zealand website a true e-commerce website.

MD: It has been a long process for us as we’ve worked closely with our dealer network. We needed to make sure it was a sustainable move for the network, that they would benefit long-term from the change as well as our customers. The role of the sales consultant is now more of a trusted advisor. They’re there to assure the customer that their selection is right for them – a last check that they’ve got exactly the car they wanted.

What has the feedback from Toyota customers been like so far?

MD: The resounding feedback is that the experience is a lot more enjoyable and customers are happier when they are driving off the dealer’s yard as well. Some of those points along the journey were pretty painful for the customer. We’ve lifted them out of the red.

How can you sum up what CX2019 attendees can expect to learn from Toyota’s customer experience overhaul?

SC: There will be other companies that are further along in some respects in this journey than we are. But we are still learning and we can tell our story about change management and the importance of business readiness. For a significant change to the business such as this one, there’s a certain amount of patience involved.

You need to give things a chance to bed in and correct the course if necessary. We had some really good partners working alongside us through the whole process, including Intergen.



This blog is part of the #cxreimagine series. For more experts' insights, clients' experiences and to download the whitepaper, click the banner.

For more experts' insights, clients' experience and to download the whitepaper, click the banner #cxreimagine

Posted by: #cxreimagine, Guest Contributor | 01 August 2019

Tags: customer experience, Digital Transformation, #CXreimagine

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