For Episode 5 of The Human Duct Tape Show — a special one for me, because it comes out during #CXWeek — I speak with Mark Ramsey, the General Manager of Audi Experience, about why Audi made the move to blend their operational customer experience and digital experience responsibilities under one leader. Oftentimes, companies have ‘digital’ and ‘traditional operations’ as different silos. Those silos are accountable to different leaders and metrics, and that lack of one-company leadership creates inconsistencies for the customer and how they experience your product. Mark walked us through the importance of building the cultural commitment to customer experience prior to this effort — to ensure that this work would be successful. You can learn more about that below. We also discussed how he builds his team — which many leaders can struggle with — and a few specific examples of operational/digital alignment that Audi has undertaken in recent years.
Mark is the General Manager of Audi Experience at Audi of America. He is responsible for defining, developing, launching and implementing the entire Audi customer sales and service journey. Responsibilities include multiple digital platforms and processes, including: Audi brand and dealer websites; myAudi ownership portal; consumer mobile applications; dealership digital sales and service applications; customer lead platform and processes; dealership sales and service process coaching and execution. You can connect with Mark on LinkedIn here.
Take Away Messages for the Audience
- How and why Audi decided it needed to align more ‘traditional’ operations with digital operations from both a B2B perspective (working with dealerships) and a B2C perspective (selling cars to consumers)
- How Mark designs his team
- The importance of being specific on goals and ideas
- The notion of ‘Brilliant Basics,’ or having a strong foundation in customer experience work and processes before you put digital tools and solutions on top of that
- How to make processes and meetings organic and moving towards One-Company Leadership
How Mark was awarded his role
Mark began on the digital side of Audi of America, working to help dealers use digital tools to more effectively solve customer pain points. Around 2011-2012, Audi began to focus much more a customer-centric approach. In 2014, the digital customer experience side of Audi and the traditional operational side were combined; after years of developing a more customer-centric lens, Audi realized that because of silos, the teams involved in customer experience planning lacked the organizational authority to drive operational impact. As a result, these silos were linked together under Mark. “It was less an inspirational move, and more an actionable move,” says Mark, “but it was key for the inspirational move to happen first.” In 2012, Audi actually did a 10-city tour focused on the customer experience, visiting both Audi employees and dealerships.
What does Mark’s team look like?
Half his team is on the digital side — back-end digital platforms and brand communication portals, as well as retail digital activities (dealer websites, numbering about 285 in the U.S.), and lead generation processes — and half is on the customer experience side. That half has a customer experience strategy component, as well as an implementation team. The implementation team often works with helping dealerships to get more from their digital processes and tools.
Don’t be vague on what you want to accomplish
“If it’s a think tank world,” says Mark, “people won’t come along with you.” For example, Audi rolled out an iPad app to help dealers with the sales process. Before they did any coding, they walked through the app ideas with dealerships, did paper prototypes, and explored pain points. There was also a pilot program with dealers to roll out the iPad application. Everything was based on what dealers wanted, which in turn benefited customers. This is Mark’s good example of how Audi rolled something out. He also has a bad example — this work is challenging, remember — where Audi tried to roll out a new delivery system. There had been a traditional, ‘analog’ delivery system in place and his team wanted to digitize it. However, they didn’t do a good job of getting feedback from dealers on that project. “We launched a digital tool that we thought would solve all these problems, and it was an abrasive shift for [the dealers],” says Mark.
Mark makes a good point that many organizations miss on integrating digital and traditional approaches. He refers to core functions around the customer experience as ‘brilliant basics.’ If your organization lacks those, it doesn’t matter how much you are willing to spend on new digital tools and processes. They won’t work. Digital approaches are top of the pyramid, which means they have to be supported by the lower levels — and in a pyramid, that’s your customer experience fundamentals. At Audi, their ‘brilliant basics’ are referred to as ‘Audi Way.’ It’s actually an acronym: Approach a customer (A), Understand what the customer wants to accomplish (U), Delivery of experience and making it impactful (D), and Invite people back (I). “We know from research that many customers walk into a dealership and for a variety of reasons, they’re not greeted by a salesperson,” says Mark, “so this improves consistency of the experience.”
Here’s a visual of The Audi Way:
How do you embed the core behaviors of customer experience?
Reinforcement, reinforcement, and reinforcement — which at Audi comes from collaboration, collaboration, and collaboration. Audi has four major business regions, and they constantly need to collaborate on making sure core behaviors are explained, trained on, and implemented.
Mark also talks about motivating those throughout the organization in terms of compensation, bonuses, and coaching for feedback. “Actionable insight is key,” explains Mark.
“What I Know Now That I Wish I Knew Then:”
We end every podcast show asking what I call the “pay it forward” question: a piece of advice these seasoned leaders can share to help others also walking in their shoes. Mark passed along two pieces of wisdom:
- Try to be as practical as possible. Be clear, set tangible goals — you don’t want people throughout the organization thinking it’s just strategy. It needs to be actionable insights.
- Be sensitive to what change looks and feels like. Mark tells a story about a journalist embedded with his team where the end result wasn’t as desired. It’s important to realize sensitivies around potential change at all levels of your org.
In my book Chief Customer Officer 2.0, there is a case study on Audi’s work around cultural commitment.