Welcome to Episode 13 of my podcast. (It’s lucky, don’t worry.) In this episode, I’m talking with Dave Mingle, the General Director of Global Customer Experience Execution and Planning for General Motors. In our conversation, Dave and I discuss the multi-year path that GM has been on. First, they needed to evaluate and establish the need for embedding customer experience. Now, they’re in more execution-level stages. We discuss how Dave and his team used a journey map to clarify and focus the work and how he identified and engaged with early adopter leaders to prove the approach and gain adoption. We discussed the importance of the CEO modeling the behavior that is so critical to this type of transformation taking hold throughout the organization. If you want a road map towards embedding customer experience in your own organization, this is a good listen.
About Dave Mingle
David Mingle is the Executive Director, GM North America Customer Experience at General Motors. In this role, he is responsible for leading the execution of global customer experience strategies and processes in the U.S., Canada and Mexico. This includes customer and dealer standards, as well as contact centers.
Prior to joining General Motors, Mingle served as Senior Director, Chief Customer Manager for Nissan North America, where he led Nissan North America’s customer experience activities. In this position, he formed and chaired the organization’s Customer Experience Program Management Office, which coordinated and provided governance for customer-related activities across all of Nissan’s business functions. In addition, he oversaw lead management, owner direct marketing and customer support call center operations across various communication platforms, which included the extension of the organization’s customer support framework to include social media.
Mingle began his diverse Automotive career at Ford Motor Company, where he gained experience as a financial analyst before taking on a role in marketing.
Embracing A Brand New Role
General Motors is a huge company. When Dave got his role, it was a brand-new one. There was no previous context with other executives for ‘What does this person do?’ or ‘How does his work interact with mine?’ What did Dave do? He started by talking with everyone he could to understand the lay of the land, but also the dynamics at play among other executives. He extended the network to engineering and product management. He wanted to understand how the company worked, how the business grew, and what people did and were interested in. “I had to become disciplined at listening,” says Dave. “I was brand new to the company and passionate about customer experience, so it was easy to talk too much.”
Dave viewed his first 90 days as critical. It was all about building relationships, listening, and gathering as much data as possible. By the end of Month 3, he wanted to understand exactly what the challenges of embedding customer experience would be at General Motors. “The challenge with customer experience,” he says, “isn’t one thing. It’s everything we do.”
The Importance Of Real-Time Feedback
General Motors gets 100,000s of customer feedback points — surveys, etc. — every month. Dave worked to automate these processes so that real-time information and feedback became an aspect of the culture. This helped with embedding customer experience because other divisions of the company could more easily get involved and see what was happening.
Embedding Customer Experience: The Year One Strategy
Year 1 at GM to Dave was about setting up the strategy: what is customer experience? Why does it matter? What projects can be put in place? How can they be incubated and proven?
Dave focused on more effective customer surveys, a customer journey map, and a more robust rollout of CX tools. He also launched a massive training effort. There was, of course, resistance upfront. He began with a pilot program; he used 2-3 zones (aggregates of 10-12 dealerships). He ran 8-12 week programs in those zones, got feedback, and then leveraged the stories about the experience to build the program further. “We had to learn how to communicate,” says Dave of this work. “You can never over-communicate. About the 100th time you say something, you might be starting to break through.”
How did Dave know his team was successful at the end of Year 1? “We kept getting asked to do more work.”
Communication Ideas That Work
General Motors has a website, a corporate Intranet, and a social community (internal). They also have recognition events each quarter where people who have been doing great work with CX can be honored — and stories can be crafted around their work. “Ultimately, you gotta listen well,” says Dave.
Here’s one example: Dave launched a survey program. It needed the participation of multiple GM retailers. Initially, the communication wasn’t ideal — the retailers assumed the survey program was a ‘hand slap,’ meaning if they had low customer scores, they would be called out by management for that. In order to more effectively position the program, Dave used metrics and communicated a different set of ideas to the retailers: namely, a good service experience meant repeat business. Over time, the retailers understood that this wasn’t ‘a hand slap,’ but rather a lead generation tool that would benefit them as well. Context is everything within communications, especially when embedding customer experience across a business.
What happened after Year 1?
Dave’s team went global, and then merged with the OnStar business unit. That created a major business unit responsible for embedding customer experience — they report directly to the CEO. Mobile has become a bigger priority; GM did about 20 million impressions through their apps a few years ago, and this year it’s going to be about 250 million.
“We have more projects in our backlog than we can execute on,” says Dave, “and that’s a good problem to have.” He’s working more closely with marketing and field/retail teams to make sure everyone, throughout the massive business, understands the impact of embedding customer experience.
What I Know Now That I Wish I Knew Then
“I wish I knew how to be more patient,” Dave said immediately. “I’m a passionate person, but the organization moves at the pace it wants to move. You need to fish where the fish are, or take advantage of opportunities when they come up.”
“You better have thick skin doing this work,” he added. “There’s a lot of 1 step forward, 2 steps back. But it’s worth it. When I see a company as big as General Motors making headway on these types of issues and concepts, I go home every night feeling great about it.”
Be sure to check out 12 lessons I learned from my first 12 guests, which I posted at the end of last week. We’ll be back Thursday with a new blog, and then next Tuesday with a new edition of the podcast.