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Revving up the Customer Experience Engine
General Motors drives loyalty across its brands with a customer experience initiative. A Q&A with David Mingle, global director of customer experience strategy and enterprise experiences at General Motors
For the rest of the August 2017 issue of CRM magazine please click here

How is the customer experience department at GM organized?

The customer experience department was merged with the OnStar business unit about two and a half years ago, and we created the Global Connected Customer Experience unit. It houses the OnStar brand and customer experience. It’s actually pretty clever, because if you think about all of the technology [involved], it’s really an experience play; it’s not a technology play. [It was about] making sure that we are making big investments in connectivity and the other activity to make sure that it was done with a mind-set that puts the customer first and solving real customer problems with this technology and not just creating shiny objects.

That business unit, organizationally, is separate from sales and marketing; from our after-sales division, covering parts and service; and from our GM financial, our financing arm. We act as an integrator across all of those business units to create and design experiences that are seamless and as integrated as possible. Customers don’t care about how we’re organized and the complexities of our business; they just want all of this stuff to work together as one.

We provide the tools, customer data, insights, and customer journey mapping that all of these business units use. We provide data in some cases. We provide services—like contact center services—for the rest of the organization. And there are certain projects that we own on behalf of the entire organization. We’re designed around groups of experiences and trying to drive design experience methodology through the company.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of directing an enterprise that’s composed of so many brands? How does that help you, and how does it hurt you?

For this to work, to really create an integrated customer experience, there has to be a high level of collaboration and trust across the business units. In any company, that’s a challenge because each of the business units will have their own budgets, their own targets, their own revenue commitments. They need to serve their vertical master while at the same time serve their customer, which is looking horizontally across the organization and thinking about how to create experiences that fit within the overall, end-to-end experience that we want to create. It’s good in that our brands are deliberately laid out. There’s a progression to go from Chevy to GMC to Buick to Cadillac, and one of the reasons we have the highest loyalty in the industry is because of the breadth of our lineup. If you’re happy with your current GM vehicle, and you’re looking to move into a different segment, move up, or to move from a car to a truck or from a car to an SUV, there’s a reasonable chance that between our four brands, we have a vehicle that will meet your needs. There’s huge leverage in that, but obviously, there are complexities because each of those brands has its own identity and goals.

What do you consider to be your greatest achievements with GM so far?

Having the top-down support, but also being able to quickly incubate ideas, get them into market, and prove ROI to earn the next round of commitment and investment from the management team.

One of the first things we did when I came in was redesign our customer sales and service satisfaction surveys; we shortened them and added more verbatims, because we really felt that what people say in the verbatims is often richer and more insightful than the score they might give us on a specific question.

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