Mazda North America CIO shifts CX up a gear
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Mazda North America CIO shifts CX up a gear

Jessica Twentyman — November 2014

Jim DiMarzio, CIO of Mazda North American Operations, outlines the company’s vision to create customer experience that’s equal to its award-winning cars.

In November 2014, US magazine Car and Driver picked both the Mazda3 and Mazda6 for its ‘10 Best Cars’ for 2015 list, making the Japanese company the only automaker to win two places on the coveted list.

That was not the only accolade Mazda North American Operations was celebrating over the year: awards for its new models poured in from Road & Track, Automobile, Motorweek, Kelley Blue Book and Autotrader magazines. But while garnering praise for the design, value and safety of its products seems to come easily to the North American arm of the Japanese automaker, delivering a great customer experience seemed to be more of a challenge.

Cropped m DiMarzio James PR Supplied 2011 2 3
Jim DiMarzio, CIO of Mazda North American Operations

Mediocre rankings in recent customer satisfaction surveys are an obvious concern but among company executives, there’s a strong resolve to put the situation right, says Jim DiMarzio, CIO of Mazda’s North American Operations.

It’s a mandate being led at the top and extended out to its continent-wide network of dealerships. Robert Davis, senior vice president of US operations, has forged a new company vision “to have a customer experience at every touchpoint that is as good as our award-winning products.” And underlining the growing relationship between technology and the fulfillment of customers’ service expectations, the IT organization is expected to play a leading role in that effort to transform the customer experience.
CX routeplanner

Taking the initiative in late 2013, DiMarzio pitched the idea of creating a ‘customer journey map’ to other senior executives after developing the concept with technology partners. That was picked up by Mazda’s strategy group which set out to depict the numerous ways in which Mazda owners interact with the company and its dealership network, showing the business processes and systems involved at each stage, and the ways information flows across them.

On its completion, says DiMarzio, the map covered most of an office wall and used up “a ton of sticky notes,” but the insights it delivered were incredibly valuable. “It showed us the important touchpoints — and the current pain points — for customers. Most important, we understood what we wanted the customer journey to look like,” he says.

It also provided him with clear directions on the journey his own IT team should take, he adds. “We needed to create a foundation that could support all of the customer experiences we'd mapped out, with the right tools and systems in place.”

But it also had to be forward-looking. “We knew we couldn't just look to fill gaps on the customer journey map as it stands right now. We needed to think about what's coming next,” DiMarzio outlines.
The all-digital drive

For Mazda, like other automotive manufacturers, that future is being defined by the connected car. “Cars will soon start streaming data out to the cloud: data that we’ll be able to access and take action on, data that tells us in specific terms what’s going on with an individual vehicle and enable us to have personalized conversation with the vehicle owner,” he says. “We'll have data on everything from fault codes to oil health. If we can tap into that data, it could be the start of a conversation with the customer that gives them a better overall experience of owning a Mazda.”

With the customer experience strategy and vision in place, DiMarzio has spent much of the last year on implementing the technologies needed to deliver on it. “It’s a big, big piece of work, with a lot of moving parts,” he says, but it helps that he and his team have been able to focus on three areas of the business that have the most impact on customer experience: Mazda North America’s customer experience center (CEC); its customer relationship management (CRM) and marketing group; and its technical services group.

Starting with the CEC, new web chat functions have been introduced, along with better computer-telephony integration (CTI) with the company’s Cisco VoIP system. The technical services group has gone live with a new knowledge management system (Oracle Knowledge Base) that integrates with back-end systems holding essential repair information. And the CRM and marketing group is about to embark on a Siebel CRM implementation that will bring all three business groups together and provide a solid foundation for all customer interactions.

“We’ll be in good shape to support our customers when their cars start communicating 24 hours a day, seven days a week.”

Even with work still to do on the project, customer call handling times in the CEC have been reduced by 20%, says DiMarzio. “That’s not a trivial thing. Now that agents can get to the information that they need quicker, thanks to the integrations we’ve put in place, they spend more time talking to customers and less time searching for answers to queries.”

In 2015, however, the project will take some giant steps forwards, as Mazda is increasingly able to use data collected from connected vehicles to power customer conversations. But that data flow will be two-way: the company will also be able to stream data directly to cars.

“Hopefully, we can get to the point where we can work on proximity data too and identify that a customer is [traveling outside] of their home area, but a problem with their car means that they need to get to a dealership. We can then communicate with the owner directly through the car, with messages like: ‘Here’s the dealer nearest to where you are right now. We suggest you stop by and get a quick check.’”

“A lot of people here at Mazda are really excited about this,” says DiMarzio. “The idea of delivering a superb customer experience in the age of the connected car gets people thinking and talking. But the work we’ve done already means that we’ll be in good shape to support our customers when their cars start communicating 24 hours a day, seven days a week.”

Jim DiMarzio was speaking at Oracle OpenWorld in San Francisco

First published December 2014
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