Auto Revolution 2019


Chris Hodges of J.D. Power on How Mastering the Digital Journey Plays a Key Role for Engendering Trust in Automotive Innovations

“We have learned a lot from those sectors of the market that have engaged with digital natives. The areas of commerce that these consumers reward with their business typically share one major factor in common...transparency.”
-- Chris Hodges, J.D. Power

Chris Hodges

Vice President Customer Experience and Digital Solutions

J.D. Power

DATELINE -- #AUTOREV2019 -- Given the massive amount of change to which consumers are being exposed -- especially when it comes to their mobile lives -- the ability to carefully track the complex evolution of customer sentiment is emerging as a critical discipline among leading players in the different sectors of the automotive industry.

So says Chris Hodges, Vice President of Customer Experience Solutions at J.D. Power in a podcast interview for journalists covering the Auto Revolution 2019 conference Las Vegas on October 23-24.

“The automotive industry is no stranger to change and disruption. But the pace of progress has certainly ticked up significantly with developments taking place around electrification of vehicles, vehicle autonomy, and new innovations around ‘last mile’ transportation -- with services like bike, scooter and ride sharing,” says Hodges.

Each of these innovations are striking -- even jarring -- on their own. But taken together, these developments are -- on the one hand -- elevating expectations for major segments of the consumer about what the future of personal mobility and transportation holds. On the other hand, they introduce a lot of uncertainty and confusion.

“Not only are many of the major players relatively new to most consumers, the customer experiences, business models -- and even economic implications -- are unfamiliar,” notes Hodges.

Establishing Trust in the Era of Hyper Innovation

Given the fact that we are socially -- even genetically -- conditioned to distrust strangers and unfamiliar environments, how can the industry accelerate the process of establishing a sense of familiarity, comfort -- even trust.

“Trust is absolutely paramount and critical in establishing a customer experience that encourages the rapid adoption of new innovations. It is a challenge that the extended automotive industry -- from OEMs, dealerships and underwriters, to the new players who are challenging incumbents -- will have to successfully address,” says Hodges.

The good news, however, is that the process of digital transformation that has already disrupted all major segments of the economy has already provided important clues on how to track -- and influence -- the factors that drive customer sentiment in turbulent times.

Transparency is the critical factor

It turns out that the world is far less threatening when you can see things clearly. That is why the concept of “transparency” is emerging as one of the critical success factors across environments that are dealing with a great amount of change.

“We have learned a lot from those sectors of the market that have engaged with digital natives. The areas of commerce that these consumers reward with their business typically share one major factor in common: transparency,” Hodges asserts.

From Airbnb to Amazon to Uber, the e-commerce websites and apps that drive activity and adoption feature a level of candid information sharing that clearly distinguishes them from brick-and-mortar predecessors.

“Ratings, and reviews are all over the place. Digital-native consumers instinctively engage with people who have been there before to learn from their experiences. When done effectively, this is done in an open and clearly authentic manner,” he explains.

In so doing, a two-way stream of intelligence and communication is established that allows products and services to evolve and improve rapidly, while consumers feel a sense of agency -- and ultimately, trusted comfort -- in the offerings that they purchase.

“There are three activities that I've seen the automotive -- as well as other -- sectors engage in over the past year or two to simultaneously elevate trust, and the customer experience,” says Hodges.

  • The first revolves around really paying close attention to online reputation management. This means making a major commitment to listening and taking into account what people are saying about you -- especially out on social media.

    “Those who take advantage of that feedback, develop an understanding of it, and use it as input to improve processes, products and services tend to experience success over those who do not,” observes Hodges.

  • Another area of activity that is paying off for many in the industry revolves around a stringent evaluation of digital footprints. This analysis now often extends beyond corporate borders.

    “For instance, I'm seeing a lot of automotive manufacturers take a growing interest in the websites of their dealerships. Regardless, executives at all levels should analyze how well websites and mobile apps are engineered; how fresh the content, how well the user experience is designed so that it is intuitive to prospects and customers,” Hodges says.

  • Finally, there is a growing executive appreciation emerging around journey analytics.

    “Journey analytics allows companies to look at how prospects and customers interact with your brand over time, across multiple channels -- whether that be the contact center, or your website, or your mobile device, or in the dealership, or retail store itself,” Hodges says.

Listen to the full podcast interview with Chris Hodges on how mastering the digital journey plays a key role for engendering Trust in automotive innovations.

Join Chris at Auto Revolution 2019 in Las Vegas on October 23-24 to continue the conversation on how the concepts of “trust” and “innovation” can best be integrated to ensure consumer adoption -- and confidence -- in the future of the mobility sector.