Experience Design is one of the biggest and most important trends in the changing automotive landscape. As automakers grapple with the future of an industry that can no longer continue to pursue ‘business as usual’ — as it has over the better part of a century — it’s inevitable that changes must occur. Our friend Drew Smith, founder of consultancy StudioPhro*, explores how brands will tackle the changing paradigm in this article series.

Positive customer experience drives customer retention, satisfaction, and revenue. This relationship is now well understood. Forrester, a research consultancy, found that companies that deliver excellent customer experience enjoy 17% greater customer loyalty, 16% more customer satisfaction and 11% more revenue than their competitors.

Yet barely a month goes by that we don’t hear about an automotive company screwing up customer experience and putting their brand at risk.

Elements of Experience - Apple Carplay

Audi offers Apple CarPlay for free. BMW wants to charge an annual subscription.

BMW wants to charge a subscription to use Apple’s CarPlay system. Mercedes released woeful driver assistance systems. Car Magazine describes Volkswagen’s gesture control as a dangerous ‘non-event’. And Tesla’s troubles with the oversimplification of their interface are well reported. When it comes to in-car technology, it’s an issue with which many in the industry are grappling.

It can’t go on.

The combination of commoditized mainstream products and the availability of easy finance means that customer loyalty is always at risk. Customer experience is, therefore, becoming the linchpin of brand differentiation and customer retention.

Elements of Experience - Lyft

Lyft, with its excellent customer experience, is a competitive threat to traditional car manufacturers in an age of mobility as a service. Image: Tony Webster

In the future, as mobility as a service (MaaS) becomes prevalent, the importance and value of excellent customer experience will only grow. Freed from purchase agreements, customers will find it even easier to switch to the brand that offers the best experience. Based on current performance, they’re unlikely to consider traditional manufacturers. Instead, they’ll turn to companies like Lyft that have excellent customer experience baked in.

We’ve learned that delivering excellent customer experience in complex organizations is not impossible. At StudioPhro*, we’ve helped banks shift from selling mortgages to assisting customers to acquire their home. At Adobe, they transitioned from selling applications to supporting creative entrepreneurship through subscriptions and communities like Behance and 99u.

Elements of Experience - Adobe 99u

Adobe has built a community of creative entrepreneurship around its flagship software services. Image: Mackler Studios for Adobe

In both cases, organizations that built their reputations on selling products have evolved. They now deliver differentiated customer experiences that support customer loyalty, satisfaction, and revenue growth.

The great news is that the approach they took isn’t unique. But it requires a different way of looking at the world, one that is anything but product-centric.

Over the course of this article series, we’ll explore how to develop a holistic understanding of customers, their culture, and your business. And we’ll explain how this approach can help deliver excellent customer experience.