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STRATEGY Daimler Trucks North America embarks on cultural change with CX Day

We’ve long heard how customer experience (CX) leads to increased shareholder value. Over the past several years Forrester Research has invested in The Age of the Customer and states that, “Customer-obsessed strategies are a shared agenda for business and technology leaders — requiring a common view of what is happening in the market and how best to respond.”
 
Bruce Tempkin of Tempkin Group focuses research on the financial benefits of CX. Understanding one’s customer segments to identify points of friction and market opportunities results in a better experience for customers and loyalty. This loyalty is at the heart of the return on investment in CX. 
 
While customer-centricity is a strategic driver for most organizations, it’s often hard for large global organizations such as Daimler Trucks North America (DTNA), the leading manufacturer of commercial vehicles in the North America, to create the cultural shift amongst its business units to orient their day-to-day work to a common CX vision. DTNA is a product engineering-driven company that largely has relied on its dealers to be the steward of customer experience.
 
Dealers are responsible for selling and onboarding new Freightliner, Western Star, and Thomas Built Bus customers to the product and its innovative technology. 
 
In November of 2017, in order to begin this transformation, DTNA invested in a global CX Day where employees set aside their daily tasks to focus on and deeply consider the challenges and opportunities that DTNA customers face. Customers were given the opportunity to interact with dealers and employees alike, sharing their experiences and discovering areas of improvement. 
 
Kristi Langdon, a CX leader at DTNA, was instrumental in making the day a success. She said, “We got some tough love that day. We are still sending thank you notes to everyone who participated to express our thanks for their candor.” Langdon shared that they unveiled 132 pain points that their customers face. 
 
The stages of the customer journey for buyers are: need, purchase, onboard/operate, service/repair, and resell/repurchase. In each one of these stages there are opportunities for improvement. 
 
DTNA used CX Day to start problem-solving real pain points. Solutions were ideated using design thinking principles and Swarms. Swarms are hyper-focused sessions that apply design and engineering principles to solve problems and prototype solutions. The prototypes from the design Swarms will be the fodder for a short-and long-term roadmap to address priority issues. 
 
While ideation and making CX top-of-mind via CX Day is a start, Langdon says, “Execution is the hard part. We have to follow through on putting our customers the center of our decision making and accelerating real change with some quick wins.” 
 
In addition, she shared that the dealers wish to be true partners in service of their customers, rather than just an extension of the DTNA business. This insight could prove invaluable as they plan for its next phase of growth. 
 
The good news is that there is support from the highest levels at DTNA to not only make CX a priority, but to consider market conditions that could impact the business. Roger Nielsen, President & CEO, is seeing CX as a competitive advantage. The sense of urgency has increased as they seek to remain the undisputed market leader in the space. 
 
DTNA is savvy enough to know that it will take more than CX Day and a common set of principles to drive true business change and execute the ideal customer experience. They have real challenges, such as connecting business units internally, evaluating and integrating their complicated technology stack, and keeping up the pace of innovation they have set for themselves over the past several years. But now DTNA has momentum flowing in the right direction.  
 
“Empowerment will be the key to change management,” Langdon states. “If we hand over the keys to customer and business success where it’s everyone’s responsibility that will be what allows us to make real meaningful progress in 2018 and beyond.”

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