Fit the Product to the Customer

Guest Column by Dave Girolamo

A #PureMichigan vacation

While on vacation in Northern Lower Michigan, a retired couple walked past my automobile with a surprised look. No offense to the manufacturer, but my vehicle is 6 years old, a highly produced vehicle, and hasn’t been properly detailed longer than I’d like to admit.  

I opened the window and said “Good morning, is there something I can answer for you?” The gentleman responded, 

“Sorry, I didn’t mean to bother you, but I didn’t know a Fusion could be flat-towed.”  

What does the customer want?

He had obviously noticed the front fascia had been trimmed and spied the visible portions of a base plate which allowed me to tow behind my motorhome. To be a little more clear before other motorhome owners rush to key in searches for base plates thinking any Fusion fits the bill, only the hybrid and Energi Plug-in Hybrid versions allow flat-towing.

After a few pleasantries and a little bit of motorhome shop talk with the couple, it occurred to me that more often than not, the auto industry does a terrible job at successfully matching a vehicle to a customer. The result is a plethora of survey responses that put the jobs of many management personnel at risk in a KPI-laden industry. This could lead to losing a misunderstood prospect, or worse, getting fired for “poor” performance. 

A polarized purchase

The retired couple turned out to have purchased a flat-tow capable vehicle that they really didn’t want. There were few attributes they really cared for from their automobile which were must-haves, but when not traveling by motorhome, they hated the vehicle. That didn’t surprise me as their choice of a vehicle tends to be polarizing; customers who really know what they are getting into tend to love them and buy multiple generations, but others who buy for brand recognition or the styling tend to be surprised at some attributes which meet design and manufacturing intent but fall short of delighting customers who expect differently. 

Bluntly, that is actually the point; somewhere in the sales process, there was no miscommunication, but rather a lack of communication about what the customer expects of the vehicle the 90% of the time it is not in the vicinity of their motorhome.

The power of having the right information at the right time

I’ve been reading customer comments to various manufacturers for over 20 years, and too many of them relate to the thoughts “I was told…[misinformation]” and “if I knew, I would have instead…”  I understand incentives to sell and for performance measures, but they are often disconnected from the customer experience. In the case of the couple in the story, I am aware of a number of different vehicles under the same brand that would be a better fit for them and still carry out their most important stated goal.   

As a side note to any manufacturer reading… the list of flat-towable vehicles is far too short while the motorhome/RV industry has been booming for over a decade! And for those wondering, a list of flat-towable vehicles (double-check with the owner’s manual) is available at Motorhome

Bottom line?

Companies need to know what their customer needs are when purchasing one of their vehicles or else you could potentially be having a future detractor because your product didn’t satisfy their “hidden” needs. Sure, they need to travel fast and comfortably with the air conditioner from point A to point B, but perhaps they also want other helpful features available in your product. Remember, the devil is in the details. A proper customer experience platform could be the key to learning more about your clients’ needs, what kind of experiences they have when going through the customer experience touchpoints and any feedback they may have for future use of product enhancement. 

With the high-touch CX program management, CQi (the innovative platform behind the world’s top automotive brands), you can get the high-value insights you need to help boost your customer satisfaction, loyalty, and advocacy.