Oh, the joys of living in Detroit. We are consistently a topic at the Presidential and Vice-Presidential debates, we have an ascending baseball team, and we are still the center of the universe when it comes to all things automotive.
On the heels of Tim Davis’ great post yesterday about the importance of the User and Customer Experience, I attended a conference earlier this week here in downtown Detroit that many of you haven’t heard about.
The Society of Automotive Engineers put on their Convergence conference devoted to the exciting innovations that are happening to cars. Of course, my motivation for being there were the sessions about “the connected car.” As a radio professional and a mobile app developer, I have a couple of very big dogs in this hunt.
So do you.
Mobile is the future for radio, and our dependence on the car is something that even old school radio pros acknowledge. The changing nature of the dashboard has been a topic in this blog, our Techsurveys, and our conferences for some time now. Last spring, I was honored to be a part of Buzz Knight’s session at Convergence featuring some automotive heavyweights.
And at this year’s Arbitron Client Conference in December, I’ll be co-presenting with Valerie Shuman, VP of Industry Programs for the Connected Vehicle Trade Association. I’ll have some incredible video of the dashboard’s future and what it means to radio, as well as some research about how consumers listen to the radio while driving.
At SAE’s Convergence, we were treated to a great panel of car maker execs from Fiat, GM, Audi, Toyota, Ford, and Nissan. And as they discussed everything from infotainment in their “center stacks” (better get used to that term), heads up displays, driver distraction, and voice recognition software (Siri has energized a major trend), a common theme continued to surface:
The customer experience
Every step of the way, these engineering executives realize that it’s about the customer – her safety, her convenience, and the ease of use of the technology. As Ford has learned with its breakthrough SYNC platform, it is about the customer interface and usability of the system. These auto execs did not agree on everything, but on the issue of the CX, it was always unanimous.
And that brings us to our ongoing dilemma in radio. We continue to look at our business through the lens of pushing our content to listeners – and advertisers. We rarely, if ever, contemplate or re-imagine the CX of our products – whether its our programming and its impact on consumers or our advertising and its ability to help our clients grow their businesses.
We congratulate ourselves for providing and paying for our stream – on computers and on mobile devices. And yet, if that streaming experience is clunky, erratic, inconvenient, and inconsistent, the consumer will move on to products that provide a better, streamlined, user-friendly experience.
Radio research continues to ask about audience perceptions on our terms – measuring the things we want to know – music images, talent recognition and preference, soft/hard scales – and other dimensions that are part of the programming building blocks we were all taught by our radio mentors.
But the questions need to change in 2012. We have to start looking at our products the way the automakers do - from the point of view of the consumer. As one of the auto guys mentioned at this session, the more you give them, the more they want. And through interfacing with companies like Amazon, Apple, and others, customer standards and expectations have been raised while patience and tolerance for bad experiences have shortened. Just ask legacy companies who never “got” customer service – like the airlines, and yes, the automakers, too. They have been forced to rethink the way they do business – the CX.
Radio needs a reset – not because there’s anything wrong with the medium. But when it comes to providing a great customer experience – when interfacing with the station, enjoying the stream, using the website, or collaborating on sales – the kind of mindset transformation that the car guys have been through would be very beneficial for the radio industry.
Oh, and by the way, it might also be helpful for radio leaders and its trade associations to spend some time at conferences like the SAE’s Convergence. What happens with cars, smartphones, and apps represents the future for radio listening as well as the industry’s advertising base.
And if you need any more proof that the auto industry will be front and center in our futures, look no further than the far end of the ballroom: