Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer
Due to the nature of the luxury car business, Aston Martin is strongly focused on personal engagement. While the brand is small in terms of volume, people tend to keep their cars much longer than they would keep a mass-market vehicle, and everything the company does is centered around creating a highly personalized pre-purchase and ownership experience. As such, Simon Sproule—Vice President and CMO—says the relationship with the customer is becoming increasingly important, and the organization has embraced the customer experience as a priority and has been making substantial investments in this area over the past few years.
Sproule says that ownership of Aston Martin’s customer engagement strategy resides with himself, the head of sales and service, and the head of quality, and he explains that this structure has worked very well for the company to date.
“Having multiple stakeholders involved helps to ensure that the strategy is being taken seriously and that it is a priority for the C-suite,” he says. “We feel comfortable in having multiple owners with our structure, and we’re all looking at the same data and share the same KPIs, which is very important.”
Ultimately, the goal for the customer experience strategy is to generate return for the business, and the strategy was implemented based on a very data-driven discussion around the company’s competitive set and customer behaviors, which were then synthesized and presented to the executive team.
“We saw a very compelling case to enhance, improve, change and evolve our customer experience, and that was embraced across the board,” he says. “The challenge is striking the balance of understanding how much we can invest that will give us a level of return that warrants additional investment. That is hard to measure because we have a number of intangibles at work, but any investment we make has to generate a return.”
While their investments are paying off, Sproule says that they will likely never fully achieve an optimized version of the customer experience due to the constant evolution of the industry. Combined with the changing expectations of consumers, this becomes even more difficult to achieve, but the key is to remain a step ahead of what buyers want.
“Organizations that are getting the customer experience right are very good at predicting what customers want and staying one step ahead,” he says. “This is challenging because as consumers, we often don’t know what we want or like until we get it, but it is important to be able to anticipate those needs ahead of when consumers actually want them.”
To better understand the types of engagements that consumers will value, Sproule says they talk to consumers and dealers directly, in addition to gaining insights from people who choose not to purchase or who defect from the brand to understand what they can do better.
“We’re certainly doing better than we’ve done in the past because we have better, richer data sources and a world-class data engine that is delivering deeper insights so that we can make more informed decisions,” he says. “We also look at customer satisfaction, Net Promoter Scores, referrals and repeat customers, and we have a dashboard that shows us how people are making their way through the purchasing funnel, which has been valuable as well.”
This strategy is also supported by technology that is enabling the company to better understand their customers by mapping out their interactions across various touchpoints.
“We want to know our customers individually, and we haven’t been able to do that because it is difficult to scale our efforts,” he says. “The technology is making this more doable for us, but moving from legacy systems to a modern, cloud-based system has been a challenge. It was absolutely necessary, and the implementation has been incredibly challenging, but we are very happy that we did it because it will be able to improve and change over time.”
Moving forward, Sproule hopes to better understand how people use their cars and products as the use of vehicles continues to evolve. He also aims to better meet customers’ expectations for real-time experiences.
“If someone has a problem, I can look them up and intervene in real time, so we can serve them immediately,” he says. “Even so, there are other ways in which customers would like us to be there for them, which can be on a minute-to-minute basis, and while we’re getting better, there is still work to be done.”