Enabling Digital Customer Experience at Maruti

By : |August 4, 2017 0
Rajesh Uppal, CIO, Maruti highlights the seven things that Maruti's IT is doing to help transform the brand experience of its customers

In 2015, India’s largest automaker, Maruti Suzuki, decided to re-define their customer experience and launched the NEXA premium dealership. It was developed to attract high-end customers and change the customers’ mindset about Maruti Suzuki being an automaker only for the masses in the process. The brand has been received well and sales of cars sold under this brand name have been increasing. Seeing the traction, Maruti recently launched premium service centers under the NEXA brand in continuation of this strategic initiative.

As NEXA’s target customers are highly tech savvy and expect digital to be a part of their experience, technology has a crucial role in ensuring NEXA’s success. To understand how Maruti is enabling this digital customer experience, we spoke to Rajesh Uppal, CIO, Maruti Suzuki.

“We’re going to the next phase of IT, where our whole company’s focus is to change the brand experience of our customers”, said Uppal. “We want to get into the next wave of experience for them, which has to be consistent across all channels, whether it’s mobile, website or a personal visit to a showroom”, he added.

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Here are a few things that Maruti has done to ensure successful integration of digital into its business strategy of enhanced customer experience.

Make Digital an Integral Part of the Strategy

The digital transformation journey of an organization has to be led by the business and supported by IT, which is what’s happening in Maruti. Rajesh Uppal re-iterated the fact that customer experience is a very clear business priority for the company, which is why the digital transformation is being driven by the business heads and supported by IT.

In fact, digital forms a part and parcel of Maruti’s strategy, with a clearly defined path and milestones. “Customer experience is part of a well-defined digital transformation strategy we’re rolling out that’s very strongly supported by IT”, said Uppal.

Build Digital into the Processes

Technology can give a rich experience to customers, provided all processes and workflows are clearly defined and integrated with back-end systems. That’s why sales and service managers at NEXA have been enabled with tablets and use apps that are well integrated and guided by the back-end system.

In fact, digital has been used to bring down the use of paper to a bare minimum. Customers can configure online the car they intend to buy and then see how it looks in different colors, add external and internal accessories, and see the final price. When they’re ready to buy, they can request a quote and even book a test drive.

A mobile app for both Android and iOS has also been created to complement the customer experience.

Maruti is giving a similar digital experience for its service outlets as well, which starts from booking an appointment either online or from a mobile app and then continues through to the workshop.

Every step of the journey has been defined and uses digital to enhance customer experience.

Clearly Define IT’s Role in a Digital Strategy

Maruti’s IT team has put together lots of applications online and on mobile, supported by a strong, analytics based back-end. “It’s a uniform omni-channel experience, which continues when you move from one channel to another. It’s one big area we’re working on to manage customers and their lifecycle, right from their first car to second car to value car, etc.”, said Uppal.

“For IT to deliver a platform like this, we’ve used many technologies—mobility, cloud, analytics, experience management, etc. Moreover, it must integrate seamlessly with our existing systems of dealer management and other applications”, he added.

Have Well-Defined Milestones

Digital transformation is a continuous journey, so it can have pre-defined milestones, but not a completion date. “We have all our milestones in place, but digital is not like one of those big band ERP implementations. Digital is a journey, where various steps will the implemented as you go along and get matured as we move forward and slowly get into the way of life. I also see a lot of opportunities emerging from it, which can be captured depending upon our process”, said Uppal.

Keep Raising the Bar

It’s important to identify and tap new opportunities that emerge from the digital journey in order to maintain a competitive edge. “You have to continue raising the bar to the next level, because things get copied very quickly”, he added after quoting how Maruti’s dealer facing system was quickly copied and became a way of life for competition after the company implemented it 7-8 years ago. Though they were the first in the country to do so, they couldn’t bask in its glory for too long because competition quickly caught up with them.

“Likewise, transformation of customer experience is really the bar of the next level, and will also get copied after some time, so we have to keep on raising the bar. IT is all about continuous innovation”, he concluded.

Articulate the Business Value from IT

Some companies struggle to bridge the divide between IT and business when it comes to digital strategy roll-out. This however is not the case at Maruti. “We work very closely with business and with our efforts over the years, they clearly understand how technology can help them. But sponsorship only comes when you’re clear on what business value you want to create. It has to be led by the business, and we have their full support”, said Uppal.

Experiment with New Digital Technologies

There are several emerging technologies relevant for digital transformation like 3D printing, AI, VR, etc. For Uppal, technologies to bring mobility on the shop floor, equipping everyone with the right kind of devices to manage the manufacturing are important and critical. In fact, he’s also running some pilots with AI and analytics, and has seen success in some of them.

“We’re also talking more about using VR for customer experience”, he added.

It’s also important to have the ability to identify tech early, and then create a use case to create business value. “That’s where my bimodal IT is working very well. They’re focused on creating value creation for business”, he concluded.

The main point according to Uppal is that in a digital journey, IT must be able to identify an opportunity and define the business impact it can create.

“Once you’re through with that, then it’s a matter of institutionalizing it”, he concluded.

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