The US Auto Industry Needs More Customer Focus

Given the current struggles in the auto industry, I revisited at a post called GMs customer experience woes. It referenced an article written by HBS professor John Quelch that outlined eight reasons why GM failed as a marketer. The number one item on his list was GM’s focus on products, not customers. For regular readers of this blog, you’ll recognize that this directly conflicts with the first principle of Experience-Based Differentiation: Obsess about customer needs, not product features.

The post also referenced some data from the 2008 American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI). I examined the data again and developed this chart which shows how US car brands rate in terms of their customer satisfaction and the change in satisfaction levels between 2007 and 2008.

2008autosatisfaction_small

Some things pop out quickly on this chart:

  • The top four brands are all foreign; and three of them are from Japan.
  • The bottom five brands are all American; and three of them are from Chrysler.
  • GM owns the top three US brands; and four out of the top five US brands.
  • Saturn is the top US brand; and it is also the brand that improved the most since last year.
  • Eleven brands improved over 2007; and only four of them were from the US.
  • Seven brands declined from 2007; and six of them were from the US.

The bottom line: The US needs a more customer-centric car industry.

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I am a customer experience transformist, helping large organizations improve business results by changing how they deal with customers. As part of this focus, I examine strategy, culture, interaction design, customer service, branding and leadership practices. I am also a fanatical student of business, so this blog provides an outlet for sharing insights from my ongoing educational journey. Simply put, I am passionate about spotting emerging best practices and helping companies master them. And, as many people know, I love to speak about these topics in almost any forum. My “title” is Managing Partner of the Temkin Group, a customer experience research and consulting firm that helps organizations become more customer-centric. Our goal is simple: accelerate the path to delighting customers. I am also the co-founder and Emeritus Chair of the Customer Experience Professionals Association (CXPA.org), a non-profit organization dedicated to the success of CX professionals.

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