GM’s New Formula: Quality + Customer Experience

This week General Motors announced that they were combining the leadership of the Product Quality and Customer Experience organizations into a single role, a first of its kind move for the auto industry. Alicia Boler-Davis will be GM’s Vice President for Global Quality and U.S. Customer Experience and her primary focus is on strengthening the experience in order to raise customer retention, which by GM’s calculation is worth $700 million for each percentage point increase. In addition to the merging of quality and customer experience, GM’s plan includes:

  • Dealership renovations so that the showroom enhances customer confidence and provides a strong first impression to car buyers
  • Support experts to handle the dealer and customer training required by the growing integration of technology into vehicles
  • A team to proactively handle social media monitoring and response
  • New programs to empower front-line sales and service personnel to resolve issues quickly

My take:  I applaud GM’s combination of quality and customer experience. In My Manifesto: Great Customer Experience is Free, I describe customer experience in terms of total quality.

Why does this combination make sense? Quality efforts tend to focus on removing waste and building more consistent processes, but they often lack the deep external perspective of customer needs and desires. The push for removing waste can also squeeze out some important design considerations and overly focus on short-term savings versus longer-term loyalty gains. Customer experience efforts can fill in those gaps and benefit from quality approaches for process redesign and control.

In the 2012 Temkin Experience Ratings, Chevrolet – the only GM brand in our ratings – lead the auto dealer segment and was the only one to receive a “good” customer experience rating. So the big auto maker has a solid base to work with. We’ll keep an eye on Boler-Davis’ progress.

The bottom line: Quality and CX are two great tastes that taste great together

Written by 

I am an experience management transformist, helping organizations improve business results by engaging the hearts and minds of their customers, employees, and partners. My "job" is Head of the Qualtrics XM Institute. The Institute is still being established, but our goal is to help organizations around the world thrive by mastering Experience Management (XM). As part of this focus, I examine strategy, culture, interaction design, customer service, branding and leadership practices. And, as many people know, I love to speak about these topics in almost any forum. Prior to joining Qualtrics, I was managing partner of Temkin Group (leading CX research, advisory, and training firm), co-founder and chair of the Customer Experience Professionals Association (, and a VP at Forrester Research. I'm a fanatical student of business, so this blog provides an outlet for sharing insights from my ongoing educational journey. Check out my LinkedIn profile:

7 thoughts on “GM’s New Formula: Quality + Customer Experience”

  1. Combining product quality with good customer experience is definitely key to success. One of these without the other won’t deliver the best customer retention that organizations are looking for. I like the idea of having support experts and having a team that will handle social media. Improving customer experience is important in all types of industries, including the motor industry.

  2. Ironic that J D Power found in 2012 APPEAL that seat quality (i.e. product quality) was at a historical high, but seat satisfaction (good customer experience) for seats was next to last, butting up against GPS/Entertainment systems for customer satisfaction. GM paid for much research and validated the technology to remedy this problem which would give them a competitive advantage, but they have chosen to return to 1960s process and tools. Now, with the recent discovery by UMTRI that women drivers outnumber men drives on US roads, it will have to change to make accommodations for the differences in how men and women drivers sit. This change would be a major step forward if this new office were able to see this loss and step forward in an area that all of their competitors are lagging.

  3. I find it interesting that GM worries so much about customer retention and focuses on selling cars. It seems to me that the real test of retention comes from the next three to five years. That is where the “love” wanes. The experience should be in how the customer is handled during ownership, through service, and dealer follow-up. Make the customer part of the family, serve them well, offer the best. After the customer signs for the vehicle, a survey (usually bouhgt) for sales and warranty service. Some coupons or emails. Does MY salesman call, does MY advisor call, do I know the GM, SM, PM? Retention begins after the sale and should be more intense BEFORE MY next buying cycle.

    1. I do agree with Steve, too much emphasize is being put in the front of the buying experience, when it is the long run customer services that create loyal clients.

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