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Digital Transformation

Forrester CX: Opening Session Interview with Elena Ford


We are live-blogging from Forrester’s CXNYC this week, the event for customer experience leaders, innovators, and practitioners.

John Dalton noted how much CX has changed over time.  Years ago, it was only mentioned by a few companies. Today, the topic is front and center for many companies.  As CX has gone mainstream, the challenges continue to evolve.

Quote: Organization’s either flee or fight when faced with existential threats.   The fight might be doubling down on what hasn’t worked.

Quote: you can be as skilled as you want but it won’t matter to someone that doesn’t care.   “Moby Dick really didn’t care about Captain Ahab…..

What Forrester knows from research, it’s almost impossible to transform the business without taking into account the culture of the companies.   It’s hard to put customers as the center of your business, even if it disrupts your current business.

“Ishmael in Moby Dick survied the wreck of his ship”

The CX Mindset

From the top down. CX leaders have a fundamentally different mind set.  Elena Ford, VP Global Dealer and Customer Experience Ford Motor Company.

Ford is looking at making major changes to their company. Things like moving from unit sales to mileage charge and other approaches.

Elena: We’ve been in business for 114 years.  We love our core business. It’s important to sell, service, and finance vehicles. But there are emerging opportunities with Ford Smart Mobility.  We need to deliver an incredible customer experience between the core business and smart mobility.

John: Is this about pulling your customers along or pushing?

Elena: Customers today have a changing mindset.  Our execs are setting the culture change. We exist to make peoples lives better.

John: Tell us about your partnerships and ecosystems. Uber for example. How is that going.

Elena: We have a lot of partnerships. It’s about how you handle partnerships. As we build Ford Pass, we are looking for parking and car sharing partnerships. We don’t rule anyone out. We are very open minded to having all different types of partners.

John: Millenials have been described as not interested in cars although recent data shows a change. The auto industry as a whole has matched its pre-recession high. Is it back to normal?

Elena: Worldwide, it’s doing great. The US is strong. Millenials want to use cars.   We want to serve them in the way they want to be served.  Ford Credit is experimenting with shared lease, pay as you go mileage, etc.   Put it in the customers hands.

John: Rather than double down on the ownership model, it’s about different models.

Elenea: We are building Ford Pass with 1. a marketplace for products 2. Ford Appreciation 3. Ford Hubs for mobility experience centers and 4 Ford Guides for locally savvy Ford advisors

John: I’m not hearing anything about loyalty programs.

Elena: We decided that loyalty was an old fashioned word. We focus on appreciation.  It’s a bigger idea than loyalty.  Anyone can be a member of Ford Pass.

John: You are responsible for dealer relationship and customer experience. That’s B2B and B2C. How is that working with dealers?

Elena: Our dealers have 400,000 employers. They are the face of the customer.  I travel all over the world to meet with the dealers.  This whole idea of Ford Pass is with the dealers.  They are key to engaging with us. The dealers love this approach. They see it as an extension of them.  They get to be the preferred dealer in the Ford Pass program.

John: Those relationships are always testy. is there a chance you will lose some dealers?

Elena: about 90% of people will do all their research online. We tell the dealers that you really need to pay attention to people when they show up. Not all dealers will be digitally savvy and on the band wagon.  We just need to focus on getting the interested ones engaged.

John: What do you think the future of the dealership is?  VR, sharing ownership, and other things have an impact

Elena: We need the dealers. We need a place to go for them to purchase.  People want to see and touch the vehicle.  They want to have an experience at the store. We are working hard with the dealers to create a best in class consumer experience.

John: Does that include adjacent markets?

Elena: We are working with Forrester to benchmark a wide range of companies outside our industry. Disney, Berbery, RipTide, Nike, etc.

John: What do you think your predecessors would think about with all this change

Elena: At Ford, our family is an extended Family.  There are generations of dealers. We are proud to have everyone working with us. It goes back to relationships.  We are proud of the LeMans win this past Sunday.

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Michael Porter

Mike Porter leads the Strategic Advisors team for Perficient. He has more than 21 years of experience helping organizations with technology and digital transformation, specifically around solving business problems related to CRM and data.

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