Connecting with customers in 2014

Mazda has exciting plans to develop its digital strategy in 2014. Here Mazda UK’s managing director Jeremy Thomson debates how technology can help car companies understand customers, prevent fraud and win back old customers

You claim Mazda is a leader in digital activity. Prove it

Mazda was the first to launch a Digital Service Record (DSR). That was nine years ago and until very recently we’ve been the only manufacturer to make this kind of system work. We’ve also been one of the first to launch a bespoke mobile site, the first to roll out a network wide dealer website programme, and now we’re the first to offer every customer the ability to book servicing online using these Mazda dealer websites.


Surely an electronic service history overcomplicates things

Not at all. Most importantly it helps prevent fraud. Every Mazda’s service information is held in a secure digital data bank and is date stamped so it’s impossible to back date or modify the information and falsify mileage records. It gives prospective second-hand Mazda buyers added peace of mind because they can independently verify the service history and mileage of the car they’re interested in.

But simple paper records work adequately for most car companies…

We’ve discovered the DSR has a tangible benefit to the company and dealers as well as customers. It helps us understand service patterns and enables dealers to focus their resources more efficiently on reminding customers of an overdue service.

Isn’t that just an excuse to pester people with more sales calls?

Quite the opposite. There are two types of people who’ve left their dealer ‑ we respectfully call them defectors. One goes to another Mazda dealer, the other goes to an independent garage. The DSR enables dealers to focus on customers who either haven’t had their car serviced, or those who have left the network for an independent. Dealers can then tailor offers to attract them back.

So is it all about price?

It’s more than that. We see the growth of digital as a way to give customers greater choice over how they interact with us. Most of us don’t get time to do the personal things we want to do during the working day, let alone must-dos like booking the car in to be serviced. Research from Google shows that 76 per cent of customers would like the facility to book their service online. No surprises then that our online booking, which lets people organise servicing in their own time, is proving very popular.

Mazda’s latest digital innovation is selling tyres online. How will you make money from that?

Making money from tyres isn’t the point. Tyres are often the first thing that owners buy for their car away from the dealership. Selling tyres at a competitive price is a fundamental element of our loyalty strategy. If customers are having tyres fitted at a Mazda dealership it cuts down the chances of companies outside the network capturing other work once the tyres are fitted.