Quality is no longer a differentiator, “it’s the price of admission,” suggests Dr. David Cole, director of the Center for Automotive Research. And, if you don’t deliver, you could face serious problems. Just ask Chrysler, which took a solid body blow from the folks at Consumer Reports magazine, earlier this year, the highly-influential publication burying the troubled automaker in the bottom ranks in its annual automotive survey.
A poor showing in CR, as well as in other recent quality studies certainly isn’t helping the automaker reverse the steady decline in its sales and market share. But Chrysler is hoping it can improve its tarnished image by dealing directly with skeptical consumers.
The automaker is setting up a new Online Customer Advisory Board that it describes as an industry first in a effort to bring consumers into the product development process. Deborah Meyer, the company's vice president and chief marketing officer, says the objective of the board is to create a dialogue with customers and gain their insights on product features and technologies. The forum is closed and Chrysler is now recruiting members for the board, she said.
"Chrysler designers and engineers have always had a pulse on the market to deliver segment-leading products, but the launch of the Customer Advisory Board gives us a new way to connect with our customers to be even more responsive and innovative," Meyer said, adding that, "We have a new platform to engage our customers in two-way dialogue so we can harness their insights and vehicle dreams as we move quickly to develop and refine technologies and products.”
Dubbed Passenger, the high-tech “platform will help Chrysler spark innovation and satisfy a shared desire for meaningful change through ongoing collaboration with its customers," predicted Justin Cooper, co-founder and chief of innovation and marketing at Passenger, the Los Angeles firm that helping Chrylser launch and manage the site. "Involving customers in the process promotes active participation and those customers who feel more informed have the ability to share more favorable opinions about Chrysler with their peers, the truest form of advocacy," he said.
Joe DiMeglio, vice president of Organic, Chrysler's online ad agency, said, "Brands that listen thoughtfully to their customers and put them in the middle of their organizations will win in this era where the customer's voice is both strong and visible. We are incredibly excited about this ground-breaking initiative and helping Chrysler gain an even deeper understanding of their customers-the foundation of all exceptional brand experiences."
To participate in the Customer Advisory Board, consumers are invited to submit an application at //www.thecarconnection.com/marty-blog. Participants must be 18 years or older, a United States resident and hold a valid driver's license.
Beginning in late-March, Chrysler will begin the initial phase of the Customer Advisory Board, which is a three to four week period when Chrysler will introduce the members to the process and the company.
Once introduced, Chrysler will begin the ongoing dialogue with the Customer Advisory Board members by engaging the community with live, facilitated sessions where they may view media, respond to polls and engage with other members. There will also be discussion sections that allow members to discuss a variety of topics such as quality, safety or technology on their own time during a four-week period. Examples of topics may include environmental, safety, quality or technology. —Joe Szczesny and TCC Team