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Volvo Group CIO: data and trust as currency in the digital age

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Andrew Rivett

In the digital age, businesses are gathering more customer data than ever before. Today’s CIOs need to ensure it is being used in the right way.

Technology is driving unprecedented change in the automotive industry, enhancing customer experiences and impacting business strategy like never before.

Such change has given birth to the ‘collective customer’- connected individuals indirectly shaping the products they use themselves.

It follows what is happening in society more naturally and despite appearances, the vastly increased screen time we engage in may just have its upsides. It is putting a plethora of data into the hands of those shaping the products we use to improve them and create experiences like never before.

Hot Topics caught up with Volvo’s Group CIO, Klas Bendrik to find out more about how CIOs are building consumer trust in the digital age.

HT: Why do you think that CIOs have become such an integral part of executive teams within automotive businesses?

I think we see too many CIOs not being a part of core management teams.

They tend to fill the role of an IT director matching parts of the infrastructure internally rather than being given the opportunity to add much more value to consumers through technology.

I mean, to some extent what we see happening today in IT more generally is the core part of these traditional operations, but also as a key enabling, driving and innovating role when it comes to future services and products.

HT: How are you utilizing data to create an enhanced relationship with customers?

My role has increasingly become about just that.

If we look at Volvo customers, their starting point is usually to gather information around our vehicles’ capability and services.

It begins with the online experience, moves on to an ownership experience, and finally a post-purchase experience.

Data has allowed for real creativity at this final stage. If you take the Volvo in-car delivery service as an example of what data can help achieve, we are rolling out a service where goods can be delivered directly to Volvo customers in their vehicles.

Data is becoming an increasingly valuable asset, not just for businesses, but for consumers too.

When used correctly, technology and data has the power to disrupt and change the structure of industries entirely.

What we have done within Volvo is actually a very integrated part of our ambitions with regard to the delivery of greater experiences.

Part of our mission statement is that by 2020 no one should be harmed or killed in a Volvo. Everything we do is working towards that goal.

We won’t use technology for technology’s sake, rather for the delivery of additional benefits like saving time, making products more enjoyable to use, as well as giving opportunities for people to really leverage the capabilities of products.

HT: The real winners in business going forwards will be those who maintain customer trust. To what extent do you agree with this sentiment?

For Volvo in particular, trust is such a huge part of our brand. It is part of our DNA.

Safety has and always will be a core component of our heritage. You only have to look at the innovation we did around the safety belt, passive safety, active safety, now also taking interconnected safety further with some of our newer solutions.

Part of our mission statement is that by 2020 no one should be harmed or killed in a Volvo. Everything we do is working towards that goal.

This isn’t just about the physical realms either, because trust in the digital age is becoming an increasingly important core component of brands.

This will be particularly true as we move into the unexplored domains of digitization and the question marks surrounding data privacy that come with that.

HT: Do you currently provide customers with the ability to control their own data at Volvo?

Yes. We see all data as being owned by the customers themselves.

Whenever we use customer data of any kind, be it to add additional value to the company or to customers themselves, it requires prior consent from the customer.

The really interesting trend set to emerge will be around the willingness of individuals to part with their data.

Services increasingly require customer data to provide benefits and if individuals want to be a part of that ecosystem, then of course they will need to opt in to that process.

HT: Do you think we need a new social contract drawn up for the digital age?

Yes, and I think I we will see some quite rapid developments in the area.

This will be driven and supported by the automotive industry but also by other industries that are ahead of us.

If you look at the progress that has been made in media, music and a plethora of other industries – these advancements are actually driving the development of some areas of society.

HT: Finally, what future do you see for autonomous cars?

We are currently seeing a lot of attention and focus around the potential capabilities of aided vehicles.

It may be a few years until they are fully integrated into society though.

What we are planning to do at Volvo is test these vehicles among a small group of individuals – around 180 people on the streets of Gothenburg – as a starting point.

The next stage after that will be giving these cars to more people in different locations and after that will be integrating them into the overall infrastructure of cities. That means tailoring each car to particular cities as road authorities can differ so dramatically.

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