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FCA Group CIO: the importance of consumer trust for car manufacturers

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FCA Group

Championing digital and creating a unified customer view is the secret behind the success of FIAT Chrysler Automobiles, one the world's largest carmakers.

The future of the automotive industry will be increasingly linked to the successful integration of digital identity-management in vehicles.

At FIAT Chrysler Automobiles, we are exploring how best to leverage customer data to ensure a single, unified view of our customers at every stage, from product development and car design to customer relationship management.

As IT, we ensure that everything that requires digitizing can flow seamlessly from design to factory and can be integrated into each vehicle from the very beginning.

This is hugely important because digital is as critical to the customer-purchasing journey of a new vehicle as it is for the rest of a car’s life cycle. After all, 92% of customers choose their car specification over the Internet – they go online before they do anything else.

With this in mind, digital is no longer a channel. CIOs increasingly must understand their customers from the start and leverage the power of their digital tools to ensure businesses remain close to their customers, gain an idea of what they do and don’t like, and in FCA’s case, encourage customers to head toward the dealership. Championing digital and creating a unified customer view is the catalyst here.

It allows us to manage user data not only to boost sales, but to simultaneously provide great customer experiences, features and differentiating experiences like EcoDrive.

Our EcoDrive software collects detailed environmental performance metrics, including overall fuel economy, speed, gear changes, engine revs, throttle openings etc, from every single trip.

The software then makes recommendations about how best to modify one’s driving style to reduce expended emissions and fuel, in real time, on the vehicle’s display and through accumulated data on the website.

You may be thinking: that’s pretty obvious? Just take your foot off the gas a little more.

Although emissions produced by a vehicle, a lot like mileage, can fluctuate according to a huge number of factors beyond drivers simply putting pedal to metal in an attempt to replicate their favorite F1 drivers.

For example, when and how you brake or shift gears, how well you maintain your car, the ambient temperature, your tyre pressures –all contribute and are part of the EcoDrive suggestions too. It highlights all of these parameters and challenges drivers to use them to their advantage, fostering the growth of their eco-friendly score which they are invited to share and compete against other EcoDrive participants online.

The result? EcoDrive customers save on average 6-16% more fuel than those without it.

It is these kinds of services that leverage customer data and are incredibly valuable. Although there is a caveat: the only way to access experiences like EcoDrive and most web-based services is by granting access to personal data.

Customers have varying levels of concern depending on their digital knowledge and experience.

As you would expect, younger customers that grew up with the Internet and for whom connected devices have always been part and parcel of their everyday lives, tend to be less worried.

Those more reluctant to give up data are quite simply not able to take part in these experiences, because FCA, like many other corporates strongly respect data regulations. So much so that every new experience or service on our website requires consent to be accessed.

If consent isn’t given, we are unable to grant access. However, it is the jobs of corporations and businesses globally to help build the trust required for customers to want to opt-in to these experiences without worrying that their data will be breached or used in the wrong way.

With so many brand experiences emerging as a result of smarter use of customer data, businesses need to take more care than ever.

Ensuring customer data is kept securely and used in a way that will inspire and maintain trust should now be at the forefront of every CIO’s mind.

If security concerns undermine consumer trust, you can bet that organizations will be seriously hit. The rules have changed. And being in charge of the way customer data is used at FCA, I understand just how important it is to maintain this trust.

As such I am doing everything in my power to ensure the highest level of customer data security, within which I believe identity management is key.