Imagine being offered your dream role heading up a completely new division and setting up a customer experience program for one of the most recognised brands on the planet just as a global scandal surfaces that wiped billions of dollars of its valuation and severely damages public perception and trust.
That is exactly what Jason Bradshaw walked into with eyes and arms wide open and embraced the challenge as Volkswagen Australia's Chief Customer Officer and Director of Customer Experience
3.17 Glenn: Jason Bradshaw welcome to touchpoints I have been looking forward to this particular interview for weeks now because you are the humble agent when it comes to customer experience and all things related and I am chomping at the bit to suck some of that knowledge out of you, welcome! Thanks for joining us. And they kick things off I'd really love for you to share the two-minute life story of Jason Bradshaw and how you got to where you are today.
3:35 Jason: Well, firstly Glenn, thanks for having me on the podcast. Absolutely pleasure to be with you. And of course, with the audience today, two minutes. Wow. That's, that feels like a lot to pump at least four decades into, but started my first business at 14 years of age. Sounds like I wanted to be the next tech entrepreneur billionaire. But in actual fact, I just wanted to buy stuff and I figured I could get a part-time job or a good sell the stuff that I wanted to buy and then hopefully get that stuff cheaper.
So that's what I did. And a little boy in the country, he couldn't compete with the big-box retailers. So I competed on customers. Oh, customer experience. And I didn't necessarily realize it at the time, but that has led to my career completely being centred around transforming how businesses operate through the way that they improve the lives of their customers and their employees.
And yeah, I do remember my very early days working for big corporate here in Australia. And you agree with talking about customer service, let us fix the customer service. And of course, now I understand that really, customer service is just part of customer experience. So if I was to sum it up in one or two sentences, My life's journey has been around really getting a deep understanding around the elements that make stories, elements that inspire people to either love or hate you and to tell people about that and how you can harness that energy to drive a business fault.
5:14 Glenn: And we were talking a little bit earlier in and around. Some of those experiences that you've had in and around that love-hate relationship and hate mail, things like that. So tell us about the early days and fascinates me the period in your career when you were joining Volkswagen summer. Tell us about that. It was right in the middle of the whole emissions scandal.
5:42 Jason: Oh of course so seven different industries. I've had the pleasure of working in media government not-for-profit big box retail, manufacturing automotive. Um, the list goes on. I even have set up a salary packaging information bureau one stage in my very early stages of my career. Um, even at that time, I was there to look at these customers. Um, but you're right. I joined Volkswagen just as the emission scandal was breaking or just shortly after that.
So I can remember going through the recruitment process. The headhunter rang me one morning and said, have you seen the news. Yes, it's going to be a hot day and he's hiding. No, that's not the news I'm talking about. Of course, the news he was talking about was that in America it had already broken. And at that stage, alleged that Volkswagen had, I think the words that were being used at the time cheated on emissions test.
And, you know, he, like others were wondering whether I'd still be interested in working for a company that was going through a very public scandal. The reality is the answer was yes. At that stage. No one knew what the facts were. , every job always has a challenge. I actually, in some ways, at least appreciate that.
I knew about the challenge before turning up. , I think, it's never easy when you get some, some sort of surprise at any stage in the recruitment process, but no, I believed in the product. I believed in the leadership here in Australia and also in groups. And I was genuinely excited about joining your company and being us first, ever chief customer officer and setting up a completely you practice and discipline within, within the organization had six fantastic years, at Volkswagen Australia.
And what I will say is that emission. , scandal the emissions debacle. It certainly didn't make it easy to set up a new department. They certainly to make it easy to get fundings, all different things that you want to do. But what it absolutely reinforced in my mind is yes, the big multi-million dollar programs are good to do sometimes extremely important to do, but you can actually just start improving the lives of customers and employees straight away by getting really intentional around the actions you take. So when I first joined Volkswagen and at that stage, there was still so many unknowns. And as you could imagine, being the world's largest automotive company at the time, there was a lot that you couldn't say you couldn't say because he didn't have all the information and for various other legal reasons.
We had to get really intentional about how we were going to manage the situation here in Australia, manage it for our employees because of course they're having barbecue conversations. They've got friends and family that probably bought product based on where they work. Um, and then of course our dealer partners, and also, again, the groups of people that ultimately serve the consumer and then the customers that they are under some drivers themselves.
And so we set about just providing regular information and touchpoints with our customers, you know, scan, scaled up a frequently asked question page, increased our contact centre capabilities. Well, we didn't always have an answer. We always took the time to hear the question and then provide as much information as possible. You know, this is a little, the first company that I've worked in. That's had some sort of scandal. This is certainly the biggest one that I've been part of. But in terms of its reach not one part of the world was untouched, from, as a result of the emissions crisis at Volkswagen Groups.
But I can remember when I was head of customer at target Australia and target along with many manufacturers in the country, where our retailers in the country works, selling jeans, denim, that were being produced overseas, using a product called an azo dye. Now, ultimately it was discovered that azo dye had some cancers properties to it, and we had to take the product off sale in all of that, all their stores, but also had to launch a massive recall of that product had distraught parents ringing us saying, you know, my child has been in your children's product forever and a day, are they going to get cancer now? And so when the, when the situation broke in the, in the news, you know, it was, it was exactly the same as what we did at Volkswagen where we communicated often.
We provided as much information as we possibly could, and we provide the customers. Absolute certainty about when we provide an update and really that's one of the keys to the customer experience is communication.
It's not about getting it right all the time, but it's about giving people the trust that you're going to communicate this and communicating, you know, wise as I feel that you're doing so in an open and transparent way. Every class is every customer experience story that starts from a bad place and starts there because of the lack of communication.
11:17 Glenn: So what were some of the other initiatives that over at Senior and Volkswagen you have put in place? that have led to that the brand is solid and strong. And, um, I think outside of the fact that it has remembered for that and also we were saying before, People do tend to forget. And then there were multiple, multiple brands they were subsequently caught out. Um, so if we give back to the whole customer experience space, What were some of those initiatives that you ended up putting in and how did you evolve that experience element?
11:53 Jason: Unfortunately, we can't do this exercise. If we could use technology had got to the point where we could record this podcast today and then have a live director's feedback loop with the listeners while they're listening. , you know, I'm sure if I asked everyone that was listening to the podcast, how do you define customer experience?
I would get thousands, tens of thousands of variations on hopefully the one theme but definitely variations as well, customer experience means and you know, if you take it up a level two experience management will, then you, it's a completely different kettle of fish.
The very first thing that I went about doing when we establish customer experiences as discipline within the group was establishing what we meant by customer experience and what was the core elements of achieving that news quite often in an organization, there'll be some corporate goals and corporate values, but people won't actually know what's required to achieve them. What does great look like? So whether you are a sales consultant on the floor of a dealership or the receptionist in the headquarters, everyone in the organization, the painstakingly at times, I'm sure knew what we meant by customer experience and knew what our principles were our customer experience principles. Ultimately led to a great series. One that was shareable, one that was worthy of the brand, and they were really simple, easy to understand you know?
You don't need to make things complicated. So when we've described what customer experiences, and then we first launche five customer experience principles, and you know, the simple. Was one of those, make it easy. You can say to someone makes things easy. And even if they don't necessarily know every element of the business in their own little way, in their own little role or B roll, whatever it might be, they can find ways to make it simpler for the customer right? And so it wasn't about putting billboards up and posters up. because that just becomes wallpaper.
It was about ensuring that these principles, these customer experience principles were embedded into every single conversation so that they became a way of working. I would handwrite and side note of things to about a dozen team members across the dealership network and the company each week for the first year saying, congratulations on making it easy for the customer or for communicating well, and that was about reinforcing the behaviours that. The mindset that we were trying to create now in the, in the first year, as you could imagine, budgets weren't slowing easily and also they actually, I think customer experience just like any other department have to find to justify the investment and they should also have a return on investment, but in that first year the problem is set out three quarters through a financial year so that alone created a budget channel, the challenge for everyone, but we immediately got to work.
So every time I hopped in front of an audience, it was, this is what we mean by customer experience. And here are the five customer experience principles. Every single data point that I talked about was linked back to one of those experience principles you know, one of the things that, people who have followed me will know is that a certain time and time again publicly is that those dealerships that's followed our customer experience objectives.
Our customer experience principles on average may double the profit of those dealerships that didn't, and there was no rocket science behind it. Yes, of course, we analyze the data of what customers were saying to us, but it's not like we had a dozen data centres. Crawling over the data years on end to come up with these five experienced muscles, myself and my two, two of my core team members sat down and came up with some, um, and then we reinforce those messages, making it really simple for everyone in the organization to understand what those were and rewarded that behavior.
And just, you know, as I said, painstakingly for audience members at times, I'm sure just keep kept reinforcing. And that led to or was the start of what I should say. One of the most significant improvements in customer experience that the Volkswagen group and specifically Volkswagen brand had had in Australia in, in the decade, a decade prior, I will since it's time in the country. In fact, so, you know, the first lesson for anyone listening is define what you mean by customers experience it doesn't have to be what everyone else is and just define what it means for your organization. And what are those three to five things that intuitively when people hear it, they'll understand and be able to take action on it so that they can move you forward to delivering a better experience?
I say we started with that but there were many programs that we ran over the years and about five years in, we did a refresh of all apps, core messages and it resulted in the Volkswagen way pocket card or the experience standards. Now, this was inspired by the logs of the Ritz Carlton group but even here it is a log account that fits perfectly in a wallet or a new pocket posting out of what is the Volkswagen difference? What is the three simple things that we expect every team member to do every time, great guide and show gratitude? And then what do we promise to our customers? Now we originally had five experience principles. And when we did the refresh, we summed that down into three promises. You know, we mentioned simple, we make it possible and we made it happen.
And the one thing that those three promises. All share in common is that they're deeply human and emotive. And why a promise as opposed to a principle? Well, you know, there are little principles in the wall that a lot of guides and rules and lots of people find greatness to grateful or just quite frankly break them right. But I'm unlikely. The human psyche is unlikely to break a promise that I've made to someone. So we wanted to take that, emotional human drivers and bedsores into the language that we're using when we're talking about customer experience. And really if we took that next step up, although I was the chief customer and marketing officer, and when I left, but ultimately.
Customer experience was just part of the broader experience management customer was my title. Our programs were very much focused on the employee experience, the brand experience and the product experience, because in actual fact, if you're not looking at all of those disciplines, then there's always going to be increased friction. And ultimately you want to remove friction and create moments of joy.
19:43 Glenn: Yeah and I love that the use of the promise because of the promises seminars is so much more than words on a wall you did mention about return and getting a return on these sorts of programs and measuring different aspects. How do you do that?
20:02 Jason: Well, I am a massive fan of making sure that customer experience or experience management professionals find a way to lead their activities to a commercial outcome. The reason I'm a fan of that is because from my experience, the more times you can speak to a CFO about your impact to the yellow line in a positive way, the more likely they are to give you money. I'm sure many of the listeners, I know myself has led teams that have been seen as a pure call centers and how difficult it is to get any investment whatsoever. And ultimately investment is always needed in every position. So there are a number of ways that we proved that return on investment. If I think about our context and it was also having a contact centre at the time. When I started, there was say 20 to 25 people. Let's start with 25 people in that contact centre, they had an average response time of somewhere in the order of 90 days. So no, Not award-winning performance is such the kind way to put it some great individuals. It absolutely was in the team, but what did they lack the lack of clear direction they lacked a system, that enabled efficient and I culture that enabled, resolving the problem, creating moments of joy versus just processing a transaction.
If I look at the investment in that, in that contact centre alone, new CRMs. new phones, new team member recruitment processes and new team members streamline process. The system name is up and anyone that's going out there in both Salesforce or any other CRM will know that we're talking about millions of dollars of investments in a contact centre. Now I can't recall the exact numbers but that team of 25. When I joined the organization was serving about 20,000 customer touchpoints a year. By the time I left that organization, the contact centre was serving over a hundred thousand customer touchpoints a year, still with 25 people and in addition to the increased efficiency, we stopped outsourcing our social media, community management and other activities.
You have to know every single opportunity. I have to talk about the commercial impacts of that investment. I told them if I take the dilution. So, you know, it was not uncommon in Australia for automotive manufacturers to track the profitability of dealerships and profitable dealership. Community is good for consumers and good for the brand. We simply overlaid on top of that. How are they performing against our customer and employee metrics? As far as I know, I'm still the only person in Australian history to mandate an employee experience survey of employees in dealerships of independent businesses that I have no direct control over, but we were able to get the commitment and the buy-in from the dealer community around that, because we had done the work in previous years around joining the dots between customer and employee experience.
And the power that had highly multiplying, efficiencies and ultimately profitability for the individual dealerships and at an individual level, their own performance packet by packet. If they're on the phone, I wasn't took away in that time. It's not all roses that I, depending on which side you look at it. But when I joined the company, they were paying out over $10 million a year in bonuses to dealers. I took those bonuses completely away. I'm paying someone to be nice to customers it just is bizarre and there's research by Forrester which actually showed that incentivizing a customer outcome-based are instead of hiring individuals, rather with a pay from, from a paid perspective, based on customer outcomes or an NPS score.
If you like, actually doesn't achieve anything because. Yeah, there is no intrinsic cultural driver to do the right thing and it just becomes the loss of money or agility or how to gain the system. Um, so, you know, I'm taking $10 million a year out of the, out of the business in, in bonuses is, you know, another way that I show commercial, benefits ultimately for the listeners. The side on what is that one customer metric that you were trying to hang your hat on? I'm a big fan of net promoter score, but that doesn't mean it's right for your organization. As many organizations, NPS is actually in my opinion, the wrong metric, but let's just say that same part of the school.
So to find that measured broadly. So I understand that NPS every department is possible and what is the, what is the commercial impact of when that NPS score improves? It's not perfect science in that model, but it's an easy model that you'll be able to access the data on and start time to conversation. And you will find that over time, you know, the CFO will get a lot more interested in, in opening the books. So to speak how to be linked to data and quite frankly, you shouldn't be scared of that yeah. If you're doing the right thing and are they improving the lives of your employees and your customers, the commercial, the dollars they come just need to always be conscious that you're not spending more than you're increasing.
26:18 Glenn: Absolutely good opportunity to fast-forward a little bit to the expert experience centre it sounds like I'm turning you into the car guy really seems like a mental progression. And I love this concept. Tell me a little bit about that and how you ended up getting involved in this.
26:42 Jason: Yeah. So carexpert.com.au is Australia's fastest-growing automotive media company founded by three individuals who had previously founded a company called car advice but car expert is a consumer-first media company that really is trying to deliver value beyond, beyond impressions and clicks. And that's really how the car experience kind of life for your listeners. The car experts experience centre is a physical space inside of a major retail mall where you can go and discover your next vehicle, touch play, learn about all the new technology, go on a test drive, but I'm not going to a dealership to people that you're speaking to can't sell you a car. So there is absolutely no pressure on you to buy. In fact, you can't buy cars because a car expert is not a retail.
Secondly, everyone that's employed there is employed by a car expert whose sole job is to help you decide. What's right for you. No, no sales target. Now we have to sell the blue car today because that's the one we've got in stock. No other colours are available forever a really comfortable environment for you to take your time. And it came out all, some research that the organization undertook that really spoke to the fact that consumers invest a lot of time in researching their next car purchase for many people, it's their second biggest purchase. Um, and of course, unlike a house that appreciates in value, that's usually not the case with a car so it's a big set for many people and many people here. Well, at least here in Australia, the average ownership cycle of a car is almost 10 years. So you're not, you're not buying something that you're going to replace in a year or two. So for many people, it's a big decision and because of the length of time to train the last purchase and the new purchase yeah, there's a lot of technology that's changed and terms that you might not understand. So we understood that. Well, people were doing much more research online. There was still a gap in the market and that gap in the market was this unbiased, physical experience that gave people confidence in this decision where quite often when you walk into a dealership and I understand why this would be the case that you're walking into a Volkswagen dealership, that would be extremely rare for Volkswagen sales consultants to say, I'm not going to sell you a car today because you actually should go and buy the Toyota just wouldn't be wouldn't happen, you know, I'm sure it could happen, but it's not the standard operating model.
So we wanted to create that safe zone, that space, if you like so that people could gain the confidence to make the decision that was right for them. And then introduced them to a dealer their right dealer, their closest dealer, the dealer that they trusted. If they want to do to make that purchase. I don't know about you guys, but when I was a kid, I was quite common as a mom and dad. When I was thinking about buying your car, that where you hop in the car, you would go to the end of the street and you'd walk the whole street and look at all the different brands.
Across the world that doesn't happen anywhere on average consumers go to less than two dealerships before they play order and when I say less than two, that the numbers are 1.2 dealership visits, 1.3 dealership visits. So. there remained that gap because they weren't going and actually touching and feeling and so the brands that participate in the experience and the benefits for them, they actually get to have their vehicles stand up against their direct competitors. And the reality is that while a Mitsubishi, for example, might not be the car for me. It's the car for other people and likewise, the cat that is for me say the Volkswagen.
Isn't the right car for other people. So by providing that really brand-agnostic sales-free environment, we deliver that confidence level that lets consumers make that next step faster than perhaps they would have just kept, kept going online. You know, I buy the latest technology that comes out all the time. I created an online sales platform at Volkswagen that delivered $36 million of revenue it's nine months I am absolutely pro-technology but there was just something about opening and shutting and door and hearing the thud seeing the size of the screen opening and closing the boot to see whether it would fit into your lifestyle.
How big is the coffee cup and how big is the coffee cup holders? Absolutely. Absolutely. And when you go online, you don't get those physical touchpoints. So the physical experiences, but you also can go down a rabbit hole that ultimately serve you. I recently bought a Tesla what a unique buying experience that is in the process of deciding to buy the test and I joined a number of Tesla owner pages on communities on Facebook. Well, I could've spent the next year? Just trying to decide who to listen to, you know, everyone's up there? Oh my gosh, this is the reason to buy. And everyone's got a very same reason as a reason not to buy. And whether it's Tesla or Mitsubishi or BMW or Ford, every brand has those raving fans and those perhaps purchases that aren't happy.
And, and so I think the easiest way to fast track to that confidence is the car expert experience and really delighted about what we're doing with some this year where we will be opening our next one in April or May and then very closely after that a second one will be opening up are out as well.
But who knows that they won't just be sticking around in Australia. We'll be taking the cards for the experiences further aboard because there is a genuine need from consumers, so that touch and feel in a safe, safe, confident building way.
33:31 Glenn: That it is absolutely fantastic. I really appreciate it. And before we wrap up, I think it's just a real opportunity. Thinking that those little extra grains of nuggets out of you in and around whether you were a seasoned customer experience professional, or whether you're starting off, what are some of the core tenants that you consistently talk about? because I know from my experience. And actually, you were referring to a little before. It's just that relentless communication in making sure that we follow through on what we say, what we were going to say, so you know, what, some of those cool things that you always recommend that we do when it comes to improving that experience, both of our customers and our employees.
34:20 Jason: Yeah. So the first thing I would say is get absolute clarity around what it is that you mean when you say customer experience and what success looks like and how to achieve that, you know making things simple, personable, delivering on promises. I make it simple three to five, three to five clear action statements that if team members either they intuitively know what to do, and if they do them, it will lead towards success or however you define customer experience.
The second thing is to define how you're going to measure your customer experience does not have to be a net promoter score or customer reference score, or it could be a combination, but define what it is and stick to it. One thing I find a lot is people saying, oh, well we've changed the metric because the metric wasn't improving, you're changing the wrong thing. The metric is not the problem. So let's define what it is by defining what customer experiences is and how the three to five things on how to achieve it, defined how to measure it and then the third step which if you're a small business owner or a BHP of the world you should be doing, and that's asking your customers how you performed, you know, I can remember when I started at target, I literally got out of my credit card and went to delighted.com and signed up, or a very simple survey, which was on a scale of zero to 10, the traditional NPS question.
And why did you give that score? That were the only questions I could ask on this platform. I had to manually upload an Excel spreadsheet every day to send out the surveys and the response rates We're okay, but they weren't a phenomenon. And of course, I've used enterprise-grade systems like Qualtrics, which I absolutely loved, but at the end of the day, every organization needs to be asking customers at least one question, how did we go today? And if you want to go for a second question, what would we do differently to make the day better and then do something with that data. And I don't mean do something with that data, in the most senior parts of the organization. Yes. They need to know the data. Absolutely. But every single call centre operator should know how he or she is improving the lives of customers every single day because knowledge enables them to improve things.
You know, if it's 10 things that they're not doing right. And they don't know about them, they've got zero chances of improving any of them. But if they know that there are 10 things that they're not doing right. And they start improving in just one area. Then over time though, it was improved all 10 and they won't be a problem anymore. So define what it is and define how you're going to measure it and then asked your consumers, you know, one to two questions is something wrong, to really understand how you're performing. And then the full thing is take action on what your consumer is saying I know that that sounds like absolutely. You know, simple obvious things but there are people that hold great titles in big organizations that get absolutely tied up on let's spend three years of collecting data and then taking action.
Well, you don't have the time to wait. Your competitors will eat you for breakfast every single day. You have a discipline of looking at what the data is telling you and make small steps to improve, to reduce those errors.
To genuinely create a culture that makes a difference to customers that wants to make a difference to customers and employees. And the final thing, if you don't know where to start, and if you have absolutely no idea of what to do, just ask your employees because every single day, they're getting feedback directly from consumers about what the consumer loves about your organization
38:37 Glenn: Yeah, absolutely fantastic advice and time and time again it amazes me that no matter how far up the food chain you go in the organization the fundamentals always hit home
38:53 Jason: Indeed. You know, one part is so and so for everyone listening well, I was at a Volkswagen we created three books. The first was called a hundred ways to wow. Now Macy's in the US created a hundred ways to deliver magic or the Macy's magic. It might've been called can't remember exact title, but in this book, A Hundred Ways To Wow and there's two other versions of it. There were literally statements on a page quite often say, well, make sure it's right. It's the right time to say goodbye asked if your customers have any requests or questions. First, nothing in this book is rocket science, but when you take the time to create it, and with intention, you give people a hundred pieces of advice or inspiration on how to deliver an experience and they get it wrong.
You can simply go up to them with your book and say can you tell me, you're telling me how did you tailor that experience for your consumer, how did you make it? How did you personalize degree? And you go from being this rule enforcing an individual to someone that's trying to foster a culture of continuous improvement and one of coaching and empowerment.
And the process. You also have something that's really great for just reinforcing what my company stands for. And every single day you have the hottest, you have a customer experience professional as is to constantly every age, deliver the same message. In a different way so that it gets heard
40:25 Glenn: And on that magical note we will wrap it up. We are going to put all your contact details in the show notes but so those that are just on audio, what's the best way for me to get in touch with you?
40:37 Jason: My website, jasonsbradshaw.com and I'm Jason S Bradshaw on all the popular channels, Twitter. LinkedIn Instagram, etc
40:49 Glenn: Fantastic, well you've got another avid follower now anyway Thanks so much. Love it, hey really appreciate it and looking forward to catching up again in the near future.
Where to find Jason:
If you want to understand your customer feedback better, talk to the team at Touchpoint Group.