Andrew Beale is Head of Customer Relations at Mazda Motors. We catch up with him to ask him about his experience within he industry and his views on the past, present and future of contact centres.
Can you tell us a bit about your career so far and how you arrived in your current role?
I joined the motor industry in 1990 as a trainee Parts Advisor for a Honda dealer, 7 years later having also worked for a Volvo dealership I was then working for a BMW dealer as a Service Advisor. 3 years on I joined Mazda UK and have been here ever since. I’ve had various roles both in the office and Regional based touching sale and marketing areas, I completed a full circle of the business back into the sharp end looking after and hopefully delighting Customers now looking after our Customer Services Operation. I led a huge transformation bringing all outsourced customer operations in-house and to date it’s done exactly what I stated on the tin! At Mazda we pride ourselves in customer care and strive to ensure our customers needs are addressed as best as possible.
Tell us about Mazda and what the company does
Predominantly we make cars, Mazda is a global Japanese car maker and still today we keep much of production close to our main home in Hiroshima, Japan. There is a true challenger spirit culture in Japan that spans back decades and we focus on making fun to drive cars. We are not a mass volume Brand like Ford or Vauxhall for example, we believe being nimble and focused allows us to deliver a great experience. We want customers to experience pure driving enjoyment in the cars we make, we call this Jinba Ittai, which encapsulates ‘oneness’.
What has been the company’s greatest success?
Keeping our cars fun to drive. When you drive a Mazda, you never drive alone, car and driver in perfect harmony. We’ve focused on maintaining power in our engines and not just efficiency like other brands, at Mazda you can have both to ensure our cars remain exciting.
What does the future hold for Mazda?
Much of the above, our 6th generation product range has a real premium essence and paths the way for the next generation product not too far away.
How has the contact centre industry changed since you’ve been involved in it?
We’ve seen more direct contact in the last few years with the growth of social media and other contact channels. We have become more of an experience centre than assistance centre and the reason why we wanted to ensure we have Mazda people at the end of the phone who drive, believe and experience the Mazda brand on a day to day basis. Technology in our view does not necessarily reduce headcount, in fact we believe in doing right and being accessible in a multitude of channels will increase our headcount going forward to do it right.
What do you think is the greatest challenge faced by the industry today?
Expectation is by far the biggest differentiator, customers are far less loyal for a number of reasons, people want to try different things and have the latest tech, so creating customer loyalty is by far the biggest challenge and ensuring there are many reasons for customers to return to us in the services and experiences we offer.
What does the future hold for the industry?
The connected and autonomous car is the next challenge for our industry specifically and how we interact with the customer.
Which companies do you admire and why?
To be honest I have quite a high customer service expectation and for me it comes down to how they treat you, even some of the iconic brands such as Mini or Apple have great products, but limit the personal interaction through automation or self-serve. I can see the benefits of both. I don’t have any one particular brand that has a combination of Great product, great, great customer care and great loyalty offers .
If there were one piece of advice you could give to contact centre professionals reading this, what would it be?
Keeps things simple, reduce the rules and the trust will come. We recruited for attitude and not always skill as this can be taught.
What do you do for fun?
Well, having two young boys getting outdoors as much as possible with various sports and activities to try and get them away from sitting in front of the computer!