In the 2013 J.D. Power Initial Quality Study, General Motors was named the best automaker in the world for initial quality. Eight of its models placed first in their respective categories. There are reasons General Motors is getting better numbers and one of them is Alicia Boler-Davis and her team.
It’s been a concentrated effort behind the revival of General Motors and Alicia Boler-Davis’ group. Boler-Davis is the senior vice president of Global Quality and Global Customer Experience. Boler-Davis reports directly to General Motor’s president Dan Akerson. This expands her customer experience role from a U.S. position to a global position that includes quality and customer experience.
Boler-Davis is 44-years old. When she sits down to dinner I find out that previously she was a plant manager at Orion Assembly and Pontiac Stamping plants in Michigan. I ask her if she ever takes the time to reflect on how far she has come in her career. She sloughs off the question, but I ask again. She stops. Her face transforms as she tells me, “My Father has always told me that I should stop on my birthday and reflect on my life for the past year.” There’s a lot to reflect on this year.
Boler-Davis is present in the conversation. The moment that she was going to be corporate has passed. This is a woman that is reflecting on not just how far she has come, but the changes she, and her team she notes, has made that is going to take that U.S. position to a global level.
“It’s all about connecting with the customer, she notes, “if the customer is still calling us they still believe.” Boler-Davis’ team has increased every aspect of connection they have available, “we have rebalanced our resources to meet the demands of the way people communicate. We’ve always had a complaint department with call centers, but there are people that don’t want to call, they would rather chat online. On everyone of our company websites, whether it’s www.buick.com or www.gm.com we have a box that comes up and says, would you like to chat with a representative?”
Boler-Davis benchmarked other companies that had good customer experience including Disneyland, which has a 75% loyalty rating. Analytics plays an important part in deciphering the major complaints, but also in designing new ways to make the customer more comfortable with their car experience, “we now have cameras in the service area so that a customer can see their car being worked on and where it is in the line. We have boards in the service area that will tell your last name and how long before the car is finished. We can also tell you the estimated cost before the car is worked on.”
Some of these things are natural to you and me. When I order a product online if I have a question I click the chat button and get help instantly. Once I order that product I can follow it with a tracking order all the way to my house.
Integrating quality into customer experience makes sense, “One of the things I like best about my role is that it goes all the way from design to the product. Sixty-five percent of car owners spend an average of 7 hours per week from home to work. Lighting and fabric are similar to home decorations. We have to know what they don’t know what they want even though it may not be verbally expressed. I may not know that I want a watch, but I know I want to know what time it is.”
Boler-Davis’ team is implementing these procedures around the world. The cool part about this is that General Motors will be able to implement many of these procedures into countries now and as General Motors starts selling cars in new regions and other developing countries.
Alicia Boler-Davis is a good example of “don’t mistake kindness for weakness”. By the end of the dinner with the journalist she has worked the table. She can tell you which of us have babies at home, which of us likes to shop online, which of us likes to read murder mysteries. What’s impressive is that she did it without asking us. It’s the talent that works for her on a personal and professional level.