Episode #146: Imagine… Better Traction for Your Customer Experience

Grad Conn

July 21, 20219 min read

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We talk a lot about experiences, but today is where the rubber meets the road. Literally. Continuing on our “Imagine” series, I look at a product that really hasn’t changed much in the last 70 years  — tires. They’re among the most important safety features of our cars, and they’re ripe for CX transformation. Because so much is riding on your tires.

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Okay, Part 2, Imagination. All right, welcome to the Unified CXM Experience. And I am Grad Conn, CXO at Sprinklr, and we are continuing our series on imagination. I love imagination. And I also love Imagine the song. You may say I’m a dreamer. But you know, I’m not the only one. And I hope someday you’ll join us. And the world will be one, bum, bum, bum, bum. Thank you, John Lennon. Alright, so, last time I was talking about digital transformation in the hotel business, and how happy they could make me. And now I want to talk about digital transformation in the tire business, and how happy they can make me in the tire business. So again, I’m going to talk about something that’s doable today.

This is my imagination for customer experience in the tire business. So I am assuming you all have had some experience with tires. But for those of you who may not know what a tire is, I’ll briefly describe it and talk a little bit about the category. So you understand where I’m going with this and then we’ll go from there. So tires are round rubber structures filled with air that go on steel rims, and then are attached to various vehicles to help those vehicles move. They leverage the invention of something called the wheel. And tires help wheels move over the ground without bumping and grinding you to death the way a carriage would. So tires were sort of first kind of popularized and invented in the 1920s when the Model T came out, but those were very thin. If you look at an older car, they’ll have three or four spare tires on the back of the car, they use them. They would literally go through three or four tires on a trip. Then steel-belted radials were invented in the 1960s – really transformed tires and tire technology. And well that’s about it, that’s kind of the history of tires. Still rubber, still filled with air, still go on a piece of steel attached to the car, still leveraging the wheel, and steel-belted radials are kind of like the last big innovation in tire technology.

There are minor innovations in terms of tread design. And there’s all sorts of little techie things around the thickness of the walls and stuff like that. But fundamentally, tires have remained unchanged for more than 50 years. So what could tires do better than they’re doing today. So let’s talk about tires in the context of a car. I’m just I’m looking at looking just to my right here, I’m sitting at my desk in our New York City Office. And I’m visiting New York for about two weeks right now. So I’m doing a few podcasts from here. And I’m just looking to my right, and I see an HP printer, I’m a big Hewlett Packard fan, always have been, I think I’ve only ever purchased Hewlett Packard printers, if I’m not mistaken. Also true, I did buy some Apple printers in the day when there were Apple printers. But once they stopped making Apple printers, I switched to HP. And I’ve been there ever since. And I’m very, very satisfied, very happy, And a very content HP user. So this little HP printer, I don’t know how much it was, maybe two, three hundred bucks, it’s not the highest end printer in the universe. And it’s relatively compact and small. And it’s one that I have in my office. It’s a compact printer. And I use it to print confidential documents. There was a fair amount of that stuff that flies around my world so I can print a confidential document here without having to worry about it being on the public printer out in the main area. And I can scan things, send things, and generally use it that way. And this little $300 device has got a sensor in it that tells it when the ink is getting low. And HP has an ink program, which allows them to refill the ink and they just mail me new ink. And the HP ink program is excellent. And I don’t really have to think about buying ink anymore because I always know when it’s running out and HP supplies me with more ink. So that’s the story of my HP printer. I’ll probably talk about printers again in the future. But right now our imagination exercise is for tires. Okay, how do you know you need to get new tires? Let’s think about that for a second. You don’t, right? What’s the most important safety device on your car? It’s not your tires. Still thinking?

The most important safety device in your car is your brakes. No brakes, no driving, bad brakes, bad driving. Your brakes are the most important thing on your car. Now what are the two determinants of brake performance? One, brake pads, we’ll come back to that later. And your tires. If your tires are low on tread, people sometimes call them bald tires (although I think that’s a bit discriminatory), then you’re not going to stop in time. And you’re going to collide with a vehicle in front of you, causing damage to that vehicle, your vehicle, potentially harming the occupants in both. But how do you know your tires are bald, you got to look at them. There are tire tread wear indicators built into all the tires. Or you can go to your local shop. And they can tell you, “Hey, your tires are getting thin or getting bald”. But most people don’t do that. Most people don’t think about it. And quite frankly, I think this is beginning to become a bigger problem. Because people don’t really think about maintaining their cars anymore. My first car was a fantastic car, I was so lucky. I was given a car when I went to college when I was 17. Now the unlucky part is I was given the car because I had destroyed my knees. So I couldn’t really walk very far. So the car was super handy. But it was really nice having a car all the way through college, although you would think I would have been able to pick up more girls as a result. I did not. It’s really amazing now that I actually think about it, I had a car in college.

And I want to relook that part of my life at some point in time. Anyway, so I had this car, and it was too small and drove everywhere in it. But I really didn’t take a trip in that car without checking the tires, checking the oil. Somehow, always, almost always refilling the oil (I had a can of oil in the back of the car), checking the windshield washer fluid, checking the radiator. I was all over that car. And I was maintaining and checking and managing that car like nobody’s business, and I was all over it. And today’s cars, people don’t do that anymore. People just get in their car and keep driving. I know people who’ve been driving in cars where the oil is gone, the engine light’s on, the engine’s got no oil, and they drive the car literally until the engine bursts into flames, the car’s consumed by fire. It’s amazing when you think about it, the way people treat their vehicles, but they just don’t think about it. They think about these vehicles almost as these autonomous units that don’t need any repair or fixing or maintenance. And the tires are getting caught up in that general ignorance around the car.

So why don’t tire manufacturers put RFID devices in the tires that are activated when they start to hit the pavement, and they start to hit the pavement when the tire wears out. And then the RFID device is exposed. And as soon as it hits the pavement, it sends off a notice and then you have automatic tire replacement. Why can’t tires be a service? It’s like the most important part of your car. It’s the only part of your car in the ideal scenario that touches the road. I mean, there are obviously scenarios where other parts of the car could touch the road. But those aren’t good scenarios. Okay, so in in most of the scenarios, the only part of the car touching the road is the tire. And not much of your tire touches the road. If you think about it, that’s just a square because a tire’s round. So that square could be, say, six by eight inches, six by six inches. So you’ve got essentially four little six by six inch, so you have maybe roughly two feet of total surface area on the ground. And your life depends on that. Would you not sign up for a service to maintain that at optimal operating conditions? I would. Lots of people would. There was a great Michelin campaign from many years ago. I loved it. It was one of my favorite campaigns. And I think it ran from about 1985 to around 2002. I think it ran in the US. I know it ran in Canada. And their selling line was: ‘Michelin, because so much is riding on your tires’. I love that and they would have a visual which initially a baby sitting beside a tire and ultimately the campaign evolved to having a baby inside the tire and actually moving around. It was very cool. Like a ride. Why wouldn’t Michelin do this? Because, yeah, my family’s life is riding on your tires. Why are you not running tire as a service? Why are you not telling me that my tires need to be replaced? And wouldn’t it be cool if you did this because wouldn’t I be more likely to replace my tires with Michelin tires? The first manufacturer and the tire industry to do this is going to get an unfair competitive advantage because it’s such a good idea and it’s so obvious and that is my imagine exercise for today. For the CXM Experience, I’m Grad Conn, CXO at Sprinklr and I will see you …. next time.

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