Interview with Christophe Rauturier, Chief Digital Officer of Groupe PSA
The Digital Department, headed by Chief Digital Officer Christophe Rauturier, is setting the wheels in motion across the Group to accelerate this transformation.
Connected and autonomous vehicles, web and mobile applications, data collection and artificial intelligence – carmakers have gone into high gear to tackle the twists and turns of digital transformation.
How does the Digital Department collaborate with Groupe PSA’s different businesses?
Our mission is to facilitate the interaction of two worlds: the automobile, on the one hand, which demands high quality and clearly defined approval processes, and information technology (IT), on the other, which acts as a flexible instrument for launching projects quickly in test and learn mode.
In addition to implementing strategic digital projects for different Group departments, we encourage our teams to identify and relay the needs of users in the field, whether this means automating a manual task or developing an Internet of Things solution. For example, an employee recently suggested using GPS to locate all the forklifts in our factories in order to optimize their use. A preliminary test is underway using a simple smartphone and Wi-Fi connection.
Since the explosion of digital technology, our relationship with cars has changed radically. Carlos Tavares, Chairman of the Managing Board of Groupe PSA, constantly reaffirms the Group’s need to adapt. Does leveraging the large quantities of data that are accessible today make this process easier?
Yes, the data that connected vehicles collect is extremely valuable for enhancing the customer experience. We have had connected vehicles in our fleet for about 10 years already. The first solution to be introduced was the emergency call system, which enables the vehicle to contact emergency services in the event of a serious incident. Today vehicles gather data on distance travelled, driving speed, braking, fuel efficiency, etc. These data can be used to create new services, such as speed and route recommendations, traffic updates and why not even advice on other transport options to avoid areas where an incident has occurred. However, we need to comply with strict local data protection regulations, especially where geolocation is concerned. If customers consent to the processing of their data, the vast trove of knowledge about how they use their vehicle can be leveraged to develop a range of services to make driving easier.
Apart from data transmitted by vehicles, what other sources of data do you use to study customer behaviour?
We analyse the anonymous data generated by visitors to our brand websites. That way we can propose different models in our online configurator based on user clickstream data. We also regularly monitor the Internet and social media in general in order to detect weak points and anticipate quality issues. It’s also another way of staying close to our customers and making sure that we provide them with a consistent experience across all our points of contact.
Does data collection make it possible to personalise services based on usage, particularly with regard to connected services?
In the long term, the Group hopes to use the huge amount of data generated by connected vehicles to make product improvements based on usage. But we have to be clear-eyed about vehicle connectivity. We’re not talking about a phone, an object with a shelf life that rarely exceeds four years, but a vehicle that can take us on the motorway safely at 130 kilometres per hour. This is why we adhere to the highest safety and operating standards during the development phase of our vehicles. We need to be able to guarantee their reliability for a period of more than 10 years. Whatever the technology used – even if it’s digital – safety is not negotiable.
What about voice technology in cars?
Our vehicles already use it. I can already give a voice command to control certain vehicle functions or ask the car to turn on the air conditioning. In the future, voice control won’t be confined to automotive functions. And we will have to be able to answer the following question: “Hi Peugeot. Can you recommend a restaurant about an hour’s drive from here and make a reservation for me?” So, the question for automakers is whether to integrate voice assistant products currently on the market like Alexa, Google Assistant, Bixby, etc., or to upgrade in-car voice command technology so that it will be able to address future needs. One thing is certain: In the end, the customer will be the ultimate judge based on the application’s ease of use and the service offered.
The customer experience is also becoming more and more digitalised. How are you adapting to this change?
Just like services, the online customer experience needs to become more personalised.
Fewer customers are going to our showrooms. Ten years ago, customers would visit the car dealer three or four times before making a purchase. Today, they go only once, to complete the sale. Before that, they’ve done research online via our various platforms, special interest portals, forums, etc.
The last question is do you think it will be possible to buy a car online in the future?
Online sales experiments are taking place in the United Kingdom, Brazil, the Netherlands and France. For now, the best-selling models are special series cars that have already been fully configured. Going to the showroom continues to be a part of the customer journey, but this is likely to change in the future as car dealers seek to get closer to the customer, even if that means making home deliveries – just like any self-respecting e-commerce distributor!