By Alan Joch
By most economic measures, the automobile industry in Turkey is in high gear. In 2017 the alliances Turkey has formed with international auto manufacturers produced 1.75 million vehicles, a 14% increase over 2016’s record output, according to a Turkish auto association. A healthy economy and rising per-capita income point to continued production increases to meet demand from local and export customers, according to Control Risks, a consulting firm.
None of this is a surprise to Groupe Renault, the French auto company whose roots in Turkey go back to 1968. That’s when it joined forces with one of the biggest Turkish conglomerates, Group Oyak, to create Renault-MAIS, which has been manufacturing and selling cars and light trucks ever since. But hot markets such as Turkey’s attract competitors looking to cash in as well, and Renault-MAIS' senior executives understand that they must work harder than ever to maintain the company’s status as a market leader in a global digital economy. “To compete successfully, we must excel in two areas: delivering customer experience and achieving continuous innovation,” says Oguzhan Yildiz, chief information officer at Renault-MAIS.
Yildiz and his staff also realized that excellence in these areas required fundamental changes in both the company’s technology underpinnings and its corporate culture. Most notably, this meant a new way of thinking and new tools for producing mobile applications and services. In the past, the primary way customers interacted with the company was by visiting dealer showrooms. Now the initial point of contact is likely to be via mobile apps for customers considering a new car or service. “That means we must provide a perfect digital journey in our mobile engagements,” Yildiz says.
To compete successfully, we must excel in two areas: delivering customer experience and achieving continuous innovation.”–Oguzhan Yildiz, CIO, Renault-MAIS
With the help of Oracle and Smartface, a young mobile technology company based in Silicon Valley, the Renault-MAIS team has a plan for doing just that.
An App for Those in Need
Creating high-quality customer experience is essential for business success today. Large ecommerce sites that compete by trying to offer frictionless experiences are raising the expectations of customers as they interact with companies throughout their business and personal lives. The stakes are high: frictionless experiences promote loyalty and follow-on business, and glitches may quickly send customers to competitors. For example, more than two-thirds of marketing professionals now say they compete mostly through customer experience, according to Gartner. By next year, Gartner analysts expect, 81% of marketers will feel that way.
Understanding that smartphones and tablets are the platforms of choice for all steps in today’s digital journeys, Renault-MAIS officials set their focus on developing a suite of mobile apps, beginning with a new one for roadside service. Drivers use the software to launch a digital process that alerts Renault-MAIS call center reps about a problem, and GPS coordinates on the customer’s phone and in the rolling service vehicles quickly identify the nearest available technician who can drive to the scene. The motorist checks a map in the app to see where the technician is coming from and the expected arrival time. Initial testing of the app, slated for widespread release by the end of 2018, is already garnering enthusiastic feedback. For example, in one recent case, the app and location resources had a service tech at a customer’s car within five minutes. “We met our goal of providing excellent customer experience,” Yildiz says.
An added benefit is that service managers can use data about response and problem-resolution times to identify bottlenecks or other problems whose elimination will improve customer experiences, Yildiz says.
Moreover, roadside assistance is not the only feature of the app, which can be classified as a “Service 4.0” application —an extension of the Industry 4.0 approach being adopted in Renault-MAIS. With this app, the customers can handle all service interactions on the go—service appointments, maintenance and service history, and even things like self-service problem-solving.
Yildiz says the mobile project is delivering a variety of tangible benefits. Customer experience rates have improved, productivity has risen, and dealer interactions have been streamlined. The initiative is also garnering industry awards, including Best SaaS Project of the Year honors in Turkey from IDC.
Based on successes such as these, the Renault-MAIS staff is planning a steady stream of new mobile apps—some for customers and others for staff members. For example, the IT staff is planning mobile apps to modernize order management system and human resources applications.
A Foundation to Build On
Two components are at the core of Renault-MAIS’ new technology foundation. Oracle Mobile Cloud Service provides tools for developing mobile APIs, security capabilities, and services for connecting mobile apps to back-end enterprise applications. Smartface Cloud offers a development and lifecycle management platform for mobile applications. “Together, these cloud services give us the capabilities we need in order to integrate our various back-end services and databases to enable the kinds of mobile applications we want to build,” Yildiz says.
The technical staff also used Oracle SOA Suite for web services whose service-oriented architecture combines information from various databases and GPS resources. For example, information from Renault-MAIS’ existing Oracle E-Business Suite database now flows to the mobile environment. By making this ERP data readily available, the company enables customers to see their purchase histories and their car’s service records in the mobile app. The developers also integrated the company’s CRM and ERP databases so the marketing staff can produce targeted, highly customized communications and promotional campaigns. “People receive information of interest to them, based on their previous experiences,” says Doga Deniz Guclu, technical product owner and project manager for the mobile initiative at Renault-MAIS.
The integrated platforms also enable company members to track the digital journeys of customers, from their early product research on Renault-MAIS websites to interactions with dealers and ultimately to scheduling service for their vehicles.
The technological underpinning wasn’t the only area to change. Working with Smartface, Renault-MAIS staff members created a new development process designed to produce customer-oriented products and services. The team used a methodology known as design thinking, which represents a shift in how Renault-MAIS employees approach their work. “In the past, when we created solutions in IT, we didn’t always have much detail about what customers were experiencing or the problems they were facing,” Yildiz says. “We had to rely on feedback we were receiving informally.”
With design thinking, also known as human-centered design, developers use role-playing, customer data, and interviews to better understand what end users want from products and services. These insights help companies create solutions that better fit customer needs than when developers use gut feeling to guess what people want. The results can range from easy-to-use and convenient mobile apps, such as Renault-MAIS’ roadside assistance software, to more-informative websites and smoother interactions with call centers.
“It is critical to be user-centric when creating successful mobile apps,” says Burak Gül, customer success and operations director at Smartface. “Even a slight flaw in an app makes it difficult to use. Design thinking enables developers and business teams to get in the users’ shoes so they can avoid flaws that harm user experience.”
Renault-MAIS’ leaders developed a long list of criteria to guide them in their selection of mobile platforms. “Finding the right technical capabilities wasn’t our only priority,” Yildiz says.
“We have extensive in-house expertise for developing business applications; we needed additional skills.”
For example, prior to this project the Renault-MAIS IT staff had limited experience developing mobile and web applications. In addition to filling this gap, the CIO wanted to find vendors willing to collaborate in partnership with Renault-MAIS to develop the mobile strategy. Even before making their vendor decisions, the executives had decided to work with a young company such as Smartface. “We wanted to learn to work like a startup in terms of new ideas and agility, and Smartface helped us do that,” Guclu says.
“We consider ourselves a close partner of the enterprises we work with,” says Gül. “Companies need a fresh perspective for mobility. We supported Renault-MAIS throughout the project and helped them shift to a mobile mindset. And in the process they gained an agile culture where each mobile project advances in quick development cycles.”
The mobile initiative leaned heavily on multidisciplinary teams: Renault-MAIS’ internal IT staff provides auto industry and corporate IT insights to complement the Smartface crew’s mobile expertise. Oracle delivered enterprise experience and technical resources for global back-end services. “Each of the companies—Renault-MAIS, Smartface, and Oracle—offered knowledge that added to everything we did,” says Osman Celik, cofounder of Smartface. “And because of that, we were able to all learn together.”
People receive information of interest to them, based on their previous experiences.”–Doga Deniz Guclu, Technical Product Owner and Project Manager, Renault-MAIS
A combination of up-front planning and help from outside partners delivered significant results. Rather than just producing a one-off app, the Renault-MAIS staff assembled a modern technology foundation and a repeatable development process that will make it easier to create new mobile apps as additional business opportunities emerge.
What lessons did the team learn during the IT modernization and mind-shift for producing better customer experiences? Capitalize on collaborative, team-oriented processes that combine people from multiple business and technical disciplines, and bring in third parties when additional expertise is needed, Yildiz says.
“Working with Smartface, we were able to shift our focus to a mobile orientation and put that into practice through design thinking and agile practices,” he says. “And we did all of that with an enterprise-class foundation, thanks to Oracle.”
Photography by Ali Kabas/Studio at Getty Images for Oracle