You may recall we talked about Toyota in an earlier post about their impressive use of cloud services to drive back-office transformation. We’d like to shift gears (pun intended) to the front-office to talk about how Toyota is using cloud to transform the customer service experience and how it engages with its customers.
Toyota’s vision for next generation customer service is built on the idea of creating a private social network for car owners, dealers and Toyota service agents. This private network is actually based on three different cloud platforms:
Telematics platform – the first component is a cloud-based telematics platform based on Microsoft’s Azure PaaS environment. The platform combines data from GPS systems, energy management and other monitoring applications that provide raw data on vehicle location and performance. The concept is being introduced in with Prius and other Toyota electric vehicles (EVs) and hybrids. The reason for the initial focus on EVs? To make it clear to the car owner how much battery time is left, and how far it is to the next charging station. As shown by the recent dustup between Tesla and the New York Times, this is a non-trivial issue for EVs.
Toyota “Friend” network – the second big component is the Toyota Friend network developed using Chatter. With Friend car owners can create profiles and join a community of broader Toyota car owners, experts and dealers, which has particular value for EV owners. Profile pages can also capture car ownership and service histories, and also track current information about cars through integration with the Azure telematics platform. Car owners will be able to track and selectively share streaming information including:
- Vehicle location
- Fuel level or battery charge (for EVs)
- Vehicle status, indicators and warnings
With the Friend network, Toyota also offers a Chatter-base iPhone app that provides car owners the ability to access online video self-help manuals, replacing the 300 page book that everyone always gets with a new car but never uses. The iPhone app also lets owners access all the information above around location, service history and vehicle status.
Service agent environment – the final component is based on Salesforce.com’s Service Cloud, which integrates the Service Agent into the Toyota Friend network. Vehicle information from the telematics platform and data from the car owner’s Toyota Friend profile can be integrated into Salesforce’s sales agent app, which creates some really interesting synergies. Imagine when a vehicle develops a wheel alignment issue. The vehicle, as it’s part of the Toyota Friend network, can itself “tweet” or indicate to the owner that an issue has come up. In addition to notifying the car owner, the notification can create an incident in a Service Agent’s queue, either at Toyota or for the local dealer. The service agent can proactively reach out to schedule a service appointment, or for simpler issues forward the car owner a link to a video or guide explaining how to fix the issue.
The network is still being deployed in Japan, so there aren’t any real results to point to yet. But presuming car owners can get comfortable with some of the data privacy implications (e.g., sharing of geolocation data), it’s clear to see how this platform can transform not just service, but Toyota’s broader customer engagement model. We haven’t touched on sales, marketing and product management, but it doesn’t take that much of a leap to see how Toyota could further leverage the data and insights from this next-generation service model. It’s been quite awhile since anything close to transformation has hit the automotive industry, particularly around sales and support. It’ll be interesting to see if Toyota can make it happen with the cloud.