Competition is a driving force behind many new OEM offerings, encompassing everything from the desire to stand out from the crowd with the latest model, innovative technology, or adding a new feature for surprise and delight. However, being in such a competitive landscape means many OEMs are feeling the pressure to meet rising customer expectations.

Companies such as Infinum, a digital transformation consultant that specialises in the automotive industry, work with companies such as Porsche early in the product development process to empower designers to exceed customers’ expectations.

Working with Infinum, Porsche became the first manufacturer to support Apple CarPlay, integrating vehicle functions with its standard features (navigation, calls/messages, music, car unlocking), to transform the user experience. 

We spoke to Jonathan Boakes, managing director, Infinum, to learn more about how OEMs can meet or exceed customer satisfaction.

Jonathan Boakes

Just Auto (JA): Could you tell me a little bit about the company?

Jonathan Boakes (JB): Infinum as a business is roughly twenty years old. About five years ago we started working with Porsche. That then led to what we have now, which is a joint venture that has been up and running for about three years.

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We make digital products to cover three main areas: mobility, health and finance. These are three  core areas, but the mobility element has always been particularly interesting for us.

If you think about the joint venture, from our point of view, it’s about taking the very best of business practice, car manufacturing and everything else from the Porsche side, and then everything that we’ve learned, as practitioners about software development, user interfaces – then asking what makes a solution that works? By fusing these two areas together, this joint venture has allowed us to deliver highly successful outcomes.

How can technology be used to boost customer satisfaction?

I’m in Portugal now and I’m using a hire car – the experience itself is telling me something. The way the infotainment is set-up means it feels antiquated and a bit clunky.

There’s no feedback. It doesn’t tell you if you’ve been successful with the action you’re trying to do;  there’s no haptic feel to it.

Primarily what I want to be doing is driving with no stress and some enjoyment if possible. That’s the main focus and other aspects of the experience should not distract from that core activity.

Jaguar Land Rover and Porsche are two OEMs that are clearly doing something right. Such OEMs have been working on their in-car systems for a long time, perfecting them – but carefully. They have also typically partnered with experts or consultants, and they’ve brought together different elements and knowledge to produce a better solution. There are others that have not followed that inclusive path to get the best solutions.

Look at this way. Everybody is so used to the operating system on their phone via Android or Apple – and the car should just be a reflection or conceptual extension of that intuitive style of approach, in my opinion. Unfortunately, some executions appear to include many features that I would consider unnecessary. They overcomplicate that landscape and essential interface with the driver; it can quickly become less user-friendly.

Jaguar Land Rover and Porsche are two OEMs that are clearly doing something right.

If you look back at how cell phones were just ten years ago, you’d be laughing at what they look like now. So customer expectation is the thing that is the biggest driver and therefore understanding that is absolutely key. I think what we’ve done by following the framework that we’ve used, or created alongside the rest of the industry, is to ensure that we are speaking with users or end users throughout the entire lifecycle to market. It goes from concept stage, the different design stages, testing stages, and it’s about consistency and ensuring the features are what users want to use, can use and will use.

The other big step forward is over the air updates. The car is increasingly going to be updated over the air through its life. I think what that means is that there are going to be apps or features that perhaps might go through some of the way through development, but then might not make the final cut because then things have moved on and they’re just not needed.

I think that more dynamic approach to what people will want and changing needs will benefit the end user.

Why should innovation be boosting customer satisfaction, how can OEMs achieve this?

It’s about really having a deep understanding of what the customer is doing and how that is changing. A car used to be mainly about getting from A to B, but we’re seeing people are using their vehicles as mobile offices or an extension of home, with all the associated social interactions and communication requirements.

I have been on calls with people, and I say: “Oh, you’re in your car.” They reply: “Yeah, I’m in my car, my car office.” They’re using their vehicle in that way. If that’s the case, then great and you should then allow associated kinds of features to be used in that situation.

There are lots of different ways that people are using vehicles, it’s just about making sure that we have a full understanding of that and where it is going.

Another question in the future is going to be: how can I ensure my car – as an asset – will work for me? We’re already starting to see some of these features with 5G wireless connectivity systems where you can allow people to use your car when you are not.

There are lots of different ways that people are using vehicles, it’s just about making sure that we have a full understanding of that and where it is going.

You could park up at your office, for example, and if you’re not using the car for the rest of the day, you could allow other people to use it. You can then start to take advantage of your automotive asset, work it harder; it becomes almost ‘automotive as a service’ or something along those lines. I think that’s going to be something that people will want to explore – not everybody all the time – but these are the sorts of things to consider that will become more important in the future.

What do you predict for the technology design space?

In terms of the entertainment systems, if Ford and GM and others are going to get on the Android Automotive OS, and a few others, then I think we’re going to start to see a better approach to a level of interoperability between the different car manufacturers.

If I’m hopping from one car to another, I’m then going to get the same look and feel; I think that will be increasingly demanded. I also think the idea of autonomous driving is something that is going to continue to be explored. Then that is going to throw up the idea of, ‘I’m getting back time’, so it’s a case of how can I now use that time more efficiently? Therefore, that’s then going to change what I’m going to demand from my entertainment system.

Further, if I’m using my car to allow other people to use the 5G wireless connectivity system as part of their own connectivity, I can potentially earn off those sorts of things. These are areas that I think are super interesting, and we’re going to see many interesting developments ahead.