CMO Insights: Julie Roehm, Chief Experience Officer and CMO, ABRA Auto Body and Glass

cmo insights

January 29, 2019

CMO Insights: Julie Roehm, Chief Experience Officer and CMO, ABRA Auto Body and Glass

This week’s guest on CMO Insights is Julie Roehm, Chief Experience Officer and CMO at ABRA Auto Body and Glass.

In this video, Julie talks about:

  • What makes a great customer experience – making it personal instead of generic
  • Mapping the customer journey in the collision industry
  • The future of driving (and marketing) and what it means for ABRA’s customers

Learn more about Julie from her LinkedIn profile and follow ABRA on Twitter.

For more great CMO interviews like this one, please check out our other CMO Insights Videos or our YouTube channel.

Full Transcript

Jeff Pedowitz:

Hi, welcome to Revenue Marketing Television, the CMO Insights Series. I’m your host, Jeff Pedowitz,  President and CEO of The Pedowitz Group. Today as our guest, We have Julie Roehm, who is Chief Experience Officer and Chief Marketing Officer for ABRA Auto Body and Glass. Julie, welcome to the show.

Julie Roehm:

Thank you, Jeff fun to be here. At the beginning of football season, so.

Jeff Pedowitz:

Yeah, our actually our high school team is hosting a big tournament this weekend for the first time and it’s going to be an ESPN, which is like really wow. The freedom, the freedom bowl. So, yeah. So very exciting. So I I love your title because I just, that not just the CML part, which is great, but the customer experience officer part. So tell me what makes a great customer experience.

Julie Roehm:

Wow. Well, I mean a great customer experience, I think first and foremost is personal. So customer experience, just kind of everything we do, marketing experience, these are big general generic words. And the point of, I think all of it marketing and experience included actually is to make it as personal as possible for every single consumer. I think, you know, it’s, doesn’t need to be said, but in the digital age, people get that they get what they want. They have their own Instagram pages and, you know, Pinterest and things are very bespoke for each and every person. And so they, they kind of tolerate us in business when we genericize the experience. So our quest is to constantly drill down and make every experience personal to that individual, with the, what they need, how they need it when they need it.

Jeff Pedowitz:

Do you think it’s harder today to do that to deliver personalized experiences?

Julie Roehm:

I think it’s harder because the expectations are higher. So I think there are more tools at hand that actually allow us to give a greater personal experience today than we would have, you know, 20 years ago, 15 years ago. But the expectations now are much higher than they were then. So I think if we’d had today’s tools and expectations from 15 years ago, we’d all be doing much. We’d be much more successful, but that’s not okay.

Jeff Pedowitz:

It’s not how it works. You know, one of the things I love about you and your background is you’re one of the fewer CMOs that have I’ve gone back and forth pretty effortlessly between B to C and B to B. Cause I think before this, you were over at, you were at SAP, right?

Julie Roehm:

I was right. I was at SAP, so yeah, it’s my, my career trajectory has been to your point it’s, it’s been non traditional is probably the best way to put it. So engineering from Purdue which of course naturally led to the marketing degree at the university of Chicago. So for business school no, actually I went to business school thinking I’d be finance and just ended up with strategy and marketing. And I think, you know, from there I went to Ford motor company and I think the, the value and this was in the mid nineties. Yikes. but I think the value

Jeff Pedowitz:

I’m right there with you, so it’s okay. It’s all right.

Julie Roehm:

Oh right. I looked to see those 25 and 30 year reunion things you’re like, who are they talking about? So, but the, the value of the experience, I think both from an engineering perspective and from even having marketing and strategy at a very quantitatively focused school, like university of Chicago is that my bent was always towards more of a quantitative turn for marketing. And so it was a good timing mid nineties towards the late nineties was, you know, the internet was, was really became of age and like 1993, they think the first internet ad was in 1994 Ford motor company launched the Ford focus in 1999. It was the first time we launched it in the States and spent 10% of our, our ad budget on digital. And it was, you know, it was super revolutionary then. So, you know, moving, moving from there kind of always had a love for this kind of this digital, this because of the experience I think because it was unique, but also because of the quantitative ability to be able to get more real time feedback.

I mean, it’s nice to be able to build a great TV ad and believe me, I built many of those in my careers and you see this career and you sit back and you watch it, you know, the Superbowl with friends and you get feedback from the eight people in the room, but you know, you can wait for the USA today thing the next day or whatever people are going to say, and it’s still very subjective. And that’s why I think, you know, obviously we all have digital has grown the way it has is because you get that real time feedback, the ability to quickly optimize. And so from, from Ford going to Chrysler basically ran the marketing for Chrysler, Jeep and Dodge for a few years over there was able to in the early two thousands to can take that and, and really kind of hone my understanding of it.

You’re constantly learning because every day there’s something new so that you never, in my, my perspective, I don’t think you can ever become an expert because there’s just something new to learn. So it’s, it’s kind of the sponge mentality if you want to be in this business. But I think the part that, you know, that I try to take from that strong B to C business is the realization of how you have to put yourself in the consumer seat and try to deliver to them versus delivering what you need is a company. You have to find that happy medium, of course. But I think that was, that was a beneficial experience for me from there was at Walmart for just under a year as VP of marketing there, the retail world was a really a slightly different twist on auto retail. So it was, you know, much more fast paced every day to day.

It was decisions of how people were making the decision in the, in the shopping, in the shopping cart, in the aisle at the end cap and, you know, the test we would do and with P and G and some of these really great brands that are expert at understanding what is the emotional connection from there? I had my own business for five years consulting to a myriad of companies from big banks, like credit Suisse to Whirlpool, to sports illustrated magazine, then a lot of middle and small sized MarTech companies as well. And then to your point, my, my last before coming here to Alberta, my last gig was chief storyteller, which is another fun title over at SAP. So where I was working for the CEO there, bill McDermott, great guy wonderful vision asked me to come in and, and with the chief storyteller title help to figure out a way to to figure out how to make the software that we sold 15,000, 75,000 skews. 

I mean, lots and lots of skews that are available at any one time, depending on, you know, your role in the company, HR ops finance, to make it feel like you were speaking their language as from a customer’s perspective, because we were really good at telling you about what the software did, how it worked. You know, we were great at white papers, but if you weren’t attacky, you know, if you weren’t an it, or if you weren’t the CIO, some of that could have felt a little intimidating and it didn’t necessarily help to relate to you in terms of your job needs, how this was going to help. And so that was the job I had was to try to create ways to make what we did very relatable to every different, every job in the, in the company and with examples. And we use a lot of our own customers telling their own stories and their words made it very searchable.

So we didn’t have to be the ones presenting it to the customer. The customer could find this on their own. So that was again, a slightly different way to think about creating experience for customers. And that was in a B2B setting, but taking a lot of the B to C principles that existed, which is that personalization, letting people kind of mix and match industry geography, you know, the job title, the, you know, the kind of software I was looking for, they could mix and match on their own and, and kind of figure things out for themselves. And then have a have an experience with us. So we created a lot of actual physical experiences as well. And, and it was just, it was a really interesting way to try to find the melding of the two. It was during, towards the last of the five years I was there where this opportunity for Amber came up one of my dear friends from back in the auto days, early on, she and I had worked together both at Ford and Chrysler.

She had been on a board of directors while I was at SAP. I was, I mean, she, I had been on one of her boards as a board of director while I was at SAP. We sold that company. And she was sought after quickly as a successful women CEOs who transform startups and sell those successfully R and a so Hellman and Friedman, who is the private equity owner for Avar body reached out and said, Hey, we’d like you to come and, and help to take this company to the next level. So she came and as we like to say, you get the band back together. So you kind of pick the best of the best people who’ve been there done that and brought us all in to do something which I think is extraordinarily exciting. Though many people might not understand how sexy and exciting the auto collision business really is, especially compared to these other companies I worked for, but it is a, it actually is because it’s, it’s one of those companies, it was our CEO.

Julie Roehm:

His name is Andy Mendozi. And when we spoke the first time, I said, this is going to be a Harvard business case when we’re through with it, because here we are in the year, it was last year, 2017. And I can’t think of another industry as big as ours. And I’ll give you a little statistics, but we’re $40 billion industry in the U S collision. I’m as big as this, that has basically not gone through a consolidation nor a digital transformation both in terms of operations, but also experience for the customer. It’s basically, do you think about when you get in a car accident today your differences in terms of your experience today versus 20 years ago, is that today you’ve got a cell phone, so you can call your insurance carrier right away and you call the police to come and, you know, you get things moving quickly, whereas you would have 20 years ago, maybe unless you had a brick phone, you know, had to wait which I did.

But he had to wait to flag somebody down. So other than that, you know, you, you got to talk to them, the agent they’ve got to recommend, you know, some collision shops, two, you choose one, they give you the number you call that collision shop. You’ve got to have the adjuster come to your house, you’ve got to call and make an appointment with him to show up, to give you an estimate. Then you gotta call and work with the shop. And that look, it’s all extraordinarily manual. It’s exactly the same way. And so for me, it was a super exciting from a, an experience of a marketer to see that component and be like, wow, if we could just really map the customer journey and understand that we could really deliver something special. So that’s where we are today. Just to give you a little context the industries I mentioned is a $40 billion industry just in the U S we at Abra are not crazy who would think, right? I’ve totally. So we’re about a billion dollar company. There are four they’re called MSOE multi-shot

Jeff Pedowitz:

We have two teenage drivers and another one coming. So I’m probably wanting to going to be one of your best customers.

Julie Roehm:

Well, Jeff, we have shops in Atlanta, so I won’t, we’ll, we’ll chat after and I’ll, I’ll help you out. I have sons too, and I’ve got my, we’ve had a Jeep in the shop as we speak, I live in Connecticut. We don’t have shops here yet, so I’m living it through the old way. But the the, the jobs you know, we’ve got, as I said, we were about a billion dollars. We’ve got about 350 shops. There are four players, sort of, of our size and ilk where the major players, MSOE and the industry combined, we have less than 15% of the market. So 85% of the market are like, where I am mom and pop shops. They’re single shops. They’re like my twosie three Z shops. And what’s happening today is as you know when you get in a car accident today, it’s a much more expensive to replace that bumper than 20 years ago where it was like,

Jeff Pedowitz:

Yes, I know all too well, thank you again, because our car just got out of the shop last month, actually

Julie Roehm:

Sensors, cameras, calibration. So you think about these mom and pop shops. And when you think about the cars that are coming, what’s required for them to successfully repair the car, you gotta have the right diagnostics, the right equipment and tools. You have to write training. Many of the OEMs are requiring certification by them that you have to get to work on it. So if you’re small and it’s, it’s very, it can be overwhelming. And so we’re seeing a great bit of and consolidation, as you might expect, they’re selling to us, I’m in a hurry because they’re, they see the opportunity and, you know, for us, it’s a great, it’s great because we get these established businesses, they have relationships. We want to keep their people because finding good body taxes are actually really hard thing to do. So, and by the way, I’m going to do a little plug for recruiting for that.

If you’ve got a child who is not college, but is like tech, we’ve got body, text, master body texts who can make up to $200,000 a year. So it’s a total fallacy. Oh, I’m telling you, it’s a total fallacy. They’re in, they’re in great demand. And and it’s hard. They’re hard to find. So when we buy these shops that I say, we want to keep the good people so that we can keep the ball rolling. So that’s kinda the situation. Our revenue situation is about 90% of our revenue comes from our insurance carriers. So you call your insurance carrier. They say, yes or the other insurance carrier says, yes, we’ll pay that’s. That’s how we are paid as well. And about, I said, 10% are you know, the cash or the walk in it’s, maybe they don’t have insurance, or they don’t want to call insurance.

It’s a small enough, you know, price tag, whatever. So if you look at all of that, you know, we are in a B to B to C world. So combining the, kind of all the best of each of them. So in my world, I’m thinking about insurance carriers, customer primarily. And I’m thinking about use the car owner as customer kind of secondary, and it might seem counterintuitive, but the customer owning the car, doesn’t get the short of the stick, because unless you have a superior experience, your insurance carrier is never going to recommend us again. So actually by us, focusing on the insurance carrier and knowing that we were going to have, you know, we have to compete to have the highest customer satisfaction scores, the highest quality the shortest turnaround time, the lowest cost by doing all those things, which we were in contract with these carriers for actually ensures that you, as the owner of the car are going to get the best experience.

So in terms of those four metrics, now, when it comes to actually the, the, how it gets done, that’s sort of the, what we’ve gone through just a massive journey. So I’m just hitting 18 months here. And since we started we’ve now I say we’ve jumped fully into this millennium with live chat and intelligent notifications. But even more exciting than that is, we’re doing some really interesting things with predictive routing and sentiment analysis is where we’re going next. And it’s been a really, it’s been a really interesting journey to be able to map the customer journey in terms of you, the owner against the, the journey that we have with our insurance carrier customer and how we can maximize the two of them.

Jeff Pedowitz:

Yeah. So I think I started asking you one question that was amazing why you cover that. You’re kind of are a lot of grants.

Julie Roehm:

That’s funny.

Jeff Pedowitz:

Now that’s good. I think by the end, talk about transforming a company, transforming the brand. So I’m curious about a couple of things, because, you know, we’re seeing this everywhere tried and true industries are being disrupted. They’re being not only being disrupted digitally, but they’re being disrupted with how consumers consume. So for example Netflix and entertainment or Amazon across the shopping, and now you have Porsche and Cadillac offering subscription model. So you don’t even have to own a car or pay for insurance anymore. You can just have the experience of driving your brand. So as you started to look at all of these awesome changes you’re making with average, do you envision parts of your business model changing too? I mean, so would you engage with the insurance carriers or the consumers differently maybe than, than how your traditionally done it?

Julie Roehm:

Yeah, I think there’s a lot of, you know, as you look at the, how the world’s evolving, just exactly what you’re saying. You know, people like in our industry to talk about the evolution of the driverless car as well, what will that do suddenly everybody’s safe and you know, no one’s gonna need us anymore. I think thankfully for us, that’s probably a long ways off before that actually becomes the norm, but on the road to that is a very interesting trajectory in that you think about how we’re, you know, companies are thinking differently. So not just the Googles of the world who are creating the driverless cars, but, you know, we saw Toyota doing partnership in GM has, has had some investments. So you see the OEMs getting into that too. And to your point, it doesn’t seem like I’m crazy idea that the OEMs might want to, whether it’s subscription or you get to the point where it’s driverless.

You don’t have to maybe buy insurance the traditional way anymore. It sort of comes packaged with the car. So whether the OEMs decide to fund that on their own, or they partner with certain incurrent insurance carriers, you know, who knows, but I think also insurance carriers, certainly they understand that too. And I think they’re looking at how to evolve their offering as well. I can tell you just in the 18 months I’ve been here when, when I started to meet the insurance carrier you know, are the people that we interact with and trying to explain kind of my initial vision of what I thought we could do and what we’d want to do to partner with them and how we thought we could actually make the customer experience so much better, which would in turn give them better metrics, but also a much happier customer.

You know, it was met with, I think, some sort of questionable and kind of the squinty eyes syndrome. And I can tell you, like I was at, we have a big conference called NACE in Atlanta. Actually, we were there about a month ago and maybe three weeks ago. But talking to the insurance carriers, it’s just like in that year, year and a half, they’re just so gung ho I mean, some carriers are further ahead than others as you might expect, but they’re all now thinking about what they can do differently to just be in the minds and hearts of consumers in a much different way. They’re not, you know, I certainly not status quo is not good enough for them. They’re all very progressive. So I think kind of on the spectrum of what might change it’s a pretty long spectrum from, you know, the actual insurance offering to simply, how do you simplify the experience for the customer, whether it’s, you know, photo estimating, so you don’t have to have interactions. So how do you get to the point where you can have a completely hands off experience, literally maybe even to the point where somebody comes and fixes the car where you’re at. I mean, I think we’re a long way off from that, but you can imagine how far can you start to create the imagination? And then how do you create the step wise program there both in terms of the actual need and then also the offering.

Jeff Pedowitz:

So you had mentioned a little bit ago, you’re starting to experiment with chatbots and, and that, that drives part of the conversational web one part. I’m curious as to your thoughts on his last year or about 30% of search was initiated voice activated. So Alexa, Google home Siri. So I can envision a time within just a couple of years where most people will be just searching by talking, right? So if they’re in their car or IOT or, and so as a marketing executive, how does that change your whole perspective? Because the concept of a campaign, right? An offer an image, a visual, and it’s changing because now you’re just talking to the consumer, you’re talking to the prospect. So what

Julie Roehm:

Are your, what are your thoughts on that? So one important fact about our industry that I should have included when I was doing the little debrief is that I’m knocking on wood here for you. People usually only need us once every seven years. So when you think about the marketing model and how you you know, how you, how you reach customers, it doesn’t make sense for us to create, for instance, like a mobile app. Can you just, once every seven years, we’re not going to ask you to take real estate on your, on your screen. But you know, when you think of, well, unless you’ve got a lot of kids and then that once every seven years becomes more frequent, right. Maybe then that’s right. So but we, so we have to think differently about that and what that means, you know, from again that B to C connection is, is exactly what you’re talking about. 

How do we, how do we think about like, voice-activated? So if you’re, again, we’re, these are, these are not here yet, but these are all part of our imagination set that we’re, we’re trying to make a reality eventually, but how do you think when you’re in an accident and you, you make a voice call or you, you can call your insurance carrier, or let’s say, let’s say you have a GM vehicle and you got OnStar. What, if, you know, someday we could do a partnership with GM and OnStar such that the moment that collision happened, some sort of impact occurs your vehicle and OnStar instantly alerted, right? There’s that that’s part of the telematic system. The telematics system also gives you a pretty strong indication of what’s wrong with the car. I mean, so those things happen right away. If we had a partnership we’re certified and, you know, an OnStar was not only on and every vehicle, but the subscription was included and this, the service was included.

You could imagine that instantly we’d be alerted on the collision side. And because we know from a diagnostics, from the telematics in the vehicle, what’s wrong with the car, we might be able to instantly order those parts you know, send you either a text and email or, you know, voice with you on your here’s options in terms of slots that are opening timewise. If it’s a tow in, we’d immediately send a tow to drive in, we let you schedule your time, but suddenly we’d take all of those individual steps in your journey and we consolidate it into one. And so what is it? What’s the technology that enables all of us to do that, right? Well, again, because it’s not a one size fits all right. It’s, it’s IVR, it’s chatbots, it’s the, the voice search, right? So perhaps you want to ask us for different days or different shops in the area, that’s, something’s closer to your work versus your home. 

Those kinds of things are all part of our, like I say, our imagination set that we’re looking to make a reality. I think the other is barring able to sort of live in the vehicle with you and sort of being there when you need us is trying to figure out how we can be closer to you in the places that you’re naturally likely to go. So you’re with the insurance carrier. Okay. But, but maybe you didn’t call your insurance carrier right away, but you, you immediately posted on Facebook. Was there an accident? You know, anybody have a recommendation, but we want to be in those places so that we are looking at different sentiment, different key words so that we can actually provide you an offer, make it a seamless experience as quickly as we can understanding the need. I think also just in process, being able to use that sentiment analysis and not assuming that every time a customer has maybe slightly dissatisfied with how things are going in the repair that they’re going to call and tell us.

But they may, you know, share that sentiment online with somebody and, or just, you know, versus a tweet I tweet, I hate you, you’re sock. You’re not doing it right short of that. Things like where they’re maybe just having a, you know, a conversation, a public conversation on Facebook or some of these sites, like it’s why our collusion and explain, you know, why is my repair process so slow? Everybody’s it allows us to sort of jump in and see what’s happening. And can we, can we actually begin to repair some of those relationships before it becomes too late? I was also really intrigued. In fact, we had a, our private equity firm held an offsite with the CMOs of all the portfolio companies just last week. And we have some really wonderful companies that’s part of this portfolio. So Genesis has one and Kronos and they do Genesis in particular, does some really interesting things in this field. 

And we’re talking with them about some of that predictive routing and how you can get just really granular, even in a call center situation beyond I think what certainly in the collision business we’ve begun to imagine, or, or certainly implement, but I think there’s a lot of room there to rethink that contact center experience. And there’s a lot of evolution happening there. So that’s exciting. We, we had a presentation by the global vice president for product marketing at Facebook, and he was talking to us about how stories in Facebook are probably the most impactful, yet least understood device or tool in the Facebook portfolio for marketers. And so you think about how do you tell a story for collision? You know, I think I can think of actually a lot of ways and that it becomes accessible for when you need it.

It’s there. So there’s, I think there’s a great bit that is in the sort of the MarTech spectrum that hasn’t been touched at all. I like to say that we’re, we’re kind of the, you know, we’re, we’re the, the head of the, we’re the tallest of the short class, if you will. In that I think the whole collision industry has been a bit behind in terms of the customer experience. And so we’re using some tried and true technologies to actually improve that. So, like I said, intelligent vacation and IVR and you know, some sentiment analysis, but that just kind of catches us up to, I think, where the basics are for every other customer experience people have. So it’s now how do we get to the next level? And I think there’s a great deal that we can do there. And I think even more impactful is how we do some of that in conjunction with our insurance carriers to help them help them to connect with us, to connect with the consumer in those phases as well.

Jeff Pedowitz:

Well, Julie,  it’s just so refreshing talking to you, and it’s so easy to see why marketing makes a difference. I mean, the, the, the businesses that you’ve been in, the industries that you’ve impacted and now what you’re doing at Agra great, great interview today. I loved your insights. We’re going to have to do this again soon. Find out how well you’re tracking over there, but thank you. Thank you so much for being on the program today.

Julie Roehm:

Thank you, Jeff. Appreciate it.

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