By: Rachel Moore, Global Director of Branding & Communications | September 28, 2023 | Reading time: 10 minutes
What does growth look like for companies that want to keep up with customer expectations? Learn from this latest episode of Percepta’s Leadership Live featuring our new Vice President of Sales, Todd Somerville.
What you’ll get out of this episode with Todd
- A state-of-the-union of how car owners today experience their purchase and ownership of automobiles.
- What businesses need to focus on to ensure their customers, and their cars, are feeling cared for and supported.
- Todd’s background and career in everything car-related.
00:00:01:08 – 00:00:42:00
Welcome everyone to another episode of the Leadership Live series for Percepta. I am your host, Rachel Moore. And sitting across microphones from me today is our brand new vice president of sales, Todd Somerville. I have had the pleasure, Todd, of talking to you a few times since you joined Percepta very recently. But I get to introduce you now to our audience of Leadership Live. Todd, welcome to the show.
00:00:42:19 – 00:00:43:28
Yes, thank you for having me.
00:00:44:10 – 00:00:55:05
Of course. And Todd, you are just a couple weeks into your time at Percepta. First first impressions so far? Just wanted to get right off the cuff.
00:00:56:02 – 00:00:57:13
A bit overwhelmed. (laughter)
00:00:58:29 – 00:01:02:02
Which is any new person, right? We’re like, there’s so much to learn.
00:01:03:09 – 00:01:15:02
I keep telling everybody I want to cut the water wings off, but there’s quite a bit of onboarding and a lot of people to meet and a lot to get to know. So it’s been pretty exciting. So actually pretty good going into week three.
00:01:15:20 – 00:01:55:11
Well, while you’re practically a veteran going into week three, I know you’re just meeting Todd if you’re watching the show or listening to it, but Todd is super proactive. I know any time I’ve interacted with him, he is hitting the ground, taking tons of notes. And just ready to go.
And so VP of Sales, I know a little bit about you, Todd, and I’m going to learn more, as will our audience by the end of the show. You have described yourself as a “car guy.” But talk to us about what makes you a car guy. Let us know a little bit about your history there as a car guy.
00:01:56:05 – 00:02:55:26
Well, it’s a passion of mine. My best friend’s dad was a small town Ford dealer outside northwest Ohio. Toledo. And, you know, I was rolling cars on and officer floors and restoring old mustangs and doing that with my buddy from this in high school. So as soon as I got out of college, I went right back into dealerships.
And that kind of drove my parents crazy because why do you need a college degree to sell cars? Actually. It’s great practical sales experience. And I’ve been involved in the car business and automotive retail ever since. It’s what I know. It’s what I love. I live in Detroit, about five miles from the GM proving grounds, and it’s just a fantastic car environment here.
A lot of classic vehicles on the roads on the weekends before we like, we had last to see one classic sports car. It’s another down the road. It’s just what I know and love and what I’ve always done.
00:02:56:22 – 00:03:17:04
I can relate a little bit. I’m married to a car guy. He was a mechanic for Volkswagen for many years, and now he’s a bike mechanic. But do you do the thing where, like talk cars to people who may not be car people and do they glaze over at all? I do that with my husband, but you know a lot about cars and that’s what you talk about the most.
00:03:17:26 – 00:04:14:26
No, I try really hard. If I know someone’s a little bit of a neophyte when it comes to the car sort of thing, I try to explain why it’s a passion, you know. And, you know, it’s exciting. I mean, it’s it’s not unusual for us to be out to dinner or a craft brewery or something and you’ll be sitting next to somebody, strike up a conversation, and you’ll know right away if they’re a car person.
It’s like recently I sat next to an engineer who’s been involved in the development of the Z06 Corvette and you know, how geeky guy, but driving one of the fastest sport boats ever built. And just talking to him about how, you know, how that car came together and the development that went into it, some of the some of the wrecks that occurred out on the track of, wow, you know, you’re going to right away if it’s not about the cars, what’s up?
What else? But yeah, car people kind of gravitate towards each other.
00:04:15:05 – 00:05:11:04
I bet. Yes. That’s what I’ve noticed as well. For any of you who might be watching this too, live on LinkedIn or YouTube and or listening, if you’re a car guy or a car person, shout out in the comments. Let’s hear from you, because we want to hear if you are indeed a car person. Now, I want to ask you a little bit, too, because so you are coming on as the vice president of sales.
I know you’re going to enlighten us a little bit more about this. From what I know of your role is that you’re here to really ensure that Percepta’s customer experience, the specialties that we do for that, for clients of ours, for their customers, you’re trying to bring that to businesses out there who need it.
I’d love to learn a little bit about your vision for that. What is your vision for bringing CX from Percepta into the business out there who are truly looking for that as a solution for their business?
00:05:11:29 – 00:06:49:29
I go back to the car guy question first because it kind of applies. I mean, if I’m sitting in an airport or on a plane and someone asks me what I do, like I say, you know, my life’s mission is to make it easier to own and service a car and I’ll never finish. So, you know, it’s something that I think it’s the second most expensive purchase most people make second to their homes.
They keep getting more and more expensive. You know, the obvious, I think the last that I saw was $48,000 is now typical price for a new car, pretty close to $30,000 for a used car. And people have high expectations. And it’s a very technical piece of equipment. Now, there’s a lot involved in it. It still needs to be serviced, even if it’s an ATV. And it’s a never-ending mission to make it easier for a person to really enjoy the car experience, even if they’re not really car people.
They need a good, solid piece of transportation. They need to enjoy the experience of acquiring the vehicle and then getting it serviced. And, you know, at Percepta we have a unique position for a big company. We’re global. We have great people and we have great automotive people that work on lots of different things for customers and ultimately for achieving that mission.
So I think it’s a perfect fit. I’m right where I need to be: To actually influence CX for the car business and it’s well, I’ve been doing really pretty much my whole career.
00:06:50:23 – 00:07:46:19
Well, we’re glad your career brought you here to Percepta to continue doing that. And you know, I work in communications and in marketing and stuff, and we certainly want to help amplify this partly why we’re doing this video right now. Right. Because we want to let people know not only is Percepta here and poised with their customer experience solutions, exceptional ones, I might add, but also that you are here to help bridge that, to say, hey, how do I get started with Percepta?
I’m even going to take the liberty of putting your email up on up on the screen (firstname.lastname@example.org) because I want to make sure people know how to get a hold of you for that very purpose. But I also want to ask you this, too, and this might be from a little bit more from a thought leadership perspective as a sales and business development leader, what do you think are the most important things to focus on for a business that wants to grow their revenue, especially in today’s economic climate?
00:07:47:25 – 00:10:10:28
Well, it’s been an interesting couple of years and as I’ve already alluded to, vehicles have gotten more and more expensive. There’s a lot of content and there’s a lot of technology. And it’s all being designed to hopefully make the experience of owning that vehicle more connected and more pleasurable for the actual owner. But what it’s done is it’s also introduced a lot of complexity.
So you need to be much closer to your customers today than ever because the vehicles are designed to enhance the customer experience overall, but also offer up some opportunities to fail. So it still takes an interaction with a human being. And customers need to know how to get those vehicles serviced. They need to know how to get their questions answered.
They need to know how to get the vehicle serviced. If it fails, it’s starting to show an opportunity to be serviced. And there’s a lot of touchpoints involved in that whole lifecycle. Yeah. When you go to get a vehicle and you take delivery of a vehicle, you’re just so excited to get a new vehicle that you probably only hear about half of the orientation about how to use the features on it.
And you start looking at the entertainment systems and the navigation systems. Yeah, these engineers, these content folks at the OEMs are putting tons of energy into providing that. And the customers don’t even know how to use it, right? So it’s super important that that whole lifecycle of use of the vehicle, the average vehicle on the road now is almost 12 years old.
They’re going to have a long time. Yes. So one thing you want to do is make sure that that entire journey for the customer is solid so that they’ll come back and buy another one from you or buy another vehicle for the garage based on their experience from a vehicle they have. And that’s what I think Percepta offers in terms of being able to reinforce all that through, you know, over well over 100 different projects that we work with to enhance customer experience and make sure that the customer is getting what they need. OEMs are getting what they need to support those customers.
00:10:11:29 – 00:11:07:02
You know, you just really resonated with me just now, too, from a personal anecdote. So my husband is the lucky owner of a Ford Bronco, and I think he’s had that since, I think April, and he’s still finding new things, like, “Oh, I didn’t know it did this,” or “I didn’t know this is a capability.”
And you’re so right, because he has the resources at his fingertips to teach him about what that new feature he just discovered means while he’s off roading and stuff like that, or while he’s, you know, you’re moving the top or anything like that. So it really does like what you just described makes a ton of sense because you are talking to a complex piece of machinery and a big investment for customers.
And, you know, it’s so helpful when you get to know, “Oh, I am making full use and utility of this thing I just bought that I am very excited about.” So super important.
00:11:07:21 – 00:11:51:28
The Bronco is a great example of that. There’s so much embedded capability in that vehicle. Yeah. And you know, it’s not an SUV and it has a lot of offroad capability and crawling capabilities and all that stuff on the DOS that helps you understand what the vehicle’s trying to do. And, you know, if you’re not an off roader, that’s great if you’re just getting good because you love the lifestyle, that’s a whole other conversation, right?
So it can scare somebody if it’s not done right. So I think the Bronco is a great example of a lifestyle vehicle that needs to be supported properly through a lot of information and interaction with the customer.
00:11:52:09 – 00:12:26:04
Yes, sir. Well, let’s ask you about this. I know we talked about, you know, making businesses aware and bringing Percepta’s customer experience solutions and all that entails to businesses out there. I want to give you an opportunity, if we’ve got a business owner out there watching right now, or business leader, a decision maker, who knows they’ve got some pain points in their customer solutions, what would you say to them?
What is so special about Percepta that you want them to know right now as you’re speaking to them as our audience?
00:12:27:09 – 00:14:09:05
Well, I’ve got a biased view because I’ve been working with Percepta for a long time as a partner. I was actually involved in some projects they did early on for Ford, and what I saw right away was a people-oriented perspective in terms of good people, happy people doing great work. And then I saw a company that had no issue with taking a very complex problem and something you get out in a way that they could solve for it and make it repeatable in terms of solving for it.
So there’s a company that’s just very quietly in the background been doing great work for a long time and they have a mobility automotive focus which makes them experts in what they do. Now that being said, they’re also fantastic BPO outsourcing type specialists. There’s a global focus from them so they can basically take in what we do here in North America or what they’re doing in UK, what they’re doing in Australia.
We can repeat it. And what I’ve seen now in just a short time I’ve been with the company is a singular customer and employee focus, which is very refreshing from a cultural perspective. But they’re very unique in that perspective. They’re big in the fact that they have a lot of reach. They have great employee culture and they have a lot of solve-for very complex problems in the customer lifecycle of vehicles.
So they’re they have a very unique niche network.
00:14:10:10 – 00:14:29:06
Well, thank you. Business leaders, you decision makers out there, you heard it here. Not only is Todd our VP of sales, newly joining Percepta, but also has experience just working with us. I mean, he’s impressed all around, it’s a 360 impressiveness by perception.
00:14:29:24 – 00:14:33:22
Yeah. This was an easy decision to join. It feels very comfortable.
00:14:34:03 – 00:14:51:04
Nice. Well, that’s what we want to hear. What else do we want to hear? We want to do some get-to-know-you questions. Let people learn a little bit more beyond the “car guy,” right. So first things out. This is a very important question: What’s your go-to breakfast of choice?
00:14:52:01 – 00:15:16:00
I’m a pretty light breakfast eater so I’ll grab a piece of grapefruit or piece of fruit, depending what time of year it is. And of course, some coffee. Got my own beans. And grind that coffee up, not Starbucks, I make my own coffee, but a cup of coffee, shots of coffee in the morning to get things rolling and start the day.
I mean, if I know I’m not going to get lunch, I’ll throw some oatmeal in that too.
00:15:16:21 – 00:15:33:23
Very good. And for those of you watching or listening, please feel free to leave in the comments because there might be some commonalities here. All right. Next, very important question. What’s your favorite mobile phone app that isn’t work-related.
00:15:34:27 – 00:16:24:22
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Waze, of course. I mean, we move around a lot and I don’t know how much time we’re saving over the years now. It’s taken me out on some real boondoggles, too. But you know, I pay for Waze so it’s great. I absolutely believe in it. And it’s really just about saving time.
I mean, everybody talks about now being able to know where the police are and speeding all that. I don’t drive all that fast. So it’s really just about getting where I’m going and especially southeast Michigan right now. I think every way in and out of state right now, it’s under construction for bills everywhere. So, you know, just knowing that, you know, I’m going to take a little more time or I could pick a different route.
Absolutely. I live and die by Waze.
00:16:25:09 – 00:16:29:03
Do you have a specific person’s voice that you’re using on Waze?
00:16:29:21 – 00:16:58:24
You know, I tried Elvis for a while, and unfortunately, Elvis didn’t give a lot of really detailed directions, and he also mumbles a lot. But yeah, I’ve tried a few of those, but yeah, but sometimes I need to ignore when she’s telling me I’m going to a disaster or traffic jam.
00:16:59:08 – 00:17:18:22
I did use Waze for a little bit. I liked James May’s voice. But now I use Google Maps and I just call her Debbie, you know? Thanks, Debbie. Okay, Debbie, I got it. I know I’m turning on this very long road that you just recited all four names of the road to me. But yeah, Debbie.
00:17:18:22 – 00:17:19:26
Thank you so much for that. (laughter)
00:17:20:04 – 00:17:33:08
And finally, we’re talking about all these different customer experiences. Customer support. Do you happen to have a great story about awesome customer service you experienced yourself?
00:17:34:16 – 00:19:35:15
Yeah. And I’m going to take a swerve on you that’s outside the car business. Joe and I just had the opportunity, this spring, to finally make up a trip that we had planned before COVID. And yeah, we aren’t high-maintenance people. I’m not a Ritz-Carlton person. I just want to go someplace and be comfortable. So we took a trip to Seven Mile Beach on Grand Cayman that we had planned for three years, and we we had never been to this place.
It’s a kind of a timeshare type of situation for people that own condominiums three stories tall, you know, we looked at the place had been remodeled recently, nothing real fancy. But what made it amazing were the people: from the moment we checked in with the fruit basket and we’ve been on the plane all morning, of course, trying to get down there from Detroit.
And then the grounds-keeping people, the housekeeping people. The groundskeeper was one of these guys you could hear a laugh from a mile away. There had a lot of seaweed coming in off the ocean. And he was out there whistling, picking up seaweed in the morning and, you know, cracking coconuts for kids and just this fantastic laugh and happy, just happy.
The housekeeping folks were the same way. I mean, just always delighting us and we’re not intrusive and just a wonderful experience. So much so that we’ve been you know, we’d like to maybe go somewhere else and see something else. But it’s been so long since have been a lot of travel that we might just go back there again.
So it was what we’ve been talking about. We were talking about that over the weekend. But yeah, it it wasn’t the cheapest place on the beach. It wasn’t the most expensive place on the beach, but it’s just a really nice, comfortable place. It was because they had some really happy employees there that were there and were really just generally happy to do what they were doing, just to make the people that stayed at that place comfortable.
00:19:36:11 – 00:20:16:02
Awesome story. I think we can all relate. You know, there are times when, you know, you need to go do something or enjoy something, and the people involved with helping you enjoy that can just skyrocket that delight, the delight factor you just talked about. So really awesome. Thank you for sharing that.
You know, talking about the delight factor, you’ve been a delight as a guest and we really appreciate you taking the time to join us on this Leadership Live by Percepta. Todd, I’m going to post it again on the screen, but what’s the best way to get in contact with you for those of those business leaders out there who are like, I like what you’re talking about, and we need that for our company.
00:20:16:20 – 00:20:22:11
It’s definitely that email address – email@example.com – and look forward to hearing from you. Thanks for posting it again.
00:20:22:20 – 00:20:40:18
Of course, no problem. And thank you all for watching. Again, Todd, I know you’re super active on social media, especially LinkedIn, so everybody needs to go connect with you on LinkedIn as well. I have a feeling you’ll be posting this on your own LinkedIn because you’re that good. So thank you.
00:20:41:03 – 00:20:42:23
Thanks for watching, everybody. Thanks for having me.
00:20:43:03 – 00:20:49:18
Thank you, everyone. And have a great day and join us next time for another episode of Leadership Live by Percepta. Bye, everyone.