On a hot summer day, I met with Christoph Hohmann Head of Customer Engagement at Volkswagen We to find out what they had planned for Berlin. We meet in a stunning new space the We Space at DRIVE. Volkswagen Group Forum which is a physical manifestation of the online ecosystem they’re launching.
What Services is Volkswagen Launching?
We Park has already launched, it’s a parking service that lets you pay for parking through an app. You need to get a sticker for your car, but once you’ve enrolled you’ll be able to turn your phone into the parking meter. We Park isn’t just available in Berlin, as the list keeps growing quickly, here is a link to a list of current cities.
We Experience is a We Park feature that gives you access to offers that are directly around you, if a gas station is offering a discount, they’ll let you know or if a coffee shop has a special on your favorite coffee you can access it all through the application. It’s powered by IBM’s Watson so expect the suggestions to be personal.
We Deliver – Your trunk becomes your delivery address. Never miss another package! Volkswagen has already run pilot programs with DHL to get all your e-commerce packages to the trunk of your car. They’re currently looking interesting new business partners, online shops, florists, cafe or supermarkets. We’re hopeful that when they launch in a few months we’ll be able to get everything we need!
We Connect – Volkswagen Connect & Car-Net are a pair of hardware solutions.
Volkswagen Connect is a hardware dongle which works for used Volkswagen’s from 2008 onward. It will turn your car into a smart connected car. The Data plug gives you a smart overview of your vehicle data, find out how efficient your driving is, automatically log your trips, where you parked your car or get emergency help with Volkswagen’s roadside assist program.
Car-Net connects your car to your phone with the Car-Net-e-Remote you can control things like the door or interior temperature. Where it gets interesting is your car wants you to arrive relaxed, and send you a time management reminder to get on the road so you’re not late.
Does Berlin Need Yet Another Car Sharing Service?
The heavy hitter in the Volkswagen We line up of service is We Share. They will start with 1,500 e-Golf electric cars to launch the service during the second quarter of 2019 and 500 will follow later on.
Berlin was chosen as the launching ground for the zero-emission service because the customers are advance in their use of ridesharing solutions and they are in need.
Berlin has the lowest number of cars per thousand people in Germany and even Europe. On average in Germany it’s an average of 500 cars per thousand, in Berlin it is less than 400. So many people are already using many sharing solutions and the city has the capacity to handle the expansion of a fleet this size.
As with other car sharing services, users will be able to access the vehicles through a mobile app and pay based on their usage.
VW’s electric vehicles are no stranger to being used by car-sharing services, for example, Zipcar is building a fleet of over 300 all-electric VW e-Golfs in London. It’s in the works to enter other major cities in Germany and other European and North American markets starting in 2020. Cities with populations over one million would be targeted.
With so many options why use Volkswagen We?
Building a service is about building a community, but the truth is in tech-savvy city like Berlin you’re not the only game in town. When a Berliner pulls out their phone they’re going to take the closest car regardless of the provider. Pragmatism can trump loyalty, so I asked Chris why he thought We Share would come out on top. “First off, we know that we won’t be the only app you have on your phone, so having the largest fleet in Berlin will help us become the easiest service to access.” He continued to explain, that they want to build a brand that is customer service focused, that listens to its users and doesn’t expect the way they’ve engineered things to be the best way.
His attitude was refreshing, being based in Shanghai for a few years, he’s lived in a cashless economy, something that isn’t close to being a reality in Germany. Mobile Geeks has deep roots in Asia, so we understand that Convenience is King and the retail experience is significantly more advanced that what we’re seeing in Germany. I asked Chris what he learned from his time in China and what elements he thinks he’s brought back to create a more comprehensive experience.
“We need to create a best in class customer experience, we’re trying to involve customers earlier to try to understand what they want from a service and not impose on them how we think it should be. That’s something I took from China, to really focus on the customer and their needs and be big enough to say ‘It doesn’t matter what I thought was the right way, if they want it that way, let’s do it that way”.
We’ve heard it time and time again, Think Global, Act Local, but when it comes to customer service Europe has a thing or two to learn from the East.
While we are still a few months away from We Share hitting the streets you can check out Volkswagen We’s other services here, and if you’re in Berlin you should stop by the We Space at DRIVE. Volkswagen Group Forum to play around with their many interactive exhibits!
This was a paid advertorial from Volkswagen.