A Female-Friendly Auto Industry with Katie Mares

June 7, 2024
In this ASOTU CON 2024 conversation, Paul J Daly sits down with Katie Mares, author of "CustomHer Experience."
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In this ASOTU CON 2024 conversation, Paul J Daly sits down with Katie Mares, author of "CustomHer Experience." Katie shares her journey into the automotive industry, highlighting her mission to enhance the customer experience, particularly for women.

She delves into the physiological differences between men and women that influence buying behaviors and offers practical insights for dealerships to create more inclusive and genuine customer interactions. Katie also discusses the importance of employee satisfaction in delivering exceptional customer experiences and her vision for transforming the auto industry to be more appealing to both female customers and employees.


0:00 - Intro

1:45 - Authored "Custom Her Experience" to address gender disparities.

2:20 - Women’s limbic systems are larger, influencing emotional memory.

2:27 - Women use both sides of the brain for creativity and logic.

4:05 - Women seek hedonic experiences, valuing sensory aspects.

5:06 - Genuine kindness and empathy create better customer connections.

6:56 - Acknowledge women customers equally for better engagement.

7:25 - Intentional customer experience design is crucial.

9:54 - Employee satisfaction directly impacts customer happiness.

11:12 - Changing industry perception to attract women employees and consumers.

Thanks to Effectv for making this episode of ASOTU CON Sessions possible! Learn more about Effect here: https://www.effectv.com/

Paul J Daly: 0:02

You're listening to the asoto concessions by effective live from ASOTU CON 2024. All right, thank you for joining us in ASOTU CON conversations sponsored by our friends at effective I'm here with Katie mares, Chief inspiration officer, and author. Yeah, Katie, welcome to the show.

Katie Mares: 0:20

Thank you for having me.

Paul J Daly: 0:21

All right. So tell me about your automotive background. Because I think like you're you're a new face for a lot of people. You're all over LinkedIn. And this is your first

Katie Mares: 0:30

time saying, I'm all over the place and like, what the heck I'm really not well, I

Paul J Daly: 0:34

mean, you're kind of intentional about it, and you're good at it. So it's working. That's a good thing. Yes, just give give people a little a flyover on who you are, where you can pass. So

Katie Mares: 0:42

I came into the automotive space about seven years ago, I had really awful car buying experiences, surprise, surprise, no way. So I'm a customer experience expert. I've designed experiences for some of the Lord largest organizations in the world. And when I walked into the automotive space, I was like, Oh, my goodness, I cannot believe the experience we're receiving, I get a better experience with the $7 latte than I do with the $70,000 vehicle purchase. So I saw a huge opportunity. But Further to that, I couldn't believe the gender disparity gap, and how women were treated as customers. And so I started doing research and I went down that rabbit hole, and it got dug really, really deep. And I wrote the book custom, her experience. And I started speaking at all the major events. So NADA, SEMA digital dealer, I now sit on the board of women in automotive, and I've worked with OEMs, like Honda and Volvo and Volkswagen, and so on and so forth.

Paul J Daly: 1:46

So custom, her experience, give us the premise of the book. Well, basically, just for automotive

Katie Mares: 1:52

or for everybody, although my opening story does depict the lovely car shopping experiences that I had. But it is the catalyst to the book, but it's for everybody custom, her experience, basically a study of the physiological differences between men and women and why we buy versus why men buy. And I help male dominated spaces cast their experience net wide enough, so they can capture the world's most influential consumer.

Paul J Daly: 2:20

Alright, let's dig in. You said the physiological differences. Let's let's learn about what those are. See,

Katie Mares: 2:27

I knew going into male dominated spaces, I needed to talk man. And I needed to be able to be very pointed, very logical, I couldn't come into a space and be like, I am a woman, and we're great. And so you should listen to me and serve us better. But we are actually physiologically built differently. So our limbic system, which is our emotional memory hub of our brain, a woman's limbic system is almost double the size of a man's, which means we feel more we remember details. And gentlemen, if you have a wife, a daughter, a girlfriend, a mother that has remembered a fight in grave detail from like 10 years ago, we need to show up. Is anyone have that? Yeah, she's physiologically meant to do that it's really not her fault. Also, women will communicate with two sides of their brain, creativity and logic, and we actually have more gray matter that connects the two. So we're able to come to quicker conclusions and more creative solutions. Gentlemen, you only communicate with one side of your brain, the logical side. And so we are very, very different. And what a woman is looking for in an experience as a hedonic experience, the experience of the senses. So the way your dealership, the temperature of your dealership, the fluorescent lighting, the smell of burnt coffee, the really rough hand towels in the women's washrooms, the very, like alcohol smelling soap you might have in there, those things matter to a woman whereas a man is very utilitarian. Let me ask

Paul J Daly: 4:05

you, they matter? Is it more of like an involuntary matter? Like they they're not processing, it's all adding up to the fact that like, I don't like this experience, because like, whether it's like the tactile experience of the towels, or the music or the smell the burn, or

Katie Mares: 4:21

the lack of disingenuous in connection with the sales associate, okay, so it's very much who she is. And I am generalizing. Obviously, everyone's a little bit different. But it is definitely who she is. So it is involuntary. It's what she needs and wants. It's the way her brain is made.

Paul J Daly: 4:40

So the book goes into the physiological differences. And it obviously reaches some conclusions and some give us the CliffsNotes what we want to read the book but like, give us give us a takeaway or two. Yeah, because we have a lot of dealers or if they're not dealer, industry partners, people who do create experiences, right and whether you work with male or female, your experience is going to have to cater to both what are some broad strokes that we might be able to apply and walk away with? Honestly,

Katie Mares: 5:08

just be kind, if I were to give you a broad stroke, if you're going to look at your customer journey map, I mean, I'm not going to get into like the detail details, because there's a lot of work that you have to go that goes into it to break it down. But if you so there's a difference between nice and kind, nice are the associates that are on the floor. And they have to be that way, kind of something that is true and genuine. And so if you want to capture her wallet, then just be genuine, like show genuine interest in her as a customer. I always say this when I'm on stage and or working with a dealership or any, any company in any industry. And I hope I can be completely blunt with y'all. But if you do not feel the need to be kind to your customers, then you should give your head a shake. Because they are the ones that keep a roof over your head and food on the table. They are the reason why little Johnny Johnny gets to go to soccer. And it's not the dealer, like I look at the employees, if you can't be genuine, it's the customer. They're the ones that keep the doors open and the lights on. So find a way to connect with them. Be kind be genuine. And when a woman and a man comes in together, greet her to please, I did a study out of 1000 women, so 88% of them went in with a man because they were afraid to go by themselves. 87% of them said they didn't acknowledge me the entire time. But 100% of them said they were not greeted, the man was greeted first and the woman was not created at all. So it's low hanging fruit, little changes that will make a huge, huge difference.

Paul J Daly: 6:56

You know, so the the listening audience of the audio version and the in person audience at a soda con are going to be a little bit different. The audience we have here at a soda con is like I bet I mean, this is anecdotal. But these aren't the types of places in stores where we're going to have the burnt coffee. And I think there's already some intentionality toward understanding the customer and treating them how they want to be treated and a little bit of a better way. Can you talk about some practical you put some real low bar exam? That's

Katie Mares: 7:25

right. You said broad strokes?

Paul J Daly: 7:27

I did? I did? Well, let's get a little more specific. Yes. Right. So do you have any, like, examples, tactics? Or some things that we can maybe take? Like how does a woman process kindness in a sales transaction or service transaction that we might be able to like think about a little bit more? Yeah,

Katie Mares: 7:42

you want to genuinely connect and have that ability to show compassion, show empathy, reveal vulnerabilities. And I don't mean, like, share your sob stories, but connect with that, that person, if if they had car trouble, or they are busy, and you have something going on in your life that reflects the same, you know, be a little bit vulnerable, take your time, I mean, that having that time to create that relationship is extremely important. And time is the only on renewable source, right. So when we give someone the time, they feel important, and constantly evolve the relationship just because that customer has left the store or made the purchase. That in between purchase interaction is what keeps your customer coming back. So make sure you're continuously evolving the relationship. But if we want to go a little bit higher and a little bit more detailed, I mean, what is your brand promise? What are your brand pillars? Have you broken down the touchpoints? Your customer journey through time? Have you taken a look at your operational standards, your experiential standards? How do you anticipate their needs and deliver a plus one? Do you look at the things that can go wrong and do go wrong? And do you have solutions for them when they do and doing that by touchpoint every interaction through time that your customer has with you have you broken that down, create that brand playbook. And then the most important thing is once you've done that, train your people on that first, the other systems and processes, they can come later, if you don't train them on empathy, creating a connection, creating an experience, then what will happen is while they're frantically trying to, you know, live up to the expectation of the process, they forget how to treat the customer. But if you can train them on how to treat the customer, and then they say, Oh, wait, I'm new. Just give me a minute. I have to figure out this process, the customer is far more forgiving. How

Paul J Daly: 9:39

do you feel like this translates into the employee experience? Because that those two really seem to go hand in hand. Jim just shared that with us. In the last example. How do you see those two things marrying and what can be intentional on the employee side as well? Yeah,

Katie Mares: 9:54

so a customer can't truly love your business unless your employees love your business period. I agree with that. So if you aren't turning your training right side up, in my opinion, meaning you're putting the people aspect first, and teaching about your brand promise and what you're going to deliver first, then you're going to lose every single time. But if you take a look, one step further to that is your culture. I mean, disappointment is expectations not met. So when you try to sell a person on the job and on the culture, and they walk in day one, and it's nothing like you said it was going to be, then you create this disappointment, all like right off the bat, I talk about this thing called a trust account. And for every one negative thing that happens, it takes 10 positive things to make up for that one thing. So if you have a zero balanced trust account with your employee they come in, it's your job to put deposits into that trust account. And when you do screw up, because you will, we're human, we're going to drop the ball, you have a little bit of wiggle room. But if you do not put that those deposits in, you're gonna go into overdraft. And not where you want to be is not where you want to be. Because guess what those people are serving the most, the second most important person, your customer, which keeps your lights on so your customer is only as happy as your happiest employee.

Paul J Daly: 11:12

Yeah, I've heard that said about parenting, that you can only be as happy as your status child. Yeah. And it's almost like kind of it's human nature. Yes. Tell us what is your vision for the change you want to make in the auto industry over the next five years, we'll go broad. That was like 30 days, 30 days now we'll go five, five years ago, five years,

Katie Mares: 11:32

I would love to change the perception of the industry for women. So for

Paul J Daly: 11:37

women, meaning that you would love if I'm a woman, I'm buying a car that I think about what I'm about to embark on differently. Is that what you mean? Well,

Katie Mares: 11:45

that but also if you're a woman that wants an incredible career, Oh, got it. And you can come into the industry and taking a chance on the industry. So female consumers want to do business where where they see themselves in so they want to see women in the dealerships. So it's a two pronged approach. We have to get women applying we have to get women looking at the industry differently saying oh my gosh, it's amazing. We need to stop as ladies complaining about the downfalls they are there don't get me wrong, but we need to you know, sing a different song so we can attract the women from a consumer perspective, which are from an employee perspective, which will attract the women from a consumer perspective.

Unknown: 12:27

I think that's a worthwhile goal. Thank you so much for sharing your insight and your time with us. Thank you for listening to this ASOTU CON session by effective if you want more content like this, you can check out our other podcasts we have a daily show called The automotive troublemaker Monday through Friday, here and podcasts also live streamed on YouTube, and LinkedIn and Facebook. We also have a long form podcast called Auto Collabs Auto Collabs. And if you just want to go a little different in this community, you should sign up for our regular email we put our heart and soul into it. You can get it for free by going to a sotu.com We'll see you next time.

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