Bob Welby on the Importance of Being Known As a Customer

June 6, 2023
Bob Welby is the Senior Director of Sales, Marketing, Product and Customer Operations of INFINITI Motor Company Ltd.
Listen On
Apple Podcasts IconSpotify Icon

Bob Welby is the Senior Director of Sales, Marketing, Product and Customer Operations of INFINITI Motor Company Ltd.

Key takeaways:

  1. The luxury automotive industry is facing challenges, such as the increasing demand for EVs and the need to provide a superior customer experience.
  2. Luxury brands differentiate themselves through the overall experience they offer, not just the product itself.
  3. Infiniti is focusing on enhancing the digital retail experience and ensuring a seamless transition from online to offline interactions with customers.
  4. The ownership experience is crucial, and Infiniti is working on initiatives like service valet and including maintenance to provide convenience and reduce friction for customers.
  5. Infiniti aims to balance the transition to EVs with the current market demand for traditional vehicles and hybrid models.
  6. The brand emphasizes its commitment to technology and design, aiming to offer the best in both ICE engines and EVs.
  7. The luxury experience is about knowing and being known, understanding the customers' preferences, and providing personalized offerings and care.

Paul Daly: 0:00Today we're here with Bob Welby, Senior Director of Operations for Infiniti for Nissan North America.

Unknown: 0:06

This is amplified, a retail automotive podcast brought to you by Reuters events and to suits you. It's time to make the most innovative voices in retail automotive louder.

Paul Daly: 0:25

So I can tell by the body language and the smile, and the posture and the conversation just before we started recording that we all kind of get along really

Kyle Mountsier: 0:34

well. This is gonna be nice and fun and easy.Just Oh, ceftin friends.

Paul Daly: 0:38

Yeah, Bob, thanks for joining us today.

Bob Welby: 0:39

It's great to be here, man. Thank you,

Kyle Mountsier: 0:41

Bob, you are the second person that has sat down for a podcast here on amplify with us that, for me lives like within 25 minutes of everybody's yet it took us that yet. It took us getting to Vegas to meet each other in person. So it is a small world. That's awesome. So tell us that you've been with Infiniti at this point. Now, how long? And what's the journey been within the brand for you?

Bob Welby: 1:05

It's been an amazing journey. So I've been with the company Nissan Motor Corporation for 27 years. Wow, that's taking me on it. That's a career

Paul Daly: 1:11

right? You've that's been you started there. And you still there? Yeah, after college,

Bob Welby: 1:14

it was it. And that was it. And I'm still there.That's incredible. It's taken me on this journey. And for the past 10. It has been dedicated to infinity specifically. And it's amazing that doing it for27 years, I still feel like I'm learning brand new things all the time. This business is so broad and so deep. It's an absolute blast.

Paul Daly: 1:33

So how long? How long have you been in Nashville,

Bob Welby: 1:35

Nashville for about16 years, almost 17 years now.

Paul Daly: 1:37

What was it like before that was nice.

Bob Welby: 1:39

It was journeying around the country. So I started in New Jersey once upon a time and then took a journey through DC and North Carolina,California, like a military job.It was a little bit like that it felt like we were moving.Moving. You know, every 18months, we were one place or another in the country,

Paul Daly: 1:54

this house. So So you've been settled in Nashville, leaning into the Infiniti brand. So it's the luxury side of the business.What do you see, like luxury,non luxury, some different challenges? Right now? What do you seen from the luxury standpoint? Like what are the luxury challenges that you're facing that you see as an indicator of the shifting luxury?

Bob Welby: 2:12

Yeah, why there's so many in the business, right?There's so many similarities.But speaking about some of the differences in luxury, more and more cars are going up market,right? And the biggest buzzword these days is EVs, right? And what the price of EVs and where that's going. So it's really changing the dynamic of how customers are even shopping,higher end of mass market brands versus, you know, the entry side of luxury brands. So it's put a ton of pressure on that side of the business. But it's been a great asset, because it's accentuated the need for the experience part of it. Right,which is the other element. And I would say probably one of the most important differentiators for luxury. And for Infiniti,right, we talked about the customer experience being as important, if not more important than the car itself, which I know links up, man, yes, talk about,

Kyle Mountsier: 2:56

that's an that's in the vein, ya know, and, you know, to set, like you said, you just look at all the technology that's being poured in vehicles,all the design that's being put into vehicles, and, and it's really starting to be almost almost an alignment of technology and design. Like, if you don't have a vehicle that kind of looks a certain way, and you don't have a vehicle that kind of has all of this technology in it, then it's all just table stakes at this point.So, you know, every like, we were talking to a dealer, I think it was couple weeks ago,and who has multiple brands, and he's just like, look, every one of our brands, has great products. It's not like any of them are just like, you know,the bottom of the barrel or the tops, a lot of them even look the same. A lot of them look the same. So as a luxury brand,setting yourself apart is not based on, you know, who can fight for the lowest price or the lowest lease offer or anything like that. So it has to lean on the experience. How are you working with your dealer partners and your dealer network to craft a better experience through the shopping and purchase and service journey?Right? Yeah, I

Bob Welby: 4:03

love that question. I love it. Because everyone talks about the customer experience,right? I don't think I've met somebody that says, hey, we don't care about it doesn't matter. Yeah, no one's gonna say that no one talks about it. So how do you it's how do you bring that authenticity to and actually execute on what you talk about. And the partnership with our retailers is huge here.So a couple of things we've been digging into recently, probably three things is we talk a lot about the the digital retail experience, how do we help customers from an online to an offline perspective, right? And it's that balance, we call it infinity now, right? So what's available for you as a customer?And how do we help you in the digital purchasing process? Go as far as you want to on the online journey? But then also,when you want to step offline and step into a store? How do we make that seamless? The retailer knows you they're well informed by us as the UI on what the what the customer has done so far,and they can pick it up and take it to fruition? So that's that's been a big thing for us a ton of work in that space. And we have a great retail network that's also wrestling to adapt To this,and then we're doing a similar thing on the ownership side,which is what we also talked about it's not doesn't end with selling the car, right? So we've done is actually begins to kind of begin. Yeah, that's right.Yeah. We love to call after sales future sales, right? I like that. Yeah, yeah. So in that area, right, we talked about the the ownership experience, and we're leaning heavily into it, we call service valet, as well as taking care of a customer's car by including maintenance. It's been a thing for us. It's not new in the industry. But for us, it was an important step for a lot of reasons of what's been going on in the pandemic, in the industry to really help keep customers connected to the brand and connected to our stores. So as a new customer, we're going to take care of your car for you,you're going to have maintenance included, will offer come in to pick up take care of it, bring it back to you. And really just take friction out of the ownership experience for customers. It's really our focus right now.

Paul Daly: 5:49

Are you seeing people move toward the brand? Because you're doing that? I don't know how long that's been launched?

Bob Welby: 5:55

Yeah, it's it's been relatively new for us. model year 23. So pretty new. It's pretty new for us perspective,we've always cared about that connection. It's in the industry, we care about connection to the retailer and making it easier. It's us just really putting a bit of steroids into that trying to take it to the next level.

Paul Daly: 6:10

So what's the most exciting thing happening within the Infiniti model lineup? I know like talking about EVs and the transition, everyone has a different approach. Yes. What's infinity?

Bob Welby: 6:19

Yeah, well, we're gonna be there. And that's based on the EVS right now what's in front of us, is just past year,we launched our own new QX 60,which has been bullets for us.It's been great, fabulous family sedan and get a lot of great energy off of that. And then next year, we have our own new QX ad that's coming up and launching and launching. How big is that? It's pretty big. Yes,the big

Kyle Mountsier: 6:38

boys big it's a big boy.

Paul Daly: 6:39

Is it like the Armada size?

Bob Welby: 6:41

It is? Yeah, big full size SUV, you know, full three to seven or eight passengers,all the towing capacity,

Paul Daly: 6:47

let's be family guys would like give me the big one,the seats and all the room for the luggage and the towing capacity and bringing you

Bob Welby: 6:53

the tech, you know,screens and the beautiful interiors. I mean, so yeah,there's that. That's coming next year, and then

Kyle Mountsier: 7:00

how are you balancing right now as an OEM,you know, the the need to satisfy the cultural push toward EVs, but also recognize, like,hey, we have this ice and maybe hybrid models that that need to be in the market that the market still desires that we still have on ground and have to sell? How are you balancing that both on a day to day and then also in the market marketing and operations with retailers?

Bob Welby: 7:26

It's um, it's a deep topic, right? And I think it's,we're doing

Paul Daly: 7:30

very carefully.

Bob Welby: 7:32

Here's my answer.When you think about it, I mean,the the world us is not going to be 100% Evie tomorrow, right?There's a need for diversification and offerings and power trains, it gets into the deep topics of infrastructure, right? Oh,different geographies.California is going nuts with electrification, maybe in other areas in central parts of the country, not so much. So there's a need really to support bolt on this journey. So we're heading towards Evie. And that's a big,big part of our story is helping prepare our retail partners, our network with the training the info, you know, to be ready to care for that when we bring it because we're going to do that.But also, in the meantime, you know, we have some fabulous products that customers love,and how do we have, so we're finding those ways to balance and support it. And for us, the grounding element is who we are as a brand, right? We talked about, you know, the experience being as important as the car itself. When you get into the cars that design the technology,we will be the brand that is the best that Nissan Motor Corporation has to offer in terms of tech and design. So that really plays in both spaces in your ice engines and in your EVs as well.

Paul Daly: 8:32

When you consider the luxury experience and the mindset of a luxury buyer. How would How would you define that?Like, what are the things that are most important to them at scale?

Bob Welby: 8:41

Yeah, that's great one. I like I like bringing it down to knowing and being known,right? So as a luxury buyer,right, it's, it's to me, at least the Infinity buyer. Luxury is not just an item on a on a shelf to be admired and stared,right. It's not a collector's piece. It's to be experienced to live in. We live in our cars, we experience moments in our cars,right when we're driving with our children or friends. And so it's a it's a luxury that should be lived in, if you will, right.So we talk a lot about that in the interiors of our cars, what happens inside of those. So when you talk about the experience,it's it's recognizing that and the role that we play in that process, helping them by helping them own. And that's that knowing and being known. Do you know me as a customer? We're a big company. How can we show you that? Yeah, we know who you are.We know what you prefer. And we have offerings for you

Kyle Mountsier: 9:26

and you care about it. That's an that's an intense level of appreciation for a person which I would call care. Yeah. And we've been talking about that a little bit in the last 24 hours. I know

Paul Daly: 9:36

Yeah, we have we haven't we just fill you in. We had an amazing restaurant experience last night. And the server was just put on a masterclass and we asked him Hey, what is that? You know,because all of us car people at the table for like customer experience. We're talking about this. We said what is at the center point of hospitality? And he goes passion. He does when I say passionate I mean that I care. Yeah, right. And so there's a there's a level of knowing and being known as a customer and like your needs is like, when you know, that you're cared for. Yeah,

Bob Welby: 10:03

that's right. It matters. It comes through.

Kyle Mountsier: 10:04

What do you think as an industry, you know,as you're thinking about the consumer problems that you're that you're trying to approach and and the retailing problems that that are opportunities that you're trying to approach? What is one of the biggest things that over the next one to two years we as an industry need to solve for, to maintain great employee or great consumer expectations?

Bob Welby: 10:28

Not the one you ask good questions. But yeah,there's this power in each one of those. You know, I'll point to appoint us as kind of an OE right, is it and I think I see one of our primary jobs is helping empower and unlock our retail network, right? Because we build off this thing of knowing and being known in the customer, right as the OEE. I don't talk to customers, I don't sell cars directly, right? We so it's the retailers that do that in the network. Right? So how is our business setup to help them do business easier. On the inside of our company, we talked about trying to be the easiest car company to do business with.And that shows up in our policies and how we support our network, how we help train the retailers when their employees are turning over? How do we ramp them up in the brand, all those little building blocks, the more we can invest in that and supporting them, that translates in that passion to the end customer.

Paul Daly: 11:12

All right, if you had the ears of your dealer network all in one place, and you got to encourage them with one thing as we close this episode, what would it be?

Bob Welby: 11:20

I'd start with Thank you, I would start with Thank you, they are experts, they know the customer, they have passion for the business. It starts with that it's a torture, thank you for them. And I would say the next thing would be it's um,we're on this journey together.This business is evolving. As we get into evey, there's going to be change, right? It's not the same business it was certain things are the same, certain things aren't. So we're going to evolve together and we're going to be some of the best out there.

Kyle Mountsier: 11:43

Well, I would assume that anyone that heard that would come a little bit closely closer to the Infinity brand, whether they are an infinity dealer they sell or have or any other dealer. So thank you so much for the time today and coming on amplify.Thanks, guys.

Unknown: 11:59

Thanks for listening to the amplify podcast brought to you by Reuters events in the city. For more engaging episodes like this, subscribe or follow on your favorite podcast platform. You can learn more about our hosts Paul J Daly and Kyle Mountsier by visiting

Get the daily email that makes reading the news actually enjoyable. Stay informed and entertained, for free.