"The true engine of success: the power of the relationships we forge with others."
If anything characterizes the past few years in our industry, it is speed. The rate of change for General Motors, our customers, and the industry is outstripping everyone's ability to keep pace. That is unlikely to change as we enter the new millennium. If anything, expect that changes in the industry globally will accelerate at the speed of life. How well we harness technology to move relationships forward will determine our level of success.
Keeping pace in our industry will mean embracing change. Learning how to make well-informed decisions quickly, as we shift to address the next challenge. Casting aside today's tried-and-true formulas for fresh approaches. For those of us wedded to what already works, this will not be easy. Some of us will learn. Others will freeze in the headlights. Regardless, our customers' advancing expectations will pull us forward.
If we already are in the Information Age, what will drive communications in our post-2000 industry? Look for new technologies that create superior customer service to gain preference quickly, and for information technology to speed those sound business decisions I mentioned.
Today, our customers are engulfed in an information blizzard, often unable to reach the data they need. Our job is to provide truck owners and fleet managers ready access to more of the information they use for decision-making. Vehicle specifications, upfit options, order status updates, service records, pricing and inventory information - all will be accessible to customers via the Internet and ready for them to download.
Information is one part of the equation. Performance is another. Today, GM trucks are running longer than ever, but they don't generate cash for customers unless they stay on the road. We plan to keep them rolling. Truck manufacturers and their suppliers are partnering to develop technologies that boost durability and extend service life for engine, drivetrain, and suspension components. For GM, long-lasting, high-performing trucks feed long-lasting customer relationships. That's what it is all about.
Some argue that this is the Holy Grail of commerce. An empty mantra. I believe that GM and its peers can have customers for life. It just means never losing sight of customer needs and expectations, while finding new ways to deliver superior service at every turn. GM Fleet and Commercial Operations is trying to live that philosophy. Earlier this year, we realized that we needed to reshape our organization around our customers' expectations. Within weeks, we established a Fleet Customer Support Department to provide timely service in critical areas: allocation, scheduling, product forecasting and market analysis.
These are first steps toward building a customer-focused culture throughout our organization. How successful we are depends on the strength and resilience of the personal relationships we develop with customers. Getting close enough to learn what drives them as people, not just their priorities and requirements. By listening and being responsive to their needs, we plan to keep them satisfied for many years to come. It will take persistence. Finding a sustainable way to exceed customer expectations is the elusive key to earning lifelong loyalty.
Build those bonds and you can weather whatever changes the next century brings. Speed and change aside, our industry's true engine of success in the next millennium will be the same as in this one: the power of the relationships we forge with others.