How Volkswagen is leading Customer Experience, With Jason Bradshaw – CB035


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Episode Overview

Jason Bradshaw is the senior leader for customer experience — same role as a CCO, essentially — for the Volkswagen Group Australia. He’s been there since October 2015. Previously he held similar executive customer-facing roles with Target Australia, Fairfax Media, and Singtel Optus.

There are a lot of interesting aspects to my discussion with Jason, but one of the bigger ones is his hiring process, which was quite thorough. He had to present a proposal for his first 90 days in the role.  And, most importantly, he went through a very extensive set of interviews with every level of leadership  he would be working with.

About Jason

From his LinkedIn:

Jeanne Bliss Jason BradshawDetermined to inspire engagement with employees and customers to deliver successful outcomes. Since the age of 14 I have been demonstrating my entrepreneurial skills and building a career that combines education, professional experiences and passion to transform businesses delivering improved operations, higher profits, engaged employees and excellence in customer experience.

Lead Transformational Change in a highly change fatigued organisation, revitalising employee and customer focus while driving major process reform programs.

Exceeded revenue targets by 30% and delivered green field ICT project providing sector wide savings and unprecedented levels of NSW Government Agency buy-in.

Increased contract utilisation by $5.26million within first 8 weeks as Senior Vendor Manager.

In short? He’s very vetted in this work.

Jason’s First Six Steps

Once Jason got through the hiring process, he went through six major steps to make sure he quickly and effectively built up a customer-driven growth engine. Those were:

Define and clarify this question: “What is customer experience?” This is where a lot of CCOs must begin, and Jason was no different.

Line of sight and operational implications: This is where you “frame up” what the work will look like across the organization, and who else might have their deliverables impacted.

Create momentum with focus: Jason outlined CX principles to present to other leaders and staff, complete with examples to make those principles come alive. It was all part of a broader plan — “What is CX?” communication strategies and training. I thought this was crucial overall, and have seen a few other successful CCOs try it. Oftentimes seasoned execs in other departments have an understanding of the customer (maybe not always data-driven) and how that customer relates to their silo. So, they don’t always understand why a new executive role has been created to focus on the customer. Defining it and focusing on it is key.

Study tour: This was really cool. Jason and his team created a study tour for leaders within Volkswagen and dealers across the network. It included:

  • An immersion trip to the Disney Institute
  • Keynote speakers
  • Ritz-Carlton leadership training
  • Tracking how dealers on the trip changed and improved

Customer hero network: Jason’s customer hero network consisted of dealerships working together to participate in driving change. This was a strong baseline of support for his team, as well as people they could tap re: stakeholder questions.

The “we” approach: … as in, we’re all in this together. It’s not operations and customer. It’s how operations affects the customer. Similarly, marketing can’t work without understanding the customer — so that needs to be a two-way street where each side is informing the other. I call this “one-company leadership.”

The Pay-It Forward Question

I end each interview with this question: “What do you know NOW that you wish you knew THEN?” Jason’s responses included:

  • Contextual communication: The message you deliver to a CFO is different from a CEO. With each stakeholder, you need to make the work real — and put it in terms and vocabulary they can understand.
  • Link it to business growth: How does the business advance as a result of your work? If this link isn’t there, very few will ultimately care.
  • Market the value (and hope) of the work: Understand how the work you do every week is benefiting the lives of others — both customers, but also stakeholders and other employees.
  • Your peer group: Too often we forget about peer groups at work as we manage up and down. Don’t do that. Engage your peer group as partners consistently.

Let me know some of your favorite parts of the discussion in the comments!

Republished with author's permission from original post.


  1. Jeanne, did you touch the question of the cheat devices that VW is apparently using? These have a serious impact on CX, especially on the credibility of VW as a brand.


  2. Hi Thomas, I am going to get Jason to respond to your question here. Thanks so much for bringing up this important question.

  3. Hi Jeanne: I have similar questions to Thomas’s. Some people found VW’s emissions cheating scandal of serious enough proportion to vow never to buy a Volkswagen. No matter how stellar VW’s CX program is, these non-customers won’t know. I would like to know how VW views this segment. Are they ‘unrecoverable’ as VW buyers? Does VW market to them anyway, hoping to win some back? Does VW simply pursue a younger demographic, one that wasn’t of car-buying age when the scandal broke, and might not have the same feelings of deception?

    Other companies can learn from how VW approaches the challenge of fixing this debacle. It won’t be the last one that we see.

  4. Hi Andrew
    Thanks so much for your question. I do agree…. Let’s wait to hear from Jason. Please keep in mind that we will want to hear how he is handling all of of this from his role as CX leader of Volkswagon in Australia. I like you, will also want to know how the organization worldwide is working to advance past this situation.

    Can’t agree more that these are true tests for organizations when they encounter these situations. My apologies that we did not get into all of this on the podcast. I was focusing on his role and his path as we usually do in these. Thanks so much for your input here.


  5. Good points here, Andrew – I am one of those people with the vow, btw 😉 – but not because they cheated but because of the way they want to (in Europe at least) talk their way out of it. The VW stance is that they did nothing illegal … are Australian customers compensated for not getting what they got offered?

    Might become a hot chair for Jason


  6. We do our utmost to share information as quickly as we can with customer and to assist them with any enquiry on any topic they may have.

    We have also implemented new programs to provide customers and non-customers with transparency about their likely experience with us – most noticeable is through the online dealer star ratings. The transparency brought about by our online star ratings of dealers is apparent to customers and non-customers alike. This is something that no other brand in Australia can match.

    Jason Bradshaw
    Director Customer Experience
    Volkswagen Group Australia

  7. Just before the VW scandal broke, I considered purchasing their AWD Passat to replace my car. When news of the scandal broke, I could not reconcile purchasing from a company that had so flagrantly violated the trust of its customers, and imperiled the health of millions of people. VW went off my short list.

    But I was fascinated with how the company might turn things around. Pay the endless fines and lawsuits and wait for the news to settle down? Then, business as usual? I watched and waited, but didn’t see anything substantive. I recognize that Jason is in a difficult spot that I am confident he didn’t create. Offloading the transparency issue to dealers addresses a different – and not insignificant – CX issue that plagues other manufacturers (notably, not Tesla!). But it transfers VW’s trust problem elsewhere in the channel. And it doesn’t touch the “elephant in the room.”

  8. . . . meant to add – I am not a prospective customer for VW, now or in the future. But I expect there are millions of borderline VW prospects who similarly distrust VW as a company, but who might still buy a VW. For VW, I think it’s impossible to disentangle the company’s deceit from future customer experience. It can’t be whitewashed. I don’t know the best answers for VW, but I believe ignoring the issue altogether is not a good path. But given the circumstances, and what I have read here, it might be the only path.

  9. Thanks to Jason for his reply; as said, this is a hot seat. While I did not expect him being able to not tread the company line I was hoping for a bit more. I read the statement as offloading the problem to the dealers. But then these are also the main and often only contact point that prospects and customers have. After all, if one wants to get ones fingers on a vehicle one needs to get to a dealer. I assume that the dealers are (being) prepared.

    I agree that there are only two main ways to ‘disentangle’ Dieselgate from customer experience. The easiest way is to simply not say anything. Customers/people tend to forget and the scandal will eventually fade away.

    The other one would be to offensively push for higher standards and improved tests, to engage with independent institutions to show that one has learned and is better than the rest of the pack – instead of lobbying the weakening of proposed enhancements and insisting in ‘we did nothing illegal’ in some markets. While this actually might be technically true the violation of the laws intentions are obvious.

    I think the second path would be the better one. The first path by no means is the only one Andrew.

    2 ct from Down Under

  10. Hi Thomas – good point. I believe that for VW, appearing litigious and confrontational with governments and consumers will not serve VW’s strategic interests, and will only exacerbate the problem of low public trust. This is true not just for VW, but for many other companies that have exploited their customers through widespread deceit.

    I found an excellent article in Harvard Business Review, Let the Response Fit the Scandal (December, 2009), that outlines four recommended steps for companies:

    1. assess the incident
    2. acknowledge the problem
    3. formulate a strategic response (varies, depending on whether there was culpability)
    4. implement response tactics

    In VW’s case, I believe steps 1 and 2 have been undertaken. An opportunity for Jason, or one of his colleagues, might be to elaborate on VW’s efforts toward accomplishing steps 3 and 4, particularly where they relate to delivering excellent customer experiences, as Jeanne described.

    VW owners and non-owners alike have the right to clean air, which is why VW’s crime portends widespread and long-lasting negativity toward the brand. And many former VW owners have opted to have the company repurchase their cars. How likely will it be for them to return as customers? Assuming VW wants them back, how will the programs that Jeanne described demonstrate that the company has learned from its mistakes?

    The emissions scandal is not a side issue to customer experience. And to me, ignoring it compounds the problem.


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