Dana Pickering, Customer Experience Manager at Audi South Africa, grew up experiencing the love of cars amongst a family of automotive enthusiasts.

Her father and her brothers were instrumental in shaping her experience and perception of cars in general. Now she gets to share the thrill of motoring in her professional role at Audi South Africa.

“Growing up, I was always a bit of a tomboy,” she says. “I have two older brothers who were typical lads, and my dad was always very mechanically minded.”

She still recalls with excitement family trips to motor shows, and her dad’s passion project assembling a Ford GT40 kit car.

“I would feel such a surge of joy pulsate through my body every time he ignited the V8 engine,” she says. “That’s where it all began for me.”

Having studied brand management, Dana entered the automotive industry in an advertising sales role at a motoring magazine.

She later found her niche in project management.

“Over the years, I was involved in F1 Powerboat racing, the Motocross GP, Zulu Rally SA, A1GP and Superbikes, continually fuelling my love for motorsport,” she says.

She joined Audi in 2012, as Events and Promotions Manager, and has gone from strength to strength. She says her current role in customer experience management, or CX, is an “exciting space to be” at the moment.

“Gone are the days when customers bought on price or functionality alone,” says Dana. “We’re spoilt for choice these days, and manufacturers have to work harder to attract and retain customers. One way to differentiate your brand, is through the experience you give customers at every brand touchpoint.”

“As we move into the digital era, the way our customers can experience our brand is changing dramatically,” says Dana. “Elements such as Customer Private Lounges and Virtual Reality are being introduced into Dealerships to showcase vehicles and technology and enhance the customers’ overall experience. On the other hand, some customers expect to be able to do everything online.”

“Our customers are changing and we need to keep advancing the experience we offer them, to keep meeting their needs and to stay relevant. Processes have to be dynamic, constantly evolving.”

As an example of this, Dana mentions how Audi innovated around its sales process in light of COVID-19.

“We had to give customers the same premium experience, while minimizing contact and following COVID-19 best practice. Our ‘touchless sales process’ was conceptualised and tested in a few weeks, and launched to our Dealer n=Network via online training and coaching platforms.”

Dana says her diverse role has helped her develop her skills in multitasking, as well as change management, as the brand and the business constantly evolve to meet customer needs.

“Sometimes it’s challenging to drive change, but this is one area where being female has worked to my advantage. As a woman, you are able to show compassion and make people feel heard. Once you get this right, you have a better chance of taking them along on the journey.

“I am proud to be a woman in a male-dominated sector,” says Dana. “It’s definitely made me stronger and more resilient, but we also mustn’t dismiss the significant impact women are having on the growth of our business.

“As more females move up the ranks in the automotive industry, we continue to prove that we have what it takes,” says Dana. “We are hardworking, courageous, ambitious, compassionate and worthy of recognition.”