Most business leaders understand that in order to differentiate their brand from competitors, they need more than an outstanding product – they must also deliver a relevant and engaging customer experience. In fact, according to Forrester Research, 92% of leaders have positioned customer experience excellence as a strategic priority. Despite this prioritization, consumer research suggests that customers are not having satisfying, let alone engaging, experiences. Lofty customer experience expectations from leaders and low satisfaction reported by customer reflects a problem I refer to as a “customer experience execution gap.”
This execution gap often comes from not treating customer experience change like any other large scale transformation initiative. So, let’s look at 5 key lessons from one company who has successfully executed and “driven delight” for their customers. That company, Mercedes-Benz USA (MBUSA) is the focus of my recently released book Driven to Delight: Delivering World Class Customer Experience the Mercedes-Benz Way. Leaders at Mercedes-Benz have taken a product-centric brand quickly in the direction of customer-centric people, process and technology innovation by focusing on:
Creation of a Compelling Vision of Customer Experience Excellence: Mercedes-Benz claims they are “best or nothing” but on some third party evaluations, their customer experience was “middle of the pack” among luxury automotive manufacturers. Leaders at Mercedes-Benz made a compelling case for why customer experience needed to be improved. They continually championed a message of how the future could be different for customers, staff, and dealers. They also offered insights as to what could bring improvement and sought individual buy-in such that each individual would drive delight for “every customer, every time, no excuses.”
Mapping of the Customer Journey and Simplifying that Map: While the brand had rich departmental level process maps, Mercedes-Benz USA never had a comprehensive view of typical customer journeys through pre-sale, sale, and post-sale. Marketing, sales, and service all had their own “siloed” views of the customer journey. These disparate perspectives left gaps for customers at transition points and often were developed from the brand’s perspective, not the customer’s viewpoint. After the comprehensive maps were created, those maps were simplified into journey wheels that create line-of-sight improvement opportunities for everyone representing Mercedes-Benz.
Measuring and Leveraging Customer Feedback: MBUSA was quick to acknowledge that they lacked the core competency of effectively leveraging customer feedback in real-time. That changed with the development of measurement tools which are deployed at key points along the customer journey and which captured both transactional satisfaction and relational engagement.
Aligning Incentives: Leaders at Mercedes-Benz USA worked with dealer partners to link performance on customer experience metrics to the amount of margin dealers would earn. Poor customer experience scores resulted in less money per car. The money that was not earned by under-performing dealers was cycled back in the form of a bonus for those performing at the highest levels on customer ratings of experience.
Committing for the Long term: MBUSA is in the customer-centric transformation for the long haul. To hear leaders talk, there is no turning back and no time to linger on past victories. They want to not only be best in automotive but to be among the “best-of-the-best” customer experience providers irrespective of industry. MBUSA leaders talk about customer experience in terms of legacy, dynasty, and a never-ending journey.