Although many companies talk about customer experience and the importance of it to their company strategy, they often fail to go one hundred percent of the way. Not just owning every step of the experience, but listening to your customers at each step is critical to creating true customer loyalty – a loyalty so strong that the idea of the company and customer becomes blurred.
One such company that is showing others within its industry that customer experience ideas are far from exhausted is Tesla. After hiring, in 2010, former Apple and Gap Executive George Blankenship as Vice President of Design and Store Development, Tesla has gone about creating a comprehensive start-to-finish customer experience at which Tesla’s brand is at the center.
The idea is very simple: from the moment of first contact with a customer to the final day a customer stops driving one of their cars, there is not a single disconnect between the customer and the brand. Nowhere along their product’s journey do customers find themselves in contact with anyone else but Tesla. Tesla owns the entire customer journey, and in wanting to offer the ultimate experience, this is critical. Complete control means that any aspect they discover which the customer is not satisfied with, they are in a position to resolve. It is not left in the hands of middlemen who will either reap the benefits of a job well done or fail and tarnish the image of the car company.
Nowadays most people do their homework online and only set foot in a dealership when they are ready to buy a car. The modern salesperson is essentially a price negotiator and product demonstrator. In contrast, Tesla’s “Product Specialists” play more of an advisory role. As a result, customers find their experience with Tesla not to be about endless price negotiations, and are instead able to learn and experience the qualities of the product instead. As Blankenship puts it: “I want people to want the car, I don’t want them to sell them the car.” This mind set is aided by the fact that “Product specialists” don’t get paid based on commission, removing the pressure to hard sell.
Going against the current
Tesla has come to a realization that has set them miles apart in the world of customer experience: There is a difference between ‘the product’ and the ‘process of owning the product’. The process of owning a car includes many touch points, from consideration of purchase to having to maintain and service a car across its lifetime. And while many automotive companies provide great products, Tesla’s goal is to make their company about far more than just the product by creating a complete user experience.
As Tesla’s VP of Sales, Cristiano Carlutti, puts it:
“In the other companies, customers are customers, basically. They pay, they get a product or a service. In the case of Tesla, the customers are partners.”
One of the ways Tesla shows this commitment is by the fact that they are the only car company, which fully instruments their cars to wirelessly connect to their office for analysis. So not only are they listening to their customers but they are also listening to their customer’s cars. As a result, Tesla can anticipate and resolve a great deal of technical problems before customers drop by the garage or avert bigger problems that maybe cause real damage to the Tesla brand.
And their efforts pay off: Not only did their stock price almost double in the past year, ninety-nine percent of Model S owners surveyed by Customer Reports said they would buy a Model S again. This percentage is the highest of any car surveyed in years. (source: http://www.fool.com/investing/general/2014/02/16/tesla-motors-inc-we-will-revolutionize-the-custome.aspx)
A shock to the system: Tesla follows in the footsteps of its namesake
Tesla has shaken up the landscape by offering a high quality product, of which they control each and every step of the customer experience journey so that they may continually learn and improve the entire automotive experience. As a result, external research in June 2014, showed Tesla’s NPS score to be 96.6 (source: http://insideevs.com/automakers-take-notice-data-points-love-affair-electric-cars/).
Because of Tesla and a handful of others, customers no longer blindly fumble in the dark for better experiences. They are now completely awake to the ever expanding range of innovative customer experiences. With a new line is being drawn in the sand, stepping over it just may be the deciding factor of success.