According to Forrester Research, 93% of corporate leadership teams place customer experience improvement on their list of strategic priorities and 23% businesses have it in the number 1 position. So if you want to drive an elevated customer experience that differentiates your business from the competition, increases the loyalty of your customers, and results in more referrals, you are certainly not alone!
Since so many leaders see “customer experience” enhancement as critical to business success, it logically follows that customers must be delighted by all the extra effort companies are putting behind their high-priority customer-focused initiatives, right?
Well, not exactly. Actually, not at all. In fact, the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) is reporting customer satisfaction levels that are hovering just above 9 year lows.
In the poem Rime of the Ancient Mariner, Samuel Taylor Coleridge laments, “Water, water, everywhere, Nor any drop to drink.” In the modern business world this could be updated to read, “Customer experience priorities everywhere, but ne’er a delighted customer.”
While this situation isn’t great for customers, it represents a fabulous opportunity for those who are truly committed to customer experience excellence. So how do you not only satisfy your customers, but actually delight them? Here’s an example from Mercedes-Benz USA (MBUSA) – the focus of my recent book Driven to Delight: Delivering World-Class Customer Experience the Mercedes-Benz Way.
It should be noted that the Mercedes-Benz brand promise is “best or nothing” and by most accounts, their vehicles, as well as their marketing efforts, deliver on that promise. However, the dealership experience in the United States (how do I put this delicately) ….was less than the “best.” In fact, as recently as 2012, Mercedes-Benz USA was in the number 6 position on the J D Power Sales Satisfaction Index (SSI) among luxury car manufacturers. As such, like those 23% in the Forrester Research study, leaders at MBUSA catapulted customer experience improvement to be their #1 priority. By 2014, Mercedes-Benz USA had risen to the top of the J D. Power SSI and was either the leader or had made substantial progress on internal and external metrics of customer satisfaction, loyalty and engagement. So what did leaders at Mercedes-Benz do that might help you with your customer experience elevation? Here are some highlights…
Think Multi-year – As Henry Hynekamp, general manager, Customer Experience, at Mercedes-Benz USA, notes, “Customer experience transformation is hard and it doesn’t spontaneously combust in an organization. It takes disciplined and sustained focus.” The difference between ‘wannabes’ and customer experience leaders often is sustained execution and a willingness to invest time and resources year-after-year.
Define Your Desired Experience – I’m continually surprised by how few organizations actually have a defined optimal customer experience. I spend considerable time as a consultant helping leaders articulate the experience they want customers to have at key touch points throughout the customer journey. This involves leaders coming together to determine operational and emotional aspects of their desired and branded customer experience.
Focus on Three Drivers – Mercedes-Benz USA has a “war room” with initiatives plastered around the walls. Those projects fall into three categories: people, process, and technology. Each area offers different benefits to customers. Mobilizing your people creates the warmth and compassion of your brand experience. Process improvement removes pain points and technology often makes the customer journey easier. The advanced challenge is helping customers move back and forth seamlessly from technology to human service.
For more on how to not just “prioritize” customer excellence but actually deliver it, I hope you’ll consider checking out Driven to Delight: Delivering World-Class Customer Experience the Mercedes-Benz Way.
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