To increase European market share and reinforce brand loyalty, this luxury car client wanted to look beyond the in-car experience and at the wider customer journey. But with most of its European sales force still focused on technical specs and a price-driven pitch, they had a mindset and behaviour management challenge. In addition, communicating and measuring a consistent approach to customer experience through a network of independently run dealerships would not be easy. They asked our associates to help them move beyond the customer surveys that no one listens to and the employee manuals that no one reads.
We already knew the client had a reputation for providing a more memorable customer experience than many of its competitors. In its immersion phase our team focused on finding out what the drivers of this reputation were. Using a combination of market research, field visits, mystery shopping and staff conversations, we collected dozens of examples of service excellence and ‘remarkable moment’ anecdotes from customers who had been delighted with different points in the pre-sale, post-sale or purchase process. Using these good news stories, as a foundation, we introduced the new customer experience approach to national sales organisations in 27 countries.
What’s the best we can do? And then what?
Early on in the project, we expanded the client’s view of the customer journey from three stages to ten: the more customer-critical elements you recognize, the more opportunities you create to shine, impress and engage. To each stage we attached a practical set of minimum standards and ‘gold star’ targets. For example: What can we do to create a great test-drive experience? What can we do to create an exceptionally great test-drive experience? We applied the same rigorous questions across the entire customer lifecycle.
Making events into habits
From our initial customer-listening exercises, mystery shopping and a series of ideation sessions we created a template for replicating and operationalizing a system of remarkable moments throughout the customer journey. Many consultants value their contributions based on the size of the report they leave behind. We think the exact opposite. If you’ve recruited the right people, all you need to do is give them the right information, inspire them with examples and give them room to do what they believe is right. We helped put in place two tracks of activity:
- Natural behavior guidelines. We were careful not to create pages of stuff for people to read and we were careful not to call it an employee ‘manual’. Instead we created a series of natural behaviour guidelines, giving staff simple suggestions and everyday examples of how to welcome, sell to and service customers. No manual, no long training sessions.
- Customer listening mechanisms. We provided input into setting up processes for capturing immediate feedback from showroom visitors. Audio-recorded interviews and direct ‘voice of the customer’ information were sent to dealership managers on a weekly or monthly basis with a practical ‘in-store’ management approach to make sure everyone could act on the information they were being given. No big report to read, just real, direct, usable feedback in manageable chunks.
When the recession hit and the automotive industry crashed, our client reported that those dealerships using this new approach had managed to survive far better than the others. Our guidelines and customer listening techniques are now used as a kind of customer experience bible in all dealerships. If you want to upgrade customer experience in your business, please get in touch for an informal discussion.
- Alain Thys
- Stefan Kolle
- Richard Percival