Six things you can learn from Tesla about customer experience
Create a movement
Tesla is not just selling cars. It has a mission to “accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable energy”. And you can feel that mission – of making the lives of its customers more sustainable and helping save the world – through everything that it does. It’s about committing employees around something bigger than “just a job” and helping customers feel as if they are a part of a higher mission, of a movement. And Tesla customers are truly something special: you can really feel how committed they are to the brand.
This commitment is not just about image. It’s more than nice slogans on the wall. Elon Musk, for instance, refuses to see other car companies as competition but rather wants to gather them around the same vision. He also open-sourced all of Tesla’s patents and even praised its rivals for their progress on electric vehicles.
Chase the friction and remove it
One of the biggest frictions in the automobile industry is the bad sales experience, which is often described as a time-consuming hassle. Car salespeople have the reputation of being pushy and frankly sometimes even a bit dishonest. So if a company comes along and removes the biggest friction and annoyance of its industry, customers will really appreciate that and favour this approach over all the others. If you want to differentiate your offering, always look for the typical frictions of your industry and find a way to solve them.
One way that this typical industry friction is eliminated, is by moving the entire sales process online. All the information you need to configure and buy one of their cars, and schedule a pickup can be found on their website. The price listed is the final price and there’s no useless and stressful haggling as is normally the case. So the most annoying part of buying a car just becomes a self-service process, with the customer entirely in control from A to Z, almost like ordering your groceries online.
Tesla still has fancy showrooms with Customer Experience Specialists (not Sales people), but these are there for test drives and ‘old school’ customers who really prefer the human touch.
Stay as close as you can to your customers
Tesla really understands the importance of being in the lead. It allows customers to stay in control of their own buying journey. And at the same time, it owns the entire customer relationship, from start to finish. Car companies often collaborate with dealerships for selling and servicing their products. There would be nothing wrong with that, except for the fact that these dealerships have a very traditional approach, which Tesla really wanted to get rid of. So it sells the cars directly to its customers, without any third parties being involved. The result is that it can control the messaging and relationship and can offer a consistent experience.
Augment your products
Another way to push CX to a new level is that Tesla doesn’t just offer a fantastic product, but augments it with great services and experiences. Knowing that finding charging stations are a challenge, they have put together a large network of them across the US and Europe, conveniently located near hotels, shopping malls, restaurants and on highways. For those customers who feel that a 50% battery charge in only 20 minutes is too slow, they can even exchange their car’s battery for a new, fully charged one in 90 seconds (at a cost, obviously).
The company is also known for really listening to and incorporating the feedback of its customers: it makes about 20 engineering changes every week to its Model S vehicle. They do that in response to what customers tell them about their driving experiences, or to data insights gathered on how customers use their cars. On top of that, 80% of the repairs can be done outside a service centre and mobile service repairs are even complementary. Software updates, then, happen overnight and leave the customers feeling as if their cars keeps reinventing itself. If there are any issues which cannot be solved at distance, they’ll pick up your car, provide you with a replacement and repair it.
Tesla really is a perfect example of Philip Kotler’s concept of the “augmented product”, where the nonphysical part of the offer – the experience, the service, the mission and the brand – is what brings it to a higher level.
Be honest and transparent
Last but not least, honesty and transparency are an important part of the Tesla brand, too. That’s probably a part of its strategy to set itself apart of other car brand who are a lot more conservative and closed in their communication. A story you often come across is how the delivery dates of the Model 3 kept being pushed back because of manufacturing issues. Customers were becoming disappointed and worried. And so Tesla decided to be completely honest about its challenges. Elon Musk even directly responded to concerns voiced on Twitter, with honest updates on the situation.
Problems and mistakes happen. Customers will understand that, as long as the communication around them happens openly and honestly.
So that’s it. These are the 6 learnings from Tesla that might offer you some inspiration. I hope you find them useful and let me know if I forgot any important ones:
- Create a movement
- Chase the friction and remove it
- Offer self-service
- Stay as close as you can to your customers
- Augment your products
- Be honest and transparent