NEW YORK—Consumers' growing appetite for outstanding experiences is no secret, Forrester analyst Harley Manning said as he kicked off the Customer Experience Forum here Tuesday morning. But as consumers continue to become increasingly savvy at researching and comparing brands, CMOs and brand managers are realizing that when it comes to customer experience, "good is no longer good enough," Manning said.
Turning Customer Experience Inside Out
Building an experience that will delight rather than just satisfy customers must begin long before an interaction ever occurs. Most outstanding customer experiences start internally, with company executives introducing and promoting a corporate culture that makes employees engaged and passionate about the brand. At Mercedes Benz, customer experience is critical—the company aims to ensure that "every encounter with the brand is as powerful as the machine itself," Steve Cannon, president and CEO of Mercedez Benz USA, said.
In 2012, the luxury car retailer created the most comprehensive pledge to customer experience in Mercedes Benz history, aiming to "mobilize every dealership and every employee," Cannon said. Because the company operates in a franchised environment, building a culture that would permeate its 362 dealerships was "difficult but necessary," he said. To fully immerse employees in Mercedes' brand, the corporation gave its employees an opportunity to drive its vehicles for an allotted period of time and "fall in love with the cars as much as our customers do," Cannon said. The company also launched leadership academies and immersion programs that invite employees to visit manufacturing sites and see the standards that Mercedes follows and touts to consumers. "Customer experience follows employee experience," he added, "and that's why you've got to start in your own buildings, folks."
Though Mercedes sets a solid example, changing corporate and employee culture is no easy feat, analyst Sam Stern said. The first two steps, he explained, are securing executive support and growing a customer experience team to lead the transformation. At John Deere Financial, for example, customer experience managers gathered 30 to 40 employees to participate in a customer