Throughout the years, Annette has championed the importance of customer journey mapping and
executing across key touch points to delight customers. I’m honored to provide a guest blog, in keeping with her thought leadership on these important topics.

For the sake of this post, imagine that you lead a company with an excellent product and equally outstanding marketing. You have a steady stream of customers frequenting your business but fear your competitors may have a more-consistent or elevated customer experience. In your mind, it is only a matter of time before customers churn to your competitors, unless you improve the overall experience you provide.

According to Forrester Research, 92% of leadership teams face this challenge, and thus place customer experience improvement among their top strategic priorities. Unfortunately, the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) reports consumer satisfaction (let alone delight) is at a 9-year low.

In summary, leaders have concern and prioritize experience improvement strategy, but customers aren’t reporting progress.

This “execution gap,” as I like to call it, often comes from not treating customer experience change like they do any other large-scale transformation initiative. So let’s look at 5 key lessons from one company who has successfully executed and “driven delight” for their customers. That company, Mercedes-Benz USA (MBUSA), is the focus of my recently released book Driven to Delight: Delivering World Class Customer Experience the Mercedes-Benz Way.  Leaders at Mercedes-Benz have taken a product-centric brand quickly in the direction of customer-centric people, process, and technology innovation by focusing on the:

1) Creation of a compelling vision of customer experience excellence: Mercedes-Benz claims they are the “best or nothing,” but on some third-party evaluations their customer experience was “middle of the pack” among luxury automotive manufacturers. Leaders at Mercedes-Benz USA made a compelling case for why customer experience needed to be improved. They continually championed a message of how the future could be different for customers, staff, and dealers. They also offered insights as to what could bring improvement and sought individual buy-in such that each individual would drive delight for “every customer, every time, no excuses.”

2) Mapping of the Customer Journey and Simplifying that Map: While the brand had rich departmental level process maps, Mercedes-Benz USA never had a comprehensive view of typical customer journeys through pre-sale, sale, and post-sale. Marketing, sales, and service all had their own siloed views of the customer journey. These disparate perspectives left gaps for customers at transition points and often were developed from the brands’ perspective, not the customer’s viewpoint. After the comprehensive maps were created, those maps were simplified into journey wheels that create line-of-sight improvement opportunities for everyone representing Mercedes-Benz.

3) Measuring and Leveraging Customer Feedback: MBUSA was quick to acknowledge that they lacked the core competency of effectively leveraging customer feedback in real-time. That changed with the development of measurement tools which are deployed at key points along the customer journey and which capture both transactional satisfaction and relational engagement.

4) Aligning Incentives: Leaders at Mercedes-Benz USA worked with dealer partners to link performance on customer experience metrics to the amount of margin dealers would earn. Poor customer experience scores resulted in less money per car. The money that was not earned by under-performing dealers was cycled back in the form of a bonus for those performing at the highest levels on customer ratings of experience.

5) Committing for the Long Term: MBUSA is in the customer-centric transformation for the long haul. To hear leaders talk, there is no turning back and no time to linger on past victories. They want to not only be best in automotive but to also be among the “best-of-the-best” customer experience providers irrespective of industry. MBUSA leaders talk about customer experience in terms of legacy, dynasty, and a never-ending journey.

So, how do you shape-up against the 5 keys shared above? Are you bridging the “execution gap” for customer experience delivery? Most important, are you confident your people are consistently “driven to delight” one another and your customers?