Lesson from Driven to Delight – Forget the Competition, Remember Your Customers

This is a guest post from Dr. Joseph Michelli, the New York Times best-selling author. It features a story about Mercedes-Benz from his latest book, Driven to Delight: Delivering World-Class Customer Experience the Mercedes-Benz Way

Driven to DelightI’ve long been a believer that we should spend more time building strategy to meet and exceed customer expectations, and less time devising tactics to counter the efforts of our competitors. Don’t get me wrong. Any good SWOT analysis considers the competitive set but ULTIMATELY we are in business to serve customers, not outwit the competition. It is by strengthening our relationship with our customers that we enjoy repeat business, sustained profits and referrals.

Thought leader Seth Godin also has a laser focus on customers. In fact, Seth has been known to ask a provocatively simple question: “Who are your customers?” Dismissing the usual sterile and demographic-focused answers, he challenges us all to think about customers in a more relatable way. “What do they believe? Who do they trust? Who are their friends? What do they talk about?” Imagine…knowing your customers so intimately and then catering your business to them, irrespective of what “the other guys” are doing.

By getting to know your customers in an unparalleled way, you are likely to differentiate your business and your strategy from brands that are constantly selling. Let me give you some examples of transformative processes deployed by a company for whom I have had the good fortune of consulting and about whom I have recently written a book titled Driven to Delight: Delivering World-Class Customer Experience the Mercedes-Benz Way.

Mercedes-Benz is at the pinnacle of excellence when it comes to engineering innovation, safety and marketing, but the company’s “product-centricity” had left it somewhat lacking when it came to knowledge of what their customers wanted in a dealership experience. As such, Mercedes-Benz USA was performing at a very mediocre level on customer surveys such as those conducted by JD Power. During the process of building a “customer-obsessed” culture, leaders at Mercedes-Benz USA addressed a host of human, process, and technology-based initiatives. When it comes to “knowing their customer,” two particular initiatives are worthy of emulation, DaSH and LEAD:

DaSH – How do your customers and your employees differ? Leaders at Mercedes-Benz USA asked their employees that question and found a sizable number of the people who represented the brand hadn’t spent considerable time behind the wheel of a Mercedes-Benz vehicle. In the absence of shared experiences, prejudices and assumptions creep-in and some staff begin to think that “anyone who buys an S-Class is all about prestige, status, or power.” DaSH changed that! DaSH stands for Drive a Star Home (the “star” is a reference to the Mercedes-Benz logo) which availed a Mercedes-Benz vehicle for brand representatives to use over multiple days. Not only did employees enjoy the safety, performance and special driving experience provided by Mercedes-Benz vehicles, they also came to understand why people (like themselves) choose to make other financial compromises in order to own a Mercedes-Benz.

LEAD – LEAD stands for Listen, Empathize, Add Value and Delight. LEAD is the anchor for skills development necessary to identify and connect with peers and customers. Everyone representing the Mercedes-Benz USA brand is trained and re-trained to listen for understanding, assess the emotional experience of customers and connect with their experience, and add value beyond the transactional level. When each of those actions are provided to a customer and when you authentically welcome customers back for your next opportunity to serve them, customers feel “known” and “delighted.”

Mercedes-Benz USA gets it!

Without shared experiences for staff and customers, and a team trained to listen, emotionally connect, and serve – what is company or brand? I guess the entire model for business would reduce itself to a commoditized game of out-pricing and out-maneuvering the competition – that doesn’t seem like a game worth playing to me! How about you?


Joseph A Michelli, PhD, CSP, is an internationally sought-after speaker, consultant, and New York Times No 1 best-selling author. You can find more information about him at www.josephmichelli.com.

Today’s Lagniappe (a little something extra thrown in for good measure) – Steve Cannon is the President and CEO of Mercedes-Benz USA. He is the former VP of Marketing for the brand. Two things I love about Steve,

1. He has said, “Customer experience is the new battleground

2. He has staked his legacy as CEO on customer experience.

Here’s a video of Steve at Forrester talking about investing in the DaSH program:

How Highfive Uses Info-sense to Onboard New Customers

Guest post by Evan Carroll (co-author of the upcoming book Blue Goldfish)

[Editors Note: According to Trendwatching, Info-sense is the ability to utilize data to really understand customers as people and personalize their service]

If you’ve looked for a video conferencing solution lately, chances are you’ve encountered Highfive, a new device that turns an ordinary television into a video conferencing system. One thing I love about Highfive is its simplicity. You simply order the device for a flat $1,200 per room. That might sound pricey, however there are no monthly fees, no usage fees and no per-user fees. If you have two offices, you’re $2,400 away from a seamless videoconference experience.

While the device itself is simple, the technology behind it is anything but, which usually leads to cumbersome devices that are complicated to use and even more complicated to set up. A colleague of mine recently purchased Highfive and shared with me the series of emails he received to help ease the set up process.

The first email arrived as soon as Highfive was shipped. It’s not uncommon to receive a shipment notification, however this one had the little extras to make it special. It came from a real person, addressed my colleague by name and included a video on how to get started once Highfive arrived. My favorite part was a quick tip at the bottom, ‘While waiting for your device to arrive, check that there is a power outlet and live ethernet port near the TV where you’re connecting your device.” I like this tip for two reasons. First, it offers the customer something to do while they’re waiting, which inevitably builds excitement. Second, by asking the customer to prepare ahead of time, they’re able to jump right in when their device arrives and won’t be bummed when they can’t find an outlet.

highfive email

Like many retailers, Highfive knew when the customer’s order was shipped and used that to trigger an email. While most automated emails are not as awesome as this one, I see shipment notifications as par for the course.

Where Highfive excels is in its second and third emails. In the second email a Highfive success manager says, “I noticed you haven’t set up your Highfive device yet and wanted to see if I could help.” The email concludes with a video explaining how to set up the device, an invitation to reach out for help and another quick tip.

highfive email 2

This is where the brilliance begins. Highfive knew that the device had arrived by following the tracking number. Then, once it arrived, they knew the device hadn’t connected to their network, so they encouraged the customer to take it out of the box and try it. The third email detected when the device was used for the first time and congratulated the customer on setting up the first device and included tips on what to do next.

highfive congrats

Highfive designed the experience of waiting for and setting up the device to ensure a positive experience for the customer. They used info-sense to send automated emails that were precisely relevant and made you feel like someone was personally watching over your order. They also went the extra mile to provide videos, helpful tips and address the emails from a person, not from a machine. This is the difference between Highfive and many companies. The Highfive team chose to go the extra mile to not just send great emails, but to build an intelligent system to make sure they were relevant and helpful. The net effect? Happier customers and customers ready to buy more devices, because they know it will be easy to set up. Without a positive email experience, it’s likely that customers would not be happy, return the device and not purchase more. Are you doing the little extras to make sure your customers are happy? If not, how can you use your data to create small moments that help your customers.

Lagniappe – Highfive is so confident in their product and support that they offer a risk free trial. Simply order a set of five devices. They’ll send them to you free and they’ll invoice you if you like them, or you can send them back. No questions asked.

highfive guarantee

Nine Inch Resiliency Thoughts

mcdarghThis is a guest post from Eileen McDargh:

The average distance from the brain to the heart is nine inches. Stan has made a great contribution to customer and employee retention by focusing on how to win not only the minds but the hearts of these stakeholders.

It is no small coincidence that nine-inches of attention also are superb vehicles for cultivating resiliency in our ever changing, 24/7, high pressure world.

I define resiliency as growing THROUGH challenge or opportunity so that you and your organization become wiser and stronger. The traditional notion of resiliency as “bouncing back” disregards human potential. There is no going “back.”

Head and HeartAdaptability is the first critical resiliency skill and one that can be learned and practiced. But it requires both head and heart.

First: the HEAD

How we THINK about an event, a process, or a practice determines our response that in turn, creates an outcome. The goal is to generate as many possible responses but that can only come if we expand our thinking. The more options we can create, the greater is our opportunity for getting through tough times. In biological terms, requisite variety determines the survival of a species.

Example: Ohio State’s football coach, Urban Meyer, could have despaired when his first string quarterback was sidelined with a season-ending injury. However, Meyer and his team have been practicing—literally for years– on finding positive responses to any given situation. As of this writing, Cardale Jones- a third string quarterback-will take the team on the field tomorrow to determine the national championship.

Example: On the flip side, consider the fate of Howard Johnson restaurants. At one time, good old HoJo had more locations than Kentucky Fried, Burger King and McDonalds combined! But resiliency took a nose-dive because the THINKING was stuck in a model that no longer worked.

Example: I have a dear friend who has defied the odds of survival with ovarian cancer. She and her husband, Lee, continue to find different ways of responding to medical events, of even talking about her illness. Together, they celebrate children, grandchildren, and hard as it might be—they continue to look for what is positive in the day.

Ask yourselves these questions:

  • How many different ways can I view this situation?
  • What would happen if?
  • Why not do…
  • What’s the worst thing that could happen?
  • How many people can provide me with a different viewpoint?
  • As you read these questions, you might sense some emotional
  • responses: everything from excitement to anxiety to fear.

Now the Heart

This is where the HEART comes into play.

The heart is an amazing organ with an energy field far stronger than the brain. In fact, just as neuroscientists are discovering the brain’s ability to rewire, cardiologists are discovering that the heart is more deeply connected to the brain. In The Heart Speaks, Dr. Mimi Guarneri reveals groundbreaking new research that the heart is a multilayered, complex organ, possessing intelligence, memory, and decision-making abilities independent from the mind.

At the core of the word HEART is the word hear. Resiliency requires that we listen to our own instincts, our gut, our intuition. Logic might provide one response but our instinct might create another. Emotion can very well be the fuel that creates a breakthrough. Anger stirred the creation of M.A.D.D. and compassion created Mother Teresa’s nuns. Logic would have predicted failure of both.

May 2015 bring a 9-inch collaboration that allows you to be better by any measure.

Your Resiliency GPSAbout Eileen McDargh: Eileen is an internationally recognized keynote speaker, management consultant, master facilitator, and award-winning author.

Her newest book, Your Resiliency GPS: A Guide for Growing Through Life & Work was recently released on Amazon to five-star reviews.