Creating Value Through Meaningful Experiences: How Volkswagen Australia Wins Customers And Earns Their Loyalty
When he began his first business at age 14 selling software, Jason Bradshawquickly learned that while he did not have the resources of a larger company, he could still use excellent service to differentiate his brand. This early lesson sparked a lifetime passion to create curated experiences for his customers and to use experiences to drive brand loyalty.
Bradshaw, chief customer officer of Volkswagen Australia, said the need for extraordinary customer experience spans industries.
“It doesn’t matter if you’re in banking, government or automotive. What your customers are going to remember is how you made them feel. If more organizations were focused on improving the experiences of their customers, everyone would be more fulfilled and businesses would flourish.”
The movement from transactional customer service — and toward unique and memorable customer experience — has been underway for over a decade. Customer service involves an action that is routine and expected, such as being offered to test drive a new car; it is typically unmemorable. Customer experiencehappens when a company provides personalized and memorable service to create an emotionally engaging experience. Taking the test drive from a transaction to a memorable experience can be simple; it starts with understanding how the customer will use the vehicle. Auto dealerships seeking to engage customers might also help nervous new parents install a car seat or send an audiobook to a customer who mentioned a love of reading.
“We want all of our customers to have an experience that will consistently deliver above their expectations, in a manner that will bring value to them,” said Bradshaw. “One of our values is, ‘Care For Me,’ and our dealers are always keeping this in mind. Buying a car is a big financial and emotional investment — we want our customers to know we truly care about them and the life-changing decision they are making.”
Creating a personalized customer experience is also a prudent business strategy with financial impact. It builds loyalty, grows market share and differentiates brands — and even in times of economic shifts, that can boost your bottom line, he said.
“The organizations that truly understand and care for their customers are the ones that survive and thrive, even during recessions. When people have less discretionary money, they’ll only spend it with brands they already trust. If we don’t focus on building relationships and having meaningful interactions with our customers, then we simply become another place to buy cars,” Bradshaw said. “It’s much more significant to show our customers how much we care for them by creating personalized and memorable experiences whenever we can.”
Prioritizing Employees And Investing In Their Experiences
When Bradshaw joined Volkswagen Australia nearly three years ago, he realized the company was not going to become a customer experience leader unless it looked to other leading organizations. In doing so, he created a unique training program to help employees understand the value of customer experience. It involves weeklong “experience-immersion trips” that take over 40 attendees to the United States at a time to undergo facilitations and trainings with customer experience experts such as The Ritz-Carlton Leadership Center.
“We always go to The Ritz-Carlton, Marina del Rey and meet with The Ritz-Carlton Leadership Center,” Bradshaw said. “This particular part of the trip is meaningful because our attendees can learn the theory and also see how that theory is translated practically, as they experience The Ritz-Carlton service culture firsthand. The difference between this and simply having a consultant talk to us is that it embeds the behavior and customer-experience mindset much faster.”
Bradshaw’s investment in his employees and in customer experience has impacted his entire organization. Volkswagen Australia’s industry ranking has made its largest improvement in its history, and net promoter scores have increased by over 20 points. And the immersion trips are yielding direct results with dealer attendees outscoring nonattendees by up to 30 points in customer satisfaction.
“The key to delivering an exceptional customer experience is to focus as much on the employee experience as the customer one,” Bradshaw said. “And that all begins with ensuring all your employees understand who your customer truly is and how our roles all connect to the customer. Once you define that, everyone will understand your North Star.”
Culture Impacts The Talent Experience
The corporate movement to focus on culture is growing across industries. Organizations are beginning to recognize how culture impacts the happiness of their employees and ultimately the satisfaction and loyalty of their customers.
“Culture is what creates and drives the talent experience, which is invaluable. If your talent experience produces passionate brand advocates, your employees will relish using anticipatory service to delight and ‘wow’ your clients,” said Antonia Hock, global head of The Ritz-Carlton Leadership Center. “Most importantly, they will create this differentiated, special customer experience not because you’ve ordered them to, but because it’s truly what they want to do.”
THE RITZ-CARLTON LEADERSHIP CENTER
Volkswagen Australia understands that a culture supportive of employee engagement does not simply comprise leadership edicts or financial incentives, Hock said. Creating and supporting a culture to drive the talent experience — an environment in which all people are empowered and trusted and know they are valued — will manifest in a genuine desire to care for clients.
“Gone will be the transactional and impersonal interactions,” Hock said. “In their place will be authentic, caring relationships with your clients that will make them loyal to your brand for life.”
One Leadership Center client, a professional sports team, demonstrated the importance of improving its talent experience by focusing on its culture. The team, which had been suffering from a poor fan experience and declining ticket sales, worked to refine its culture. This included reengaging employees, helping all levels of the organization understand their strategic roles, and ensuring employees were empowered to create memorable interactions. The new culture produced highly engaged employees excited to create lifetime fans, and a No. 1 rank in fan experience by a leading customer service authority. The concept of empowerment was a key factor in helping the sports team dramatically improve fan experience.
“By empowering employees to create exceptional, personalized experiences from any moment, even ones that were seemingly mundane, the organization created memorable and unique experiences for all of their fans,” said Hock. “Empowerment improved the overall fan experience, and it made their team brand shine brighter than others.”
Every Interaction Is Important
Companies that consistently deliver elevated customer experiences understand that no customer interaction is simply transactional — each one is meaningful and represents an opportunity to create a memorable experience. These individual interactions, taken together, shape an organization’s reputation.
Several years ago, a medical center was suffering from high patient dissatisfaction and low employee engagement. It was evident that company culture was unable to produce genuine and comforting interactions when patients needed them most.
The medical center underwent a culture transformation with The Ritz-Carlton Leadership Center, learning how to use anticipatory service in the process. Within 12 months, there were significant increases in employee engagement and patient satisfaction, as well as scores that rated the hospital nationally. The medical center attributed these improvements to its newly empowered staff members, who were making impactful patient experience decisions on a daily basis.
It is this recognition of the power of each employee that makes investing in culture transformation worthwhile, Hock said.
“Culture will impact the lives and daily happiness of everyone in an organization,” she said. “Our biggest success is knowing that every employee in these organizations, not just the C-suite, understands how vital they are in shaping the future of their organization. They know that their decisions and actions will directly change and improve their clients’ lives, and there is truly nothing more powerful than that.”
View original article on Forbes at https://www.forbes.com/sites/ritz-carltonleadershipcenter/2018/05/22/creating-value-through-meaningful-experiences-how-volkswagen-australia-wins-customers-and-earns-their-loyalty/#3a0127634f4b