Chevy Dealers Deliver Best Customer Experience in Auto Industry

This post examines the 1o auto dealers included in the 2012 Temkin Experience Ratings.

Chevrolet was the top rated auto dealer and the only one to receive a “good” customer experience rating, and 57th overall out of the 206 companies in the ratings. Three auto dealers were next in line with “okay” ratings: Toyota, BMW, and Honda. The remaining six auto dealers earned “poor” ratings with Kia falling to the bottom of the list.

The average rating for the overall auto industry placed it 14th among 18 industries, only outpacing health plans, Internet service providers, TV service providers, and computer makers.

Looking across the three components of the Temkin Experience Ratings, Toyota leads in functional experience and Dodge is at the bottom; Chevy and BMW lead in accessible experience and Hyundai is at the bottom; and Chevy leads in emotional experience and Kia is at the bottom.

Do you want to see the data? Go to the Temkin Ratings website where you can sort through all of the results for free. You can even purchase the underlying data if you want to get more access.

The bottom line: Chevy dealers are setting the CX pace in the auto industry

The US Auto Industry Needs More Customer Focus

Given the current struggles in the auto industry, I revisited at a post called GMs customer experience woes. It referenced an article written by HBS professor John Quelch that outlined eight reasons why GM failed as a marketer. The number one item on his list was GM’s focus on products, not customers. For regular readers of this blog, you’ll recognize that this directly conflicts with the first principle of Experience-Based Differentiation: Obsess about customer needs, not product features.

The post also referenced some data from the 2008 American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI). I examined the data again and developed this chart which shows how US car brands rate in terms of their customer satisfaction and the change in satisfaction levels between 2007 and 2008.

2008autosatisfaction_small

Some things pop out quickly on this chart:

  • The top four brands are all foreign; and three of them are from Japan.
  • The bottom five brands are all American; and three of them are from Chrysler.
  • GM owns the top three US brands; and four out of the top five US brands.
  • Saturn is the top US brand; and it is also the brand that improved the most since last year.
  • Eleven brands improved over 2007; and only four of them were from the US.
  • Seven brands declined from 2007; and six of them were from the US.

The bottom line: The US needs a more customer-centric car industry.

Ford Lacks An American Idol Storyline

In an article in Advertising Age, Martin Lindstrom (author of “Buyology: Truth and Lies About Why We Buy What We Buy“) discusses neuromarketing research which looked at how brand impressions impacted 2,000 consumers. As part of the study, they examined the value that Coke, AT&T, and Ford received from their $25+ million sponsorship deals with American Idol.

It turns out that the connection with the hit TV show increased the brand equity for Coke and AT&T, but it had a negative impact on the Ford brand.  

americanidolandbrands_small

Lindstrom suggests that these results stem from how the brands were incorporated into the show. Coke and AT&T were integrated within the flow of the show, but Ford’s impressions lacked a clear purpose. According to Lindstrom:

What we learned was that if a brand is part of a story line, our brains will accept the role of the brand and remember its presence. However, if a brand and its role don’t support the story line, the opposite will happen: Our brains will simply erase it.

My take: Storytelling is a powerful, yet under-appreciated, tool. People have a hard time remembering a bunch of disconnected facts, but they can remember an abundance of details about a story that resonates with them.

Whenever I am doing a research project, I’m constantly asking “what’s the story?” Even when the research is completed, I end up spending an enormous amount of time fine-tuning how we tell the story. Is it worth it? I really think so. As the management guru John Kotter has said:

Over the years I have become convinced that we learn best–and change–from hearing stories that strike a chord within us.

The bottom line: Words are cheap, but a great story is priceless.

Ford’s MyKey Demonstrates Customer Insight

Ford has a new technology called MyKey which is a safety device aimed at teenage drivers. When the car is turned on by a specific MyKey (give to a teenage driver), the car behaves differently. It will debut as standard equipment on the 2010 Ford Focus coupe and will works its way into other Ford, Lincoln and Mercury vehicles. Here are some of the features of MyKey:

  • limit top speed of vehicle to 80 miles per hour
  • sound a chime whenever the vehicle travels above 45, 55 or 65 miles per hour
  • cap the volume on the car stereo
  • mute the radio and chime repeatedly until the driver is buckled up
  • light up low-fuel warning earlier than normal

My take: I’m not sure if this particular feature will sell more cars, especially given the economy, but it represents an excellent example of the first principle of Experience-Based Differentiation: “Obsess about customer needs, not product features.”

What’s so good about MyKey? Ford thought about the needs of a specific segment of customers (parents of teenagers) — beyond the usual automotive features like style, speed, price, and fuel economy. By looking at a more comprehensive set of needs, the car maker was able to identify novel features that appeal to that segment.

The bottom line: Digital features require durable manufacturers to know more about customers.

Gen Y Brands Gain, Financial Brands Lose

Interbrand just published its annual ranking of the 100 best global brands. Here are the top 10 brands on the list:

  1. Coca Cola
  2. IBM
  3. Microsoft
  4. GE
  5. Nokia
  6. Totota
  7. Intel
  8. McDonald’s
  9. Disney
  10. Google

Here’s some of the other interesting details from the rankings:

  • Google is the only new entry to the top 10; it was 20th last year. Which company dropped out? Mercedes-Benz was 10th last year and is 11th this year.
  • The listing also provides the change in value of the brands since last year. Here are the biggest changes in brand value:
    • Top gainers: Google (+43%), Apple (+24%), Amazon (+19%), ZARA (+15%), SAP (+13%), and Nintendo (+13%)
    • Top losers: Merrill Lynch (-21%), Gap (-20%), Morgan Stanley (-16%), Citi (-15%), Ford (-12%), and UBS (-11%).
    • The top gainers are what I call “Gen Y brands,” they came to age during the early adulthood of 20 year-olds, while the losers are dominated by large financial institutions.
  • There were 7 new brands on the top 100 list this year: H&M (#22), Blackberry (#73), Ferrari (#93), Giorgio Armani (#94), Marriott (#96), FedEx (#99), and Visa (#100).
  • The highest ranked company on last year’s list that did not make this year’s top 100 was Kodak (#82 in 2007).
  • For fun, I went back and looked at the top 10 brands from 2001. Here they are:
    1. Coca Cola
    2. Microsoft
    3. IBM
    4. GE
    5. Nokia
    6. Intel
    7. Disney
    8. Ford
    9. McDonald’s
    10. AT&T

The bottom line: Just about everyone recognizes this: 

A Look Back At My First Year Of Blogging

1st Year Aniversary For Customer Experience Matters

Today is a big day. It’s exactly one year after my first post “Lessons Learned From 1,001 Web Site Reviews.”

It’s hard for me to believe that I’ve been doing this for a whole year. Or as the song from Rent goes, for five hundred twenty five thousand six hundred minutes. But my measurement is not in daylight, sunsets, midnights, or cups of coffee. It’s in blog posts, 184 of them!

While blogging takes a ton of time (I’m constantly looking for interesting topics and drafting posts), it’s been a great experience. Why? Because of you! Readership continues to grow and this blog now has more than 10,000 visitors per month. So I want to say thank you to everyone who has been reading, linking to, writing about, and passing along my blog.

In honor of the 12 months of blogging, I’ve picked out 12 of my favorite posts (in no particular order):

  • Experience-Based Differentiation. This is the core idea which drives my research; it also  won the best research award at Forrester. Experience-Based Differentiation, or EBD as I fondly call it, is based on three principles: Obsess about customer needs, reinforce the brand with every interaction, and treat customer experience as a competency. This remains a powerful blueprint for customer experience excellence. If you’re interested in customer experience (who isn’t?!?), then you may want to use the EBD self-test as a starting point. You can also find many other posts about EBD on this blog.
  • My Manifesto: Great Customer Experience Is Free. This post summarizes my perspective on customer experience; it’s a lot like the quality problems of the 1980s. While customer experience is not an easy situation to deal with, it can DEFINITELY be improved with a systematic effort; it just takes discipline (see EBD above). There was also a follow-on to this post called Great Customer Experience Is Free, Part II.
  • Don’t Let Profits Replace Purpose. Companies need to make profits, but here’s the dilemma: if they just focus on making profits, then they lose sight of what makes them special. Firms that lack a strong raison d’être have a hard time aligning the efforts of their employees. In a related post, I discussed how Firms Need Some Soul Searching.
  • The Holy Grail: A Link Between Customer Experience And Loyalty. I’ve been hoping to do this for a while: use data to provide the connection between customer experience and loyalty. And I finally did it. My analysis shows a high degree of correlation across the 9 industries that I examined, with the the strongest linkage for banks. That finding fits nicely with an earlier post which said that banks need to prepare for customer experience wars.
  • Trend Watch 2008 Wrap-Up. I really enjoyed writing a series of posts over the New Years break that examined trends published in The Economist, The McKinsey Quarterly, Advertising Age, Business Week, and Trendswatch.com. While I discussed 52 trends across all of the posts, this wrap-up looked at 14 that covered 4 areas: Consumer needs, online opportunities, required skills, and strategy & culture. 
  • Learning From The Good Fortune Advice Of Others. Fortune Magazine published advice from 25 famous people, and I commented on 8 of them that I really liked. There was great advice from big names like HP’s CEO Mark Hurd, Disney’s CEO Bob Iger, and Ford’s CEO Alan Mulally. But my favorite person on the list is Indra Nooyi, Chairman and CEO of Pepsico (who I found out about in a Time Magazine article). Her advice: “Whatever anybody says or does, assume positive intent.”  
  • Discussing Zappos’ Culture With Tony Hsieh. As a researcher, I get to interview a lot of people. But my discussion with Tony Hsieh, the CEO of Zappos was really memorable. It started a few minutes before our call when Tony twittered that he was waking up early (7:00 AM on Memorial Day) and needed a Red Bull before he spoke with me. Tony was great and I’ve become an even bigger fan of Zappos after the call. I also wrotr about another CEO that really understands customer experience, Wachovia’s Ken Thompson.
  • JetBlue’s “Happy Jetting” Is More Than Empty Promises. After a series of posts that looked at companies trying to change their customer experience through advertising efforts (JP Morgan Chase, Circuit City, and John Hancock) it was great to see that JetBlue was engaging its employees in its Happy Jetting efforts. I also wrote about how Ford is starting to view employees as potential brand ambassadors
  • Forrester’s 2007 Customer Experience Rankings. We used responses from nearly 5,000 consumers to rate the customer experience of 112 US firms. Our customer experience index (CxPi) examined three areas:meeting customer needs, being easy to work with, and being enjoyable. The three organizations with the highest CxPi were Costco, Borders, and Barnes & Nobles. The bottom three: Charter Communications, Medicaid, and Cablevision.  
  • Amex CEO Gains Insights From Napoleon. Kenneth Chenault, Amex CEO, used a quote from Napoleon that I really liked: “The role of the leader is to define reality and give hope.” This gave me an opportunity to discuss key leadership attributes: Deal with the reality of the world, engage your employees, provide a clear vision, and maintain a sense of purpose. While I’m discussing quotes, I really liked this one from Mackey McDonald, Chairman of VF Corp: “We realized we didn’t have to come up with brilliant ideas – we needed brilliant ways of executing good ideas.” 
  • Mashup: Halloween + Red Sox + CxP. This was a unique opportunity for me to combine three of my favorite things: my family, Red Sox, and customer experience. We had a great interaction with Jason Varitek on Halloween that ended up with my kids getting his autograph. You can see where he signed my son’s World Series ticket in this post. In another mashup of my interests, I my posted about how The Colorado Rockies Embraces Its Guests.
  • The Best Of CxP Matters: Volume #1Volume #2, and Volume #3. It’s amazing how quickly time (and many blog posts) just flies by. That’s why I’ve been writing “The Best Of Customer Experience Matters” to summarize every 50 posts; they also give me a reason to reflect on what I’ve written. So I decided to bundle all three of these as one of my favorites. 

In case you’re interested, here are the 10 posts that have been read the most:

  1. Experience-Based Differentiation
  2. My Manifesto: Great Customer Experience is free
  3. Forrester’s 2007 Customer Experience Rankings
  4. USAA: A Positive Example Of Customer Experience
  5. Trend Watch #5: Trendwatch.com “8 Important consumer trends for 2008”
  6. Webkinz: An example of a disruptive customer experience strategy
  7. Five Disruptive Customer Experience Strategies
  8. Are you listening to the voice of the customer?
  9. Apple’s Truly Genius Service
  10. Trend Watch #4: Business Week “Innovation Predictions 2008″

The bottom line: If you’d like to celebrate this anniversary, send a link to this blog to five of your friends.

Ford (Finally) Turns Employees Into Brand Ambassadors

I just read a BrandWeek article called Ford Asks Employees, Dealers to Spread Ad Message that talks about Ford’s new campaign called “Drive one” which includes a push for employees and dealers to spread the word. Jim Farley group vp-marketing and communications for Ford explains it this way:

The whole idea behind this campaign is not fancy ads. It’s talking to the customer, who talks to a friend. It’s the only chance we have to break the apathy.

My take: As I talked about in my previous post about John Hancock, advertising alone can’t dramatically change a company’s positioning. It takes a shift in how you interact with customers. That means you need to get employees involved (and for car makers, it means dealers as well). So this approach makes absolute sense. Yet, something is wrong.

The fact that Ford is making such a big deal out of this approach means that it’s an unusual occurance. So the car maker does NOT regularly engage employees and dealers in its advertising efforts. That’s a problem. Employees and the entire front line need to be developed into ambassadors for any campaign. And if they can’t promote it, then that’s probably a good sign that the campaign is not a good one. 

When I interviewed the CMO for JetBlue several years ago, she told me that she spent half of her time communicating the brand message internally. Sounds like a good benchmark.

The bottom line: CMOs need to become CMMOs, Chief Marketing And Motivational Officers.

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