Six Lessons In Customer Experience You Can Learn From Tesla

Tesla boasts an impressive net promoter score (NPS) of 96, and they have a truly dedicated following of brand advocates.

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If you know any Tesla customers, chances are you will have noticed they’re big fans of the brand. The company boasts an impressive net promoter score (NPS) of 96, and they have a truly dedicated following of brand advocates.

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So, what is it that has helped Tesla build such a stellar reputation as more than “just” another car company? Is the product? The rockstar CEO, Elon Musk? Or is it the recognition of their place on the planet, and the way they stay true to a much bigger mission?

There are some important lessons any entrepreneur and business leader can learn from them:

1. Start a movement

Tesla do not just sell cars. They have a wider mission to “accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable energy.” They want to make the lives of their customers more sustainable, and to help save the planet through everything that it does.

This mission means Tesla employees are committed to something bigger than “just a job,” and in turn, this helps customers also feel that they are a part of this mission. Tesla customers are part of a movement, and it makes them something truly special.

But it has to be more than just a brand image or slogans on their office walls. Elon Musk refuses to see other car companies as competition, but instead wants them to get on board with the same vision, so he even open-sourced all of Tesla’s patents, and praised rivals for their progress on electric vehicles.

2. Remove the friction

Anyone who has bought a car is likely to be able to think of a bad sales experience. It can be a time-consuming hassle, not helped by the reputation that car salespeople can pushy or frankly dishonest.

This “traditional” sales experience is one of the biggest frictions or annoyances in the car buying journey for customers, so why not remove it? You can apply the same lesson to almost any other industry– if you want to differentiate your offering, look for the typical frictions that customers face in your industry and find a way to solve them.

3. Offer self-service

During the global COVID-19 pandemic, many companies have been forced to move part of their sales process online, but this can actually be one of the best ways that friction is eliminated. For Tesla, they were dedicated to putting all the information a customer needs to configure and buy one of their cars, and schedule a pickup just through their website. Their prices are fixed to remove the stressful, and often pointless, haggling, so the customer is entirely in control from start to finish in the same way they would be ordering groceries online.

Of course, Tesla still has fancy showrooms with “customer experience specialists,” rather than salespeople, but these are simply there for test drives, and for “old school” customers who really prefer more of a human touch.

4. Stay close to your customers

As a company, Tesla understands the importance of being a leader, rather than a follower. Other car companies often collaborate with dealerships for selling and servicing their products, which wouldn’t be a problem, except for the fact that these dealerships have the very traditional approach that Tesla really wanted to get rid of.

So, Tesla sells the cars directly to its customers, without any third parties being involved. It means customers can stay in control of their own buying journey, while at the same time, Tesla owns the entire customer relationship, from start to finish. The result is that it can control the messaging and relationship, and can offer a consistent experience that most other car manufacturers cannot.

5. Augment products

Tesla knows it has a good product, but to take their customer experience to a higher level, they augment that product with other great services and experiences.

For instance, they recognized that finding charging stations was a challenge for customers, so put together a large network of them across the US and Europe. For those customers who feel that a 50% battery charge in 20 minutes is too slow, they can even exchange their car’s battery for a new, fully charged one in 90 seconds, at a cost, obviously.

The ongoing augmenting and improving of their products is driven by listening to customer feedback. It makes around 20 engineering changes to its Model S vehicle each week, all based on customers feedback on driving experiences or on data insights from how customers use their cars. 80% of repairs can be done outside a service center, mobile service repairs are complimentary, and software updates happen overnight so customers feel their car keeps reinventing itself.

Tesla cars are a perfect example of Philip Kotler’s concept of the “augmented product.” It is the “non-physical” part of the offer –the experience, the service, the mission, and the brand– that sets it apart on a higher level.

6. Be transparent

There have been high profile examples of car manufacturers undermining their customer relationships through conservative, closed communication, but Tesla strives to make honesty and transparency a key part of the brand.

One well-known story is how the delivery dates of the Model 3 kept being pushed back because of manufacturing issues. Naturally, customers were becoming disappointed and worried, so Tesla decided to be completely honest about what the challenges were. Elon Musk even directly responded to concerns voiced on Twitter, with honest updates on the situation.

In every industry, problems and mistakes happen. Customers will understand that– but the key is making the communication around these issues open and honest.

Related: Bolstering Business: Four Tactics That Can Help You Boost Customer Acquisition For Your Startup

Steven van Belleghem

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Steven van Belleghem is one of the world’s leading thought leaders, speakers and authors on customer engagement. His new book, The Offer You Can’t Refuse, is out now.