“Driven to Delight”
Bestselling author and journalist, Joseph A. Michelli, has described in detail the turnaround of Mercedes Benz USA, in his book “Driven to Delight”. It is focused on the customer-centric transformation and ongoing customer experience strategy developed by Steve Cannon and his team. It is one of the best books I have ever read on automotive industry turnarounds, how to work with customer service, and how to achieve extremely satisfied and loyal customers. I strongly urge you to read this book, especially if you are working as an automotive professional at an automotive manufacturer or automotive importer. The Mercedes Benz promises one thing: “The best or nothing”. You can in the book get the explanation behind the laser focus Mercedes Benz USA had on one single goal – to make the Mercedes Benz brand customer experience the best in the world.
About Mercedes-Benz USA
Mercedes-Benz USA sells their personal cars, light commercial vehicles, though 370 independently-owned dealers. In 2016, MBUSA achieved the highest annual sales volume in its history with 340,237 units sold for the Mercedes-Benz brand. Sprinter Vans achieved an annual sales total of 34,304 and smart achieved an annual sales total of 6,211 units. MBUSA’s year-end-sales total hit an all-time record with 380,752 vehicles sold, increasing 1% from the previous year. Headquartered in Atlanta, MBUSA is responsible for the distribution, marketing and customer service for all Mercedes-Benz products in the United States (MBUSA, 2017).
How Mercedes-Benz USA puts the Customer First
When Steve Cannon started the turnaround in 2012 with Mercedes Benz USA, he defined a mantra, “Driven To Delight” which is similar to a vision he wanted everyone in his organization to understand and work toward:
“Driven to delight. It is not just a phrase. It is a path, a promise, a belief. It is a commitment to creating positive relationships. Making people smile, and leaving them with a sense of complete trust. Driven to delight means exceptional personal treatment. It is a reminder that the journey is never done, that there is always a more thoughtful way. And throughout each interaction, we must remember that the best or nothing cannot just be a description of our vehicles, but it must also represent the people behind them.” (Michelli, Driven to Delight, 2016, s. 26)
Steve Cannon and his team defined “The Standard” as an internal marketing program in his organization on how to create excellent customer service and customer experiences. Mercedes-Benz USA had transformed and renovated all its dealerships showrooms, customers receptions etc. (also referred to as the Auto House project), to modern automotive standards with great success. Mercedes Benz just needs to have the customer service work in the new “Auto Houses”.
“Driven To Delight” was inspired by the excellent benchmark standards of other world service providers like Disney, Nordstrom, and Ritz-Carlton. SWOT analysis was finalized with the management (to start the journey of transformation), and dealerships were interviewed to understand their position in the project. The vision, “Driven to Delight” together with a visual map and an action plan, defined a future standpoint for the organization. The goal of becoming customer-centric through organizational transformation can be achieved by following the vision, in both words and pictures. This is achieved by striving to be customer-obsessed, and to engage the employees in discussions to improve customer services and customer experiences. By showing examples of other “customer champions” throughout the project, the leaders of Mercedes-Benz managed to transform the organization to become customer-centric.
A special training program was developed called “LEAD” (Listen, Empathize, Add value and Delight; see Michelli “Driven to Delight”, 2016, s. 31). A special website was created where positive customer experiences explained the entire organization, and where LEAD was shown how to be implemented towards the customers. All employees in the organization were trained in LEAD at different levels.
All programs were investigated and renewed to build value for the customers, and all customer journeys were mapped and defined in a new streamlined process for pre-sales, sales, and after-sales using colored wheels for ease of understanding. So-called “customer pain points” (like rigid payment process) were removed and digital booking and payment processes were implemented to make the service experience more convenient for the customer. Training programs based on the Sales-and-Service process wheels and customer touch points were implemented.
Unnecessary work was removed to focus solely on customer service and customer experiences (especially the elimination of existing work that added little value to the customers).
Steve Cannon (referring to Michelli’s book at a dealer convention) stated: “This challenge of delivering a “best or nothing” customer experience every time will involve people; process, culture, and passion… behind great products are great people” (Michelli, Driven to Delight, 2016, s. 118). I think this quote covers it all in the book and I agree with him 100%.
Systems implemented to measure customer satisfaction and dealer performance could be accessed online so that every employee could gauge their service performance.
Mercedes-Benz USA also created the “Drive a Star Home” program whereby all employees drove the newest vehicles for a few days to extend their product knowledge of the newest vehicles and vehicle features. By driving the vehicles personally, the employees gained valuable experience with the newest technology and understanding about the term “driving pleasure”. By testing the newest vehicles under different conditions, all employees had the ability to show their passion for the products to their customers after this exercise. A brand day (“Brand Immersion”) was also created where employees from various dealerships were brought to a central brand immersion center to learn about transforming the organization from “product-focused” to “customer-focused”, as well as discussions regarding the customer experience and the LEAD program.
In addition, employer satisfaction surveys, both at headquarters and by dealers, were created for motivated and engaged employees in the “Driving to Delight” project. A management program established with the focus on “Lead yourself; Lead Your Team, Lead Your Organisation” (Michelli, Driven to Delight, 2016, p. 149)
Michelli ends his book by telling the essence of the Mercedes Benz USA “Driving to Delight”: “ … Steve and his team at MBUSA understand that effective culture change doesn’t occur because an edict is sent down from a manufacturer, franchisor, or boss. It happens when people throughout an organization are exposed to and adopts new attitudes, behaviors, and skills” (Michelli, Driven to Delight, 2016, p. 153).
You can learn all about “Driven to Delight” at http://driventodelight.com/index