John Deere – not your father’s tractor company


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John Deere PresentationI was interested in seeing Erin Wallace’s presentation at last week’s CXPA Insights Exchange, but I had no idea just how cool it would be. Her presentation was titled “Easier Said than Done: Move the Needle with Your Customer Experience Strategy,” and showed a very comprehensive approach towards customer experience that we can all learn from.

When I work with clients, I tell them there are 3+2 areas you need to focus on to develop a world-class customer experience program. The first three are an identified leader, as shared vision and governance. Erin nailed all three. She’s obviously the leader of the effort, so didn’t spend a lot of time there. But the strategy and governance were critical.

One difference between John Deere and many companies is their longevity. They’re not just out to win your loyalty today – they want to win your grandchildren’s loyalty. Erin quickly summed up this strategy when she said, “Our goal is to earn customers for generations.” They clearly didn’t just take an Amazon or Zappos strategy and go with it – this is unique to John Deere, and this strategy is critical to their entire program. 

Just as important is their governance model. Deere is a very decentralized company, with a broad product line and a global footprint. To help share the CX vision and make it apply to each business unit, Deere embeds CX leaders and team members across the enterprise. Indeed, Erin’s Brazilian counterpart was at the event, and even won a CXPA Innovation Award.

But what about the +2? It requires a leader, a vision and governance to begin a solid program. But to sustain it you need a solid voice of the customer program and a way to align your employees around the goal. Erin speaks well to this, although I want to focus on the VOC.

While they apparently use the Net Promoter Score, this barely got a mention, as she had so many other things to talk about in her time. One innovation is their Executive Connection Program, coming out of their financial services division. I’ve heard about this program before from Brittany Wiederin, who now lives in Minneapolis, and I just love it.

Financial Services provides the lending to allow customers to buy John Deere’s products. It’s an important program, but you could certainly envision financial services leaders focusing more on banking areas, and less on customer needs. To avoid this, Deere created a program to send executives out to the field for a day. Participants leave their suits at home, working directly on the farm to better understand what’s important to them. It reminds me of P&G’s “Working It” and “Living It” programs, where they send employees out to work in a retail store for a day, or to spend a day doing the laundry or other chores with consumers using P&G products. And it’s a fantastic way to build customer empathy.

ChatterboxAnother great way to receive VOC is their Chatterbox, which participants couldn’t stop talking about. It’s a giant box that they put onto job sites, and invite customers to give them feedback on their needs and John Deere products. They should have submitted this for an CX innovation award – because there’s no doubt in my mind that this also would have won. You can see a case study here.

One frequent measurement limitation I frequently write about is to have your customer surveys isolated – reporting on the scores, but not on their implications to the business. Deer links their customer survey with business outcomes. While they obviously couldn’t share the real data, they did display a high-level analysis on how their promoters have lower churn and increased spend in subsequent years – a perfect way to show the value of your customer experience program.

Erin’s final advice was that you can’t replace executive-level support, and you need to focus not on changing your culture, but instead on how to embrace, leverage and embed CX into your customer’s culture.

This presentation blew me away – and I know I’m not the only one. If there’s any negative feedback, it’s that we only had 90 minutes to hear the John Deere story. Because I could easily have spent a complete day learning from John Deere.

CXPA members can download Erin’s presentation here.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Jim Tincher
Jim sees the world in a special way: through the eyes of customers. This lifelong passion for CX, and a thirst for knowledge, led him to found his customer experience consulting firm, Heart of the Customer (HoC). HoC sets the bar for best practices and are emulated throughout the industry. He is the author of Do B2B Better and co-author of How Hard Is It to Be Your Customer?, and he also writes Heart of the Customer’s popular CX blog.


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