Six things you can learn from Tesla about customer experience


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Tesla has the reputation of having a staggering NPS score 96. If you know any of their customers, you’ll have noticed that it’s really a love brand, with a very dedicated following. As this company truly excels at offering a fantastic customer experience, I wanted to list some of its best practices in order to inspire the readers of my blog. You’ll clearly notice a red thread, running through all of the methods below: the company and its rock star CEO Elon Musk understand that it’s more than about just offering a great product. It’s about realizing your place on the planet and respecting that. It’s about staying true to a deeper mission and about all the services that you augment your product with.

It’s safe to say that Tesla is not “just” a car company. Here’s what you can learn from that:

Tesla is not just selling cars. It has a mission to “accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable energy”. And you can feel that mission – of making the lives of its customers more sustainable and helping save the world – through everything that it does. It’s about committing employees around something bigger than “just a job” and helping customers feel as if they are a part of a higher mission, of a movement. And Tesla customers are truly something special: you can really feel how committed they are to the brand.

This commitment is not just about image. It’s more than nice slogans on the wall. Elon Musk, for instance, refuses to see other car companies as competition but rather wants to gather them around the same vision. He also open-sourced all of Tesla’s patents and even praised its rivals for their progress on electric vehicles.

One of the biggest frictions in the automobile industry is the bad sales experience, which is often described as a time-consuming hassle. Car salespeople have the reputation of being pushy and frankly sometimes even a bit dishonest. So if a company comes along and removes the biggest friction and annoyance of its industry, customers will really appreciate that and favour this approach over all the others. If you want to differentiate your offering, always look for the typical frictions of your industry and find a way to solve them.

One way that this typical industry friction is eliminated, is by moving the entire sales process online. All the information you need to configure and buy one of their cars, and schedule a pickup can be found on their website. The price listed is the final price and there’s no useless and stressful haggling as is normally the case. So the most annoying part of buying a car just becomes a self-service process, with the customer entirely in control from A to Z, almost like ordering your groceries online.

Tesla still has fancy showrooms with Customer Experience Specialists (not Sales people), but these are there for test drives and ‘old school’ customers who really prefer the human touch.

Tesla really understands the importance of being in the lead. It allows customers to stay in control of their own buying journey. And at the same time, it owns the entire customer relationship, from start to finish. Car companies often collaborate with dealerships for selling and servicing their products. There would be nothing wrong with that, except for the fact that these dealerships have a very traditional approach, which Tesla really wanted to get rid of. So it sells the cars directly to its customers, without any third parties being involved. The result is that it can control the messaging and relationship and can offer a consistent experience.

Another way to push CX to a new level is that Tesla doesn’t just offer a fantastic product, but augments it with great services and experiences. Knowing that finding charging stations are a challenge, they have put together a large network of them across the US and Europe, conveniently located near hotels, shopping malls, restaurants and on highways. For those customers who feel that a 50% battery charge in only 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 company is also known for really listening to and incorporating the feedback of its customers: it makes about 20 engineering changes every week to its Model S vehicle. They do that in response to what customers tell them about their driving experiences, or to data insights gathered on how customers use their cars. On top of that, 80% of the repairs can be done outside a service centre and mobile service repairs are even complementary. Software updates, then, happen overnight and leave the customers feeling as if their cars keeps reinventing itself. If there are any issues which cannot be solved at distance, they’ll pick up your car, provide you with a replacement and repair it.

Tesla really is a perfect example of Philip Kotler’s concept of the “augmented product”, where the nonphysical part of the offer – the experience, the service, the mission and the brand – is what brings it to a higher level.

Last but not least, honesty and transparency are an important part of the Tesla brand, too. That’s probably a part of its strategy to set itself apart of other car brand who are a lot more conservative and closed in their communication. A story you often come across is how the delivery dates of the Model 3 kept being pushed back because of manufacturing issues. Customers were becoming disappointed and worried. And so Tesla decided to be completely honest about its challenges. Elon Musk even directly responded to concerns voiced on Twitter, with honest updates on the situation.

Problems and mistakes happen. Customers will understand that, as long as the communication around them happens openly and honestly.

So that’s it. These are the 6 learnings from Tesla that might offer you some inspiration. I hope you find them useful and let me know if I forgot any important ones:

  1. Create a movement
  2. Chase the friction and remove it
  3. Offer self-service
  4. Stay as close as you can to your customers
  5. Augment your products
  6. Be honest and transparent

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Steven Van Belleghem
Steven Van Belleghem is inspirator at B-Conversational. He is an inspirator, a coach and gives strategic advice to help companies better understand the world of conversations, social media and digital marketing. In 2010, he published his first book The Conversation Manager, which became a management literature bestseller and was awarded with the Marketing Literature Prize. In 2012, The Conversation Company was published. Steven is also part time Marketing Professor at the Vlerick Management School. He is a former managing partner of the innovative research agency InSites Consulting.


  1. Mr Van Bellingham,
    I love the product, but was completely turned off by the arrogant experience I received in the process of picking up my car. I am speaking specifically about the Highland Park, IL location, where our customer “representative” was exceedingly rude. I may be a “Boomer”, but I am not necessarily “Old School”. And, by the way, who do they think owns the disproportionate wealth in this economy? It’s not the 18 – 24 year old demographic who can afford this car, or even the Millennial.

    We had already bought the car & it was a matter of payment, signing papers, and picking it up. The Rep we approached
    wasn’t with other clients or otherwise occupied. He handed us the card key & motioned that the car was “over there” and we should find it outside by ourselves & get the papers. When my husband returned & indicated that it was the wrong car, since it didn’t open, the Rep again pointed outside & sent him out there once more!
    My husband, upon returning empty handed the 2nd time, found the Rep on the phone & he continued with the call. We had an appointment with him & we were left standing there and waiting.

    At this point, we fortunately reached out to “Hamid”, the only other person at the facility. He was extremely polite, spent time with us, & answered all of our questions.

    I’m not complaining about “one bad apple”. My tale of woe goes on as we reached out to the MANAGER on 6/18/21 to indicate our displeasure at the rude way we were received. It ruined our whole “Tesla experience”, which you raved about in your blog.

    This is the worst part! The manager completely validated his Rep’s attitude and handling of our situation. His answer to “finding our own car twice” was “contactless handling” instead of calling it rude & unconscionable! As for being on the phone in front of us, while our time continued to be waisted, this was his answer:
    “Did you expect him to hang up on the client on the phone?”

    I hope this indicates to you that there is a massive failure of appropriate leadership at this particular agency, that goes beyond not hassling the client.

    We needed to return there because we had to complete another piece of paperwork. Actually, we had a wonderful experience with MARINO, who was very helpful and spent time us and answered our questions. We also had service work done, the 1st week, at a facility (don’t want to calm it is a dealership!)
    in Schaumburg, IL, which was excellent. But we will never return to the HIGHLAND PARK place again.

    By the way, please recommend a site where I can contact a Senior Tesla Representative who will respond to my disappointment with the treatment i received. I liked the product, hated the experience.

  2. I have been a Tesla owner for 1.5 years and totally disagree with the glowing experiences of Tesla owners. Tesla has been by far the worst company I’ve ever dealt with. They don’t return calls, you can’t get a live person on the phone, and they absolutely make no effort to keep the customer happy. I will never buy a Tesla again and long for the old dealership experience. And by the way Tesla was in no way “honest and transparent “. Robert carracino


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