So You Want to Deliver Outstanding Customer Experiences… | Driven to Delight


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According to Forrester Research, 93% of corporate leadership teams place customer experience improvement on their list of strategic priorities and 23% businesses have it in the number 1 position.  So if you want to drive an elevated customer experience that differentiates your business from the competition, increases the loyalty of your customers, and results in more referrals, you are certainly not alone!

Since so many leaders see “customer experience” enhancement as critical to business success, it logically follows that customers must be delighted by all the extra effort companies are putting behind their high-priority customer-focused initiatives, right?

Well, not exactly. Actually, not at all. In fact, the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) is reporting customer satisfaction levels that are hovering just above 9 year lows.

In the poem Rime of the Ancient Mariner, Samuel Taylor Coleridge laments, “Water, water, everywhere, Nor any drop to drink.” In the modern business world this could be updated to read, “Customer experience priorities everywhere, but ne’er a delighted customer.”

While this situation isn’t great for customers, it represents a fabulous opportunity for those who are truly committed to customer experience excellence.  So how do you not only satisfy your customers, but actually delight them?  Here’s an example from Mercedes-Benz USA (MBUSA) – the focus of my recent book Driven to Delight: Delivering World-Class Customer Experience the Mercedes-Benz Way.

It should be noted that the Mercedes-Benz brand promise is “best or nothing” and by most accounts, their vehicles, as well as their marketing efforts, deliver on that promise.  However, the dealership experience in the United States (how do I put this delicately) ….was less than the “best.”  In fact, as recently as 2012, Mercedes-Benz USA was in the number 6 position on the J D Power Sales Satisfaction Index (SSI) among luxury car manufacturers.   As such, like those 23% in the Forrester Research study, leaders at MBUSA catapulted customer experience improvement to be their #1 priority.  By 2014, Mercedes-Benz USA had risen to the top of the J D. Power SSI and was either the leader or had made substantial progress on internal and external metrics of customer satisfaction, loyalty and engagement.  So what did leaders at Mercedes-Benz do that might help you with your customer experience elevation?  Here are some highlights…

Think Multi-year – As Henry Hynekamp, general manager, Customer Experience, at Mercedes-Benz USA, notes, “Customer experience transformation is hard and it doesn’t spontaneously combust in an organization.  It takes disciplined and sustained focus.”  The difference between ‘wannabes’ and customer experience leaders often is sustained execution and a willingness to invest time and resources year-after-year.

Define Your Desired Experience – I’m continually surprised by how few organizations actually have a defined optimal customer experience.  I spend considerable time as a consultant helping leaders articulate the experience they want customers to have at key touch points throughout the customer journey.  This involves leaders coming together to determine operational and emotional aspects of their desired and branded customer experience.

Focus on Three Drivers –  Mercedes-Benz USA has a “war room” with initiatives plastered around the walls.  Those projects fall into three categories: people, process, and technology. Each area offers different benefits to customers.  Mobilizing your people creates the warmth and compassion of your brand experience.  Process improvement removes pain points and technology often makes the customer journey easier.  The advanced challenge is helping customers move back and forth seamlessly from technology to human service.

For more on how to not just “prioritize” customer excellence but actually deliver it, I hope you’ll consider checking out Driven to Delight: Delivering World-Class Customer Experience the Mercedes-Benz Way.

So you want to deliver outstanding info

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Joseph Michelli, Ph.D.
Joseph Michelli, Ph.D., an organizational consultant and the chief experience officer of The Michelli Experience, authored The New Gold Standard: 5 Leadership Principles for Creating a Legendary Customer Experience Courtesy of The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company and the best-selling The Starbucks Experience: 5 Principles for Turning Ordinary Into Extraordinary.


  1. Companies often aspire (or say they aspire) to deliver more optimal customer experiences, but satisfaction has been vastly proven to have little connection to emotion, memory, and downstream behavior..Per your blog ‘”I’m continually surprised by how few organizations actually have a defined optimal customer experience. I spend considerable time as a consultant helping leaders articulate the experience they want customers to have at key touch points throughout the customer journey. This involves leaders coming together to determine operational and emotional aspects of their desired and branded customer experience.” I’d submit that this requires more than just leaders making a priori articulations and judgments about what a customer experience should be, and then executing against that.

    So, some critical questions should be asked. Among them:

    1. How customer-centric are these organizations, i.e. is there a single view of the customer across the enterprise?

    2. Where are they on the path to customer obsession?

    3. Are they following a model and strategic plan consistent with their resources and shared values, or trying to make it up as they go along?

    4. Do they understand customer experience component and overall priorities, i.e. what will drive emotion, memory, and loyalty and advocacy behavior?

    5. How have they incorporated employees’ critical role as brand ambassadors, for the company itself, for the product/service brand proposition, and for the customers?

    6. How have they surrounded the brand experience itself with reinforcing elements, i.e. social engagement, content availability, inbound/outbound support, gamification, etc.?

    7. Has an effort been made to balance technology with the human touch?

  2. Michael, we are brothers from different mothers. It appears our approaches are completely aligned. I love the work we are allowed to do for leaders and believe it makes brands better and more importantly it serves all of us when we step into the customer role. Thank you for taking the time to so articulately present your process.

  3. Hi Joseph

    The ‘war-room’ – where the customer experience being redesigned is laid out in full-technicolour – is a very important tool. In an earlier role as Head of CRM at Toyota Financial Services, we used Toyota’s well established ‘Oobeya Room’ concept to capture all the details of the experience being redesigned, the flows of information into and out individual interactions and the complementary capabilities that were required to enable each interaction in the experience (Note: We looked at eight drivers as people, process and technology are not enough by themselves). The Oobeya Room provided not only a space where co-design of the experience could take place, but also a place to showcase the evolving design to colleagues and perhaps more importantly, a way to highlight the collaboration required within the organisation to effect the redesigned customer experience.

    Since leaving Toyota in 2007, I have used Oobeya Rooms on most customer experience redesign projects since.

    Graham Hill


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