Just Imagine

posted in: Cars, Life | 0

My wife Liz has just taken delivery of her new car, the recently launched Land Rover Defender. The car is awesome, in summary everything you like about Defender and most of what you like about Range Rover, she loves it (and so do I). High demand and limited production made it very hard to get hold of the car, I spent a long time ringing around dealers trying to locate one until I struck lucky with Land Rover Waterford up in Jo’burg.  (Many thanks to Charlotte and Thabo who sorted me out and got my name on it fast.)

If you want a full review of the car you can check out Rory Reid’s video, I just want to highlight one very cool feature. There are two buttons within easy reach above the rear view mirror. If you hit the one on the left it connects you immediately to the LR breakdown rescue service. If you press the one on the right it summons the emergency and medical services. If you have an accident and the airbags deploy but the front door is not opened within one minute it will automatically call rescue, emergency and medical help. How cool is that? A really important safety feature and one that reinforces the go-anywhere adventurous image of the car. Liz has had some health issues recently and we live in South Africa which has its challenges – the strength of this car plus this amazing safety feature sealed my decision to do anything I could to get hold of one (just as she got the all clear to drive again and in time for her birthday).

But here’s the thing – thirty years ago I was in an innovation workshop we were running as part of a project for the RAC (Royal Automobile Club Roadside Rescue). We were given an introductory briefing from some of their technical team and they talked about the possibility in the future that cars would have GPS systems and computers that would locate any car in trouble and automatically dispatch help. We all thought this was really cool but so far-fetched we didn’t develop it much further, instead favouring ideas that felt of more immediate commercial relevance. I’m not saying we were wrong to do that, I’m just saying the future is what we can imagine it to be. 30 years on from an idea in an innovation workshop we just bought a car that has made it a reality.

It also has another very cool feature – using 360 degree cameras if it detects a cyclist in the blind spot of the side mirrors it stops you opening the door. Never saw that one coming.

Pure Delight

I was thumbing through a French car magazine last week and was interested by a regular feature they do on levels of customer satisfaction for various car models. The methodology was clearly explained – a decent sample of owners were asked to evaluate their cars based on 10 questions covering most aspects of quality, reliability and economy. The results are aggregated and an overall percentage given for some 40-50 cars.

Two things struck me. Firstly, all the cars scored more than 70%. Yes, modern cars are all pretty good these days, not like the 70’s when some cars – sadly the British and Italian ones for the most part – were so poor they would have got scores similar to the approval rating for an outgoing Italian or British Prime Minister. But the second thing that stood out from the tables was that no car got more than 78%. Not much of a spread. That is largely due to the methodology – aggregating lots of views over lots of criteria will give flat results. So would you change your choice of car based on this survey because it scored 3-5% less than an alternative model but both scored between  70% and 80%? I doubt it.

But what if they had asked a different question, just one question? How many of the owners are absolutely delighted, thrilled, over-the-moon about their car after a year or more of driving it?  If you saw that an alternative car was scoring over 5% and your preferred choice 1% or less I think it would give you cause to reconsider. You’d certainly want to find out more, maybe test drive it.

Customer delight is what we should all be chasing – for anything, not just cars. Forget “Pretty good, I’m overall fairly satisfied and would consider buying again”. We want “Bloody brilliant, I had no idea it would be this good, I’m definitely sticking with this and will tell all my friends”.

Now this is not a new thought. I recall reading an article in the HBR some years ago that gave the case study of a Car Hire company that had changed the way they looked at customer satisfaction. They focused single-mindedly on customer delight. They knew the figure would always be single digit but had proved that just small movements, literally decimal points, made a significant difference to their bottom line. (I have searched for this article but could not find it otherwise you’d have the link but no matter – you’ve got the gist).

Why is delight so important? Recall and repeat purchase are obviously two key benefits. I’m not sure you remember being satisfied or will make an effort to seek out the brand that satisfied you. You do remember being delighted. But the real value of delight is word of mouth. People talk about their delight and other people listen. It goes something like this.

“How was that new restaurant? Very nice you say? I must give it a try some time”.

As opposed to:-

“I’ve got to tell you about this new restaurant, we were blown away! Yes, I’ve got the number here. I’d book fast if I were you, before everyone catches on”.

Delight gives you ambassadors and they give you momentum, and momentum gives you more momentum. I’ve used the analogy before that avalanches start with the movement of one or two snowflakes. In marketing, those first few happy consumer snowflakes who get the momentum going should be highly prized. If they are delighted snowflakes they are positively kicking the avalanche down the mountain (apologies to the skiers, perhaps I need to come up with a better analogy).

So is this anything more than a nice reminder that customer delight – not a new concept – is important? Yes it is and here’s why. Social Media. The article in the HBR was written years ago (which is why I can’t find it) at a time when word of mouth meant just that  – the influence the delighted customer would have on the relatively few number of people they might talk to. We live in an age when word of keyboard can reach thousands. Analysis has shown only a very low % of Tweets relate to brands and most of those are internet or technology brands (e.g. Apple). Only 1 or 2% relate to Coke, Dove, BMW or those kinds of brands but of course we are talking 1 or 2% of millions and millions of Tweets every hour so the absolute numbers are very high.

What is likely to get you in to that 1 or 2% or to push the percentage higher? Customer Delight – if not with the actual product (there is only so much delight I can get from a mouthful of Coke) then at least with something the brand has done.

So go on then – go delight somebody, make them ecstatic. Better still, make this your key performance measure. The results might delight you.