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Why Tesla’s customer loyalty ratings beat Mercedes

Rob Enderle | Sept. 19, 2016
Columnist Rob Enderle writes that marketing isn’t about selling stuff anymore. It’s about selling experiences. A recent trip made it clear that Tesla gets this and Mercedes does not.

Mercedes builds a car, Tesla is building an experience and their CEO is personally engaged in assuring Tesla’s image and customer experience.

Mercedes European delivery

I couldn’t figure out why this program actually existed. Other than a fast factory tour, it has nothing to do with Mercedes Benz. They call it a rally, and maybe it was at some point, which might have made sense because then you could have a guide, you’d have a group traveling together, and you could weave in more Mercedes content. But as the program currently exists, it is an unguided tour in a foreign country with signs you can’t read using a GPS system that has been partially crippled in a car that delays delivery, from the time you pay for the car, by up to 6 months, that takes you to places that apparently don’t want you there, and costs an extra $1,800.  

The Mercedes part is getting your car from the factory. But the dealerships do a better job of car delivery, you get the car more quickly from the dealership, you get to keep your trade-in and money far longer, and the car is better protected until you eventually get it. I found no advantage to picking a car up at the factory. It’s just stupid, even if you lived next to the factory, you’d have a hard time justifying this option because you’ll need the relationship with the firm that sold and services the car not the one that built it.

You don’t fix that -- you step back, figure out what you wanted to accomplish, and start over from scratch with a tight focus on the goal. If you don’t even know you have a problem, you’ll never do this. But Mercedes likely doesn’t even know they have a problem because they haven’t instrumented the customer adequately.  

Automated customer engagement

Mercedes Benz has a huge line of cars, massive distribution and global reach. Tesla has two cars, isn’t even wel- represented in every U.S. city and isn’t profitable. Oh, and it sells cars that don’t work with the existing gas based eco-system. Yet it has a massive valuation, Apple-like customer loyalty, and it gets hundreds of thousands of people ordering cars over a year before they are available. They are well along the path of doing to the car market what Apple did to the smartphone market.

Go back and search on the number of CEOs who were very vocal about how the iPhone would never be successful and then count the number that still have jobs, or even companies, today.

The market isn’t about selling phones or cars anymore; it is about selling experiences. Firms that get this can, and have, rolled over firms that don’t and you can’t sell experiences unless you connect with customers.


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