Driven to Delight: A book review by Bob Morris

Driven to DelightDriven to Delight: Delivering World-Class Customer Experience the Mercedes-Benz Way
Joseph A. Michelli
McGraw-Hill (2016)

“The Best or Nothing”: The Mercedes-Benz Way

As those who have read one or more of his previously published books already know, Joseph Michelli possesses a unique combination of talents and strengths as a world-class cultural anthropologist, raconteur, investigative reporter, and business thinker. Thanks to him, executives in all manner of organizations have learned how to develop a workplace culture within which personal growth and professional development are most likely to thrive. That is precisely what the Pike Place Fish Market, Starbucks, Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company, U.C.L.A. Health System, Zappos, and now Mercedes-Benz share in common.

Jackie Huba and Ben McConnell once collaborated on a book in which they explain how to create what they characterize as “customer evangelists.” I was reminded of that term as I began to read Driven to Delight in which Michelli explains when, why, and how Mercedes-Benz leaders “sought to make the company an experience provider that was on a par with – if not better than – other iconic brands.”

Let’s re-run the tape: Engineering excellence, safety, and innovation were the foundation that – over the years — led to a very product-focused mindset. “Many Mercedes-Benz dealers in the United States (many of whom had been in business for decades) relied heavily on product quality to build customer loyalty and hadn’t addressed the over all experience of customers in their dealerships. Because Mercedes-Benz had such a strong product focus, new competitors entering the marketplace added value to their products by creating a better dealership experience.”

OK but so what? In fact, a great deal. “Therein lay the problem. The Mercedes-Benz retail/dealership experience was uneven and lacked a well-defined objective with attendant accountability.” Given this backdrop of rapidly increasing customer expectations, variable consumer experiences, and competitors that provided high-quality customer sales and service interactions, “the leaders at Mercedes-Benz USA set out to foster new systemwide competencies to look at the entire business from the customer’s perspective. Their goal became to map the customer journey, solicit customer feedback, rapidly resolve customer issues, and deliver emotionally engaging experiences ‘Driven to Delight’ customers.” In this book, Michelli explains HOW they developed employee evangelists who would then create customer evangelists.

These are among the several dozen passages of greatest interest and value to me, also listed to suggest the scope of Michelli’s coverage:

o Mercedes-Benz USA (MBUSA) Pages 2-11, 14-16, 19-20, and 85-86)
o Driven to Delight (6-8, 14-16, 218-221, and 248-254)
o Steve Cannon (7-8, 13-15, 43-45, 105-107, 204-205, 207-208, 219-220, 225-226, 237238, 242-243)
o “Keys to Driving Delight” (39)
o Mapping Customer Journey touchpoints (45-46, 49-50, and 63-68)
o Surveys (46-47, 119-120, 125-130, and 226-227)
o Gareth Joyce (51-52, 181-182, 193-194, and 253-254)
o Customer Feedback (79-80, 83-96, 107-108, and 131-132)
o J.D. Powers & Associates (81-95, 108-110, 207-211, and 251-252)
o Customer experience with dealerships (108-115)
o MBUSA financial issues (101-107)
o DaSH Program for employees (120-124)
o Hendrik (“Harry”) Hynekamp and customer experience team (132-134)
o Employees and brand immersion program (140-147)
o Leadership Academy (147-153)
o Processes (163-172, 185-186, and 194-195)
o Customer loyalty (192-193 and 199-200)
o Transformation (208-215)
o CRM: Customer Relationship Management (237-240)

Once again, in ways and to an extent few other business thinkers can, Michelli anchors his insights in human experiences. He is a world-class empiricist and a relentless pragmatist, determined to understand what works, what doesn’t, and why. He also possesses the skills of a great raconteur. Whereas other authors of business books prefer the fable genre, he favors the narrative: he sets the scene, provides the back story, introduces the main players, creates dramatic tension with real conflicts, and then traces significant developments to a satisfying climax. For me, his key point – one that is relevant to almost any other organization, whatever its size and nature may be – is that creating a world-class offering is not enough; it is also necessary to provide it with a world-class customer experience.

In the book’s Conclusion, Joseph Michelli expresses his gratitude to Steve Cannon, Dietmar Exler, and Gareth Joyce for the critical lessons that can be learned from them about leaving a legacy. “In essence, they help us realize that leaders must not just state their vision of customer experience excellence but also take action to manifest that vision on behalf of those they serve. Leaders should look to their people and see them demonstrate an obsession with details that make the difference between ‘good’ and ‘the best’ customer experiences. Ultimately the impact of extraordinary customer care should be heard in the stories our customers share and seen in the data garnered from customer surveys.”

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