When I was 10 years old, I heard my father and my Uncle Bob talking about the car they’d most like to own. Noticing me, Uncle Bob asked, “How about you, Harley? What car do you want to drive when you grow up?”
I immediately answered, “A Mercedes!”
My father’s eyes widened as Uncle Bob replied, “You have excellent taste.”
Forty years later, Mercedes-Benz still symbolizes “excellent taste” for me and millions of other people around the globe. It’s not just about high quality: The Mercedes brand sets a standard of comparison; it’s shorthand for “great experience” and “luxury.”
And that’s why we’re so excited that Stephen Cannon, the president and CEO of Mercedes-Benz USA, is our lead-off industry speaker at Forrester’s Forum For Customer Experience Professionals East next week in New York. Cannon is just perfect as the keynote address for an event with the theme “Good Is Not Good Enough” — because for Mercedes-Benz, just being “good” would be a serious disappointment.
As we approach the event, Stephen was nice enough to answer some of our questions about the Mercedes-Benz customer experience. Check out what he has to say — and I hope we both see you out in the audience next week at the New York Hilton.
Q: When did your company first begin focusing on customer experience? Why?
Facebook will launch its new Paper product on February 3. The questions I have been asked are, "Why?" and "Should we be thinking about multiple apps rather than one large app?" Both good questions.
The first question -- I can only take a shot. Facebook, like many other media properties, depends heavily on advertising for revenue. To get advertising, you need eyeballs. More and more minutes per day are spent on mobile phones. Consumption of news, information, and media generally tops the list behind communication. Consumers also expect highly curated experiences on small screens that can be more challenging to navigate. At first glance, the Paper user interface and experience looks to be quite elegant.
It always makes me smile to see a product or app launched that takes a mobile first-approach. From the short video that was released, you can instantly tell that they didn't start with a web experience and think, "How can we strip this down and put it on a small screen?" They appeared to have done ethonographic research -- to watch and observe how people engage with their phones and consume information through the course of the day (e.g., the unfolding of the newspaper). This is one of the best practices in mobile design -- understand the needs of consumers on the go. Companies must ask, "What are those moments during the day when someone reaches for the phone to access information or a service?" Forrester calls them mobile moments. Companies must be ready to serve customers in those moments.
Ever wonder why most digital interactions fail to engage users? In part, it’s because users can’t easily decipher who they’re dealing with. Instead of actively developing unique experiences that support how they want their brands to be perceived, companies chase features and functions that others have implemented. At best, the result is bland cookie-cutter experiences that leave users uninspired. At worst, brands can seem downright schizophrenic to users who get unpredictable experiences as they move from channel to channel.
It’s not easy to create a strong emotional bond through an interface because it’s difficult for users to see the people behind digital interaction points. Instead, they see a mere screen or a system. But people are far more predisposed to creating connections with other people than they are with an interface. That’s why firms need to pay attention to the brand personality they’re trying to convey and make their digital experiences feel more human. Of course, the solution isn’t just to plaster your website with happy faces or buzzwords. Instead, firms can take a more systematic approach and follow the principles of Forrester’s Emotional Experience Design framework. Here are a couple of ways for firms to establish brand personality:
Match visual designs across channels so that users can easily recognize the brand as they cross interaction points.
Keep in sync with the brand attributes that they want people to associate with them by creating content that conveys brand messages and by crafting the right voice to further convey those messages.
Adopt a human tone that lands in the right place in between robotic, just-the-facts approaches and overdone marketing speak that comes off as fake.