Michelle de Haaff

What makes a brand a luxury brand?

People often think about the answer to this question in terms of quality of the product. More and more, however, companies are realizing that the experience they provide contributes just as much to whether their brand is viewed as a luxury one — or not. With successful luxury brands, every interaction is distinctive and finely tuned; they deliver the sorts of experiences that customers enjoy just as much as owning the product.

But how do luxury brands know if new services and processes will contribute to these great experiences? And how do they decide which ones are worth investing in?

The secret ingredient a growing number of luxury brands are using to answer these questions is actually hidden in plain sight. It’s the voice of the customer.

To see that voice in action, you need look no further than Mercedes-Benz USA. They represent a brand routinely found on lists of the world’s most valuable, and they’ve been recognized three times in 2014 alone for their customer loyalty, buyer satisfaction and vehicle dependability. A big part of how they’re doing it?

By letting customer feedback guide strategic decisions about everything from developing new services to refining the ways their dealerships interact with customers.

In keeping with their goal of offering “The Best or Nothing,” Mercedes adopted a customer experience management system that makes real-time customer feedback accessible at all levels of their organization — from the c-suite to the frontline. The system has many benefits, from giving dealerships real customer concerns to use when coaching and training employees to defining approaches to improve customer retention. But one of the most important is how it enables Mercedes’ executives and dealer teams to test new innovations that are designed to give customers even better experiences than before.

The voice of the customer proved critical when the company developed Premier Express, an expedited maintenance experience aimed at further delighting guests with responsive, same-day service. The program was a response to a market opportunity identified in part through customer feedback — but how well would it work in practice? Instead of implementing the servicing program company-wide and seeing how customers felt — by which time Mercedes would already be locked into the investment — Mercedes rolled it out at a few dealerships only. Its real-time feedback analysis system then showed Mercedes’ executives how much customers at those dealerships liked the new offering. The system also revealed how much the upgrade improved overall customer satisfaction compared to the dealers that didn’t have the service — essentially, whether it was worth the valuable time and capital a large-scale implementation would require.

So when the program in a subset of dealerships had been demonstrated to be successful, and Mercedes decided to roll it out nationwide, it could do so already sure its customers would be thrilled. And if individual dealers were hesitant to get on board, Mercedes could use feedback data to prove the new program was the right call. That’s the attitude of a luxury brand – confident, innovative and completely in touch with what its customers want and expect.

Curious how else Mercedes is using real-time feedback to create experiences worthy of its brand? Check out the case study below.

Photo credit: Ken Teegarden