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When buying luxury goods the expectation is you are also buying a high level of customer service along with the premium brand product.

It’s part of the luxury brand experience that makes the high prices easier to stomach.

But during a talk at our Jump 2012 event yesterday, Porsche’s head of customer experience Nina Jones explained some of the challenges that the company faces in trying to maintain high standards of customer service.

Porsche currently sells five different models which means it has a surprisingly diverse customer base, ranging from “teachers to celebs”.

It sells around 12,000 new and approved used cars each year and Jones said that one of the aims of delivering excellent customer service is to turn these owners into advocates for the Porsche brand.

Advocacy is very different to loyalty. Loyalty is when a customer keeps coming back and buying our cars, but advocacy is when he convinces his friends to put Porsche on their consideration list.

The only way this can be achieved is by influencing existing customers and giving them an excellent brand experience.

Customer feedback and Net Promoter Score

While a majority of customer interactions with Porsche take place offline, it collects customer feedback using a centralised online system called ‘Inside Track’.

The local dealers respond to every piece of feedback within 24 hours, as they are the ones who have the existing relationship with each customer.

Jones said that one issue the company faced was actually encouraging the dealers to adhere to the 24-hour timeframe. In the end, the most effective way of getting car salesmen to meet Porsche’s high standards of customer service was to use cash incentives.

But the dealers also sell more work off it as the customer feels they are being listened to, which in turn improves the customer relationship.

Jones said that tying bonuses to customer service helped to maintain high standards and drive up the brand’s Net Promoter Score (NPS), which measures customer relationships. In fact it drove the NPS to 69.8, which is suspiciously high according to Jones.

The problem was that as a result of incentivising customer service dealers had begun to rig the system and offer customers freebies to artificially raise the NPS.

At the end of Q3 the response rate increased massively as dealers were doing anything they could to get customers to go online and give them a good score.

This occurred despite the fact that Porsche didn’t incentivise the NPS at a company level – the local centres had started doing it unofficially to improve their reputation with head office.

Unfortunately the dealers’ inconsistent behaviour and pandering to customers was actually damaging the brand image.

The future

As a result of the dealers gaming the online feedback system Porsche is planning changes to the way it deals with customer service so there is less emphasis on the NPS.

Instead Jones said dealers will only get access to the customer’s verbatim answers. 

Really the NPS doesn’t have much business value, it’s just an indication of the customer’s view at that moment in time. The real business value comes from the words people use in their verbatim answers.

Porsche is also working on a new online platform that will allow customers to manage any issues with their vehicle.

As car technology develops, the idea is that Porsche will also be able to feedback to owners when there is a problem with their vehicle or give "subtle" tips about how they can improve their driving to reduce wear and tear.

This is all part of improving the customer experience with Porsche, which will in turn help to convert more owners into brand advocates.

David Moth

Published 11 October, 2012 by David Moth @ Econsultancy

David Moth is Editor and Head of Social at Econsultancy. You can follow him on Twitter or connect via Google+ and LinkedIn

1679 more posts from this author

Comments (2)

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Jonathan Hirst

As a Porsche owner I have had mixed experiences with the dealership. Whilst there (ie in the dealership)and the immediate follow up from the dealership has been excellent. A couple of weeks ago though I got a call, obviously from a call centre, due to the delay in them speaking and the way in which the call was handled. They were following up on a recent visit, had obviously not been given the right information so everything she approached me with was irrelevant.
Why would Porsche outsource this when they could easily do it from the dealership?
Also, I have seen dealer incentive programs at other brands and all it makes the salesman do is try to persuade the customer to tick excellent in all boxes, even if that wasn't your experience.
Porsche - keep the relationship with the customer at their dealership level and make it personal!

almost 4 years ago

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Simon Richardson

I agree with Jonathan's comments.

Taking this one stage further however there is a 'big' problem for luxury car brands and indeed any luxury brand.

Once a customer has experienced a level of service, and then moves up the 'brand' ladder, I find their expectations increase exponentially. For example, you move from BMW to Porsche and then Porsche to Bentley and then maybe onto Aston Martin. Each time your level of 'spend' increases, but how does the level of service keep up with this ? I've done these leaps, and I accept that my own 'expectations' of service will eventually run out. It isn't possible to 'keep' upping the bar. Yes there are clear differences in services between luxury brands. But eventually we have to accept that there will be a ceiling. The more you spend doesn't necessarily mean the level of service can keep increasing. I've discussed this at length with these brands. Even been on a Porsche 'panel' of customers. The brands (expecially those increasing customer share) have a real tough time keeping up and indeed exceeding 'expectations'. Eventually they will run out of 'service' road...

almost 4 years ago

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