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.