Customer Loyalty Strategies By Ex-Tesla Director At MaGIC E-Nation 2021

MaGIC E-Nation 2021 kicked off yesterday with a morning talk from Beth Davies, former director of learning and development at Tesla. Previously, she also held senior positions at Apple and Microsoft.

To set the scene, Beth reminded the audience that while big today, Apple and Tesla both started out as tiny startups. Apple nearly went bankrupt in the 1990s, and people doubted its survival when it first idealized the iPod.

When Tesla announced it would make electric cars, skeptics wondered how a startup could compete with bigger players like BMW, Ford and Toyota. Not only that, but who would want an electric car? It was a stupid idea, Beth recalls.

So how did these companies overcome naysayers to deliver products that now have die-hard fans? From Silicon Valley, Beth practically spoke about how Malaysian entrepreneurs can grow their customer base with strategies inspired by those she’s experimented with at both Apple and Tesla.

To have A corporate mission Who goes beyond your product

There, on the wall of Tesla’s factory, in large print, was the brand’s mission: “To accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable transportation.”

It’s a powerful mission, Beth said, because it wasn’t about Tesla, but how everyone who worked on her team had a role to play in making an impact on the world. The aim was to accelerate the global transition of internal combustion engines towards reducing emissions and becoming more sustainable.

“We knew we couldn’t do it on our own, but we wanted to show what is possible for others to join us. Our mission was not about a single car or a single product, but how we could show the way, ”she stressed. “So the first lesson is to capture the spirit of the team and galvanize others.”

A look inside a Tesla factory / Image credits: Steve Jurvetson, Flickr

Elon Musk would exemplify this goal in Tesla’s early days by posting blog posts explaining their innovations and how they were designed to gain media and public attention. The first 2 sentences of each article would reinforce the mission of the company, making it clear what they were doing and why they were doing it.

In 2012, 4 years after launching their first electric car, Roadster, Elon noticed that other companies weren’t in the process of making the transition to building an electric vehicle (EV) themselves. Wondering if it was their lack of understanding of the technology, he opened up Tesla’s patents so other players could come on board and create theirs.

Elon’s actions inspired his own employees, but his energy also bleed outside the company and attracted customers who were excited and intrigued by Tesla’s work. They then showed their support for Tesla’s efforts by putting themselves on waiting lists for the Model S launch.

Create a product that customers can’t find anywhere else

At Apple and Tesla, no matter what role or level of an employee, everyone was expected to be an innovator, find better ways of doing business, and challenge everything with a “Why?” or “What if?”

Simplicity was another core value of Apple. Simple was elegant, desirable by customers, and easy to use and learn. To create the first iPhone, its designers and engineers came up with a list of features and brought them down to the top 5, which they would double by creating in an exceptional way. This led the first customers to post videos of their 2 year old children learning to use phones. The product marketed itself.

As for Tesla, rethinking how a car’s chassis could be made differently, they moved the car’s battery from the front hood to the bottom, under the car, like a skateboard. This made the car safer, as it had a crumple zone up front in the event of an impact, while the battery at the bottom lowered its center of gravity, reducing the risk of rollover.

The car’s battery was underneath and looks like a skateboard / Image credit: Tesla

These changes earned Tesla a 5-star safety rating (the maximum a car can score) in each subcategory of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) crash tests. They also made it a family car, as without an engine in the front, customers would have more storage space to load items in the front and seat 2 children in the trunk.

And that mantra of making things better by design spilled over into the way cars were sold as well.

Surprise and delight your customers

Instead of selling Tesla cars at regular dealerships, they took their dealerships to malls where customers could walk in, experience and try out the technology firsthand.

The same goes for Apple, where customers have the option to touch and try on phones on display in stores, even if they don’t buy it.

So, for businesses, the most important part is the customer. To have a product that will change the world, businesses need customers to adopt a product in the first place. Apple does this using the philosophy of surprising and delighting its customers.

For example, if a customer buys a heavy product, his Genies (what the brand calls employees) will offer to help him transport the items to his car. Or, if customers had a problem with their device but had an expired warranty, Geniuses would still act as if their warranty was still valid and help fix their phone.

Such actions delighted and surprised customers, convincing them that the brand was trustworthy and became customers for life, even sharing them with their loved ones. “It’s not about a transaction, it’s about creating a lifelong customer who wants to change the world with you,” Beth said.

  • If you missed your participation in E-Nation this year, you can still access this session and others after registering here.
  • You can read more about what we wrote about MaGIC here.

Featured Image Credit: Beth Davies speaking at Global Human Resources Forum, Aurum Speakers Bureau

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