Servicing a Lifetime, Not a Transaction

Oct 18, 2016

Around 9:30pm for the past 4 years, my wife and I have heard the Disneyland fireworks. The booming call reminds us of the rolling thunder from our Florida childhoods. Memories of summer storms mix with memories of Disney World, and it always gives us warm feelings. But how does Disney do that? How is it that something so personal, and central to my core is connected to an international conglomerate corporation with a market cap of over $169 million?

Recently, I shopped at the Hong Kong airport Disney Store for souvenirs for my girls. The experience inside reminded me of home, being nearly identical to the one I had at Downtown Disney two weeks prior.


Family photo at Disney Land
Brad and his family at Disneyland


Disney is the happiest place on earth, dedicated to the business of nurturing memories, but come to find out – EVERY BUSINESS is…

Disney understands that the core of Customer Experience (CX) is matching consumer perceptions to the expectation set by a brand, multiplied by the emotion generated at the moment of interaction. This moment creates memories that determine lifetime attitudes towards that brand. Disney employees are “cast members,” and every interaction with a customer is a performance that builds on the last performance, magnified by 185,000 associates around the world, all thinking in terms of lifetime memories instead of one off transactions.

I recently had a less than spectacular Customer Experience with Volkswagen, which led me to wonder how a brand that sets the expectation of being digitally savvy, reliable, and fun could have faltered when it came to giving a good customer perception. In fact, the experience made me reminisce on the amazing Tesla expereince I had a week before. How can these automobile giants, both projecting positive brand expectations, be so different in delivery?

I previously had issues with my local VW service department and decided to try a different dealer hoping for a better experience. Online, I found one nearby and made an appointment, thinking the scheduling feature was an excellent customer convenience.

When I arrived for my appointment, there was one available employee outside. After ten minutes of him ignoring my car, I asked if I was in the right place. He said, “Yes, do you have an appointment?” I told him I made one online. “We don’t really use that, and I’ve got a couple of other customers ahead of you” he said. Then why do you have it? I wanted to ask.

On the other hand, my wife received an email from Tesla stating a recall on the third row seats in the model X. They asked when was the most convenient time to come replace the seats, at our home or office for the 60-minute repair. The email came at 5:30pm, my wife replied at 8am the next morning, and there were two employees at our house by 11am. All we had to do was take our car out of the garage and say thank you.


Parked Tesla
Parked Tesla


At the VW dealership, the man who was supposedly helping me disappeared. I wandered inside where every employee avoided eye contact. Finally I got help from Joey. He would be my “Customer Service Manager” during my car’s time at the dealership.

The 2016 Temkin [customer] Experience Rating revealed Volkswagen’s TxR dropped to the lowest spot in the industry, with a rating of 44%. The person-to-person business model used by dealerships for years, is under performing. Joey at VW did not keep me posted on my car. I had to call, leave voicemails, and call again. Always being instructed to wait for Joey because no one else knew anything about my vehicle. I finally got my car back two days after dropping it off.


Parked Tesla
2016 Temkin Experience Ratings (TxR): Auto Dealer


The interesting thing is, I never got the name of the two Tesla service techs that came to my house – nor did I need to. My relationship, and happy memories, is directly with Tesla the brand.

My expectation of both brands was high. However, when it came to delivering on those expectations, VW fell short because their business plan isn’t centered on customer experience. Tesla is constantly aware of the promises their brand makes, and like Disney, ensures associates follow through. For them - everything leads back to serving the customer with the best ownership experience possible. This is why I made a deposit on a Model X in 2013, and now just 2 months after delivery, they blew away my expectations in a single service call.

When Disney trains their employees, they rehearse crafting an overall experience that leaves a lifetime of positive memories. Tesla, a disruptive innovator brand, is breaking into an ancient industry and building their business model not on franchise dealerships, but through Telsa direct sales and service touch points to provide the best customer experience possible.

We, as customer service experts, have to be constantly conscious of building positive lifetime customer memories. At Vector Business Navigation we help companies refocus expectations they set, make sure they deliver the ‘brilliant basics,’ to ensure positive long-term perceptions are made.


-Written by Brad Smith (originally published July 7, 2016 on Vector)

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