How to lead
The Head of Aftersales at Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles explains how the company successfully managed to implement behavioral change to create a great customer experience. It was essential to create a clear direction and sufficiently guide sales and service employees with the use of new insights.
Nicholas Malcolm, Managing Director and Partner, ag analytics: Why did you initially begin collaborating with ag analytics?
Lise Bülow, Head of After Sales, Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles: We initiated the collaboration because we wanted to work with customer satisfaction in a systematic way. Your system has made improving customer satisfaction a concrete task, as we clearly see which changes generate better customer satisfaction. The system allows us to visualize the effect of concrete processes through easy filtering options. This makes it possible for us to show how small differences have a greater impact on the overall score. This also helped our Service Managers see the financial benefits and the positive change that are a result of our new initiatives regarding customer experience.
It has been great to receive actual data that helps us understand clearly what the specific changes do to our customer loyalty. The data has really helped push everyone in the same direction, making us all agree on key initiatives. We now use real data and valid statistics to support fact-based discussions regarding customers. The valid arguments and the data supporting them has everyone convinced that this indeed is what we should be doing. We are seeing great results, which hopefully should generate more customer loyalty.
“We now use real data and valid statistics to support fact-based discussions regarding customers.”– Lise Bülow, Head of After Sales, Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles
At the moment in Sale, we are focusing on introducing customers to the workshop. Because of the system, we now know for a fact, that this area is a key priority, which has a high impact on our overall satisfaction and customer loyalty – and hopefully will help us sell the next vehicle.
As to the workshop, the system has displayed key areas in which we need to improve to significantly better our customer satisfaction score. We have focused on working with tangible processes and integrating these into the everyday running of the workshop. The aim is to make sure that the processes are carried out every time a customer enters the workshop. These small – yet important – changes must become habits that all employees adapt. There really is no excuse. We simply have to better the communication with our customers, so they understand the value of the work we do. E.g. explaining the completed job or invoice, every time – because we clearly see how it creates a better customer satisfaction.
Nicholas Malcolm, ag analytics: Typically, one would argue that it is common sense that satisfied customers buy more and remain loyal for longer. But why is this not always common sense?
Lise Bülow, Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles: I believe that
everyone has their own understanding of how to ensure customer satisfaction. We
all think we know our customers best but really, we should acknowledge that we
all still have a lot to learn. And so, one person’s common sense isn’t
necessarily common sense to another. Therefore, there might be a need for
behavioral changes due to conflicting ideas of how to secure customer
satisfaction. This is where working with ag analytics has helped us. There is
no doubt that satisfied customers lead to financial growth. However, what
really makes a difference is seeing how every process we optimize on has a
Your system allows us to show our employees the exact effect of the work they do. Our employees can then continue putting their personal touch on the customer experience with the processes being the foundation. This additionally helps us ensure that the customer experience is equally good everywhere in the country.
“One person’s common sense isn’t necessarily common sense to another. Therefore, there might be a need for behavioral changes due to conflicting ideas of how to secure customer satisfaction. “– Lise Bülow, Head of After Sales, Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles
Nicholas Malcolm, ag analytics: In what way has your approach and take on customer experience changed after initiating the collaboration with ag analytics?
Lise Bülow, Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles: I previously worked for a company, where we worked with customer experience at a very holistic level. The customer experience was measured on a scale from 1 to 10, and therefore everything was fixated on reaching a number. We didn’t really know how to achieve a top mark, what the requirements were or what it meant when we reached a 10. And so, it became a sort of hunt without any form of direction.
Working with ag
analytics, has given us tools that allows us better to understand our
customers. This has broadened the way we work with customer experience, as it
is more than mere digits and scores.
I don’t believe that working towards achieving a given score is the right approach. Instead, we should work towards attaining new learnings that allow us to effectively improve on ourselves and the way we work and face customers. Fixating on a score can furthermore lead to unwanted situations, as employees might steer customers towards giving a specific answer. This is a lose-lose situation, as the score should function as a tool and an indication of what to improve on. Instead, we end up not being any wiser or closer to understanding our customers.
I still believe that it is hard sometimes, as many employees believe they should achieve a 5-star rating every time. We have to accept that reaching a 5-star average isn’t realistic, because bad experiences do occur, but that’s okay as long as we learn from our mistakes and move on. Our employees need to understand this, which is why I try to avoid focusing on the score. Instead I attempt to direct my focus towards what we can learn from the feedback we receive, which then should improve the score. As soon as we understand the processes that contribute positively, it eases and betters our daily interaction with customers. Our employees do many things very well already. Therefore, understanding what it requires to achieve great results, simply confirms the value of the work they do already. From that point of view, it has become easier working with customer satisfaction.
Nicholas Malcolm, ag analytics: In your experience, what is the most challenging when having to lift the customer satisfaction and change employee behavior?
Lise Bülow, Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles: It is important to constantly have customer satisfaction “top of mind”. We would never have accomplished the transformation we did this year, if we hadn’t spent two years relentlessly discussing our approach to customer experience. Firstly, the value of the system needed to be understood by everyone, in order for it to be used properly. Secondly, integrating the approach into our daily work depended on everyone understanding the value of the system.
We have spent a lot of time communicating the value, and we continue to do so whenever possible. Also, we show them statistics, so they are able to see the clear connection between behavioral changes, the customer satisfaction score and increase in revenue. Naturally all service managers are interested in increasing revenue, therefore it is key to communicate how little is required in order to create great results. The only condition is delivering on key processes every time. Not only sometimes, but every time.
Nicholas Malcolm, ag analytics: How has your leadership approach changed at both a general level and specifically within each division?
Lise Bülow, Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles: Getting to where we are now has required the full support from the whole team. We have had numerous workshops with the management, where we have presented the data provided to us. By focusing on how to benefit from the data at both a managerial level and within each division, we have successfully onboarded everyone. Now, everyone understands how they individually can contribute to achieving our goals. Of course, we as importers have set goals that need to be met. If the managers hadn’t understood the importance of our work with customers, we wouldn’t have accomplished such great results. It takes time for such a system to be implemented. Having done so has however allowed us to reach our potential. Managers and executives alike believe in the system, which has helped convince the employees. They have had to inspire and motivate the employees by helping them appreciate the system, resulting in everyone now sharing a common language and understanding.
Nicholas Malcolm, ag analytics: Have you experienced any difference in employee motivation when working with the system provided by ag analytics?
Lise Bülow, Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles: Definitely. Previously we weren’t able to effectively guide our employees on how to improve within different areas, as we were equipped with inadequate data that didn’t provide any specific knowledge.
Our employees are now fully onboard with what processes lead to great results. This makes working with customers and customer experience more fun, as our employees have a clear direction. Having concrete guidelines allows them to put their energy into processes that they know for certain have a positive outcome. Also, they are able to confidently personalize the experience with the guidelines providing a solid foundation. Of course, the approach takes time getting used to, and we still work on getting more volume/answers, but as it becomes integrated in the daily routines, it makes working with customer experience a lot more functional. Absolutely.
“Having concrete guidelines allows our employees to put their energy into processes that they know for certain have a positive outcome. Also, they are able to confidently personalize the experience with the guidelines providing a solid foundation. “– Lise Bülow, Head of After Sales, Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles
Nicholas Malcolm, ag analytics: An old-school approach is that we tend to focus a lot on the negative feedback. In what way have you been working with a new approach?
Lise Bülow, Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles: To avoid directing the focus towards the negative feedback, we have focused on celebrating our successes. It doesn’t come naturally to everyone but visualizing our success by using your system has definitely helped.
Our employees now put a lot of pride into achieving 5 or 10-star rating diploma. Even directors and managers keep an eye on these accomplishments, which is really positive. It also shows how far we have come. Customer satisfaction has now become nearly as important as turnover and is a top KPI. In the future we must do even better on celebrating our results and the outstanding job our employees do every day.
Since 2017 Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles Total Satisfaction Score has improved greatly. We started at 4,21 in 2017 and this year we have reached an impressive score 4,43. I believe that we, over time, can do even better. This is just the beginning of our customer oriented journey.