June 26, 2013
NEW YORK – An Audi of America executive at Forrester Research’s Forum for Customer Experience Professionals East 2013 said that by redefining the employee experience, the brand was able to boost customer loyalty by 7.5 percent from 2009-2013.
During the “Creating Audi Fans” session, the executive discussed how Audi first had to foster an internal passion before changing its customers’ view of the brand. The automaker found that if its employees were rallied around a shared purpose, then the customers would feel more connected to the brand.
“Our goal was to redefine the customer experience,” said Jeri Ward, director of customer experience at Audi of America, Washington, D.C. “But first, we had to win over the hearts and minds of our employees.
“We had to redefine the employee experience before we redefined our customer experience,” she said.
Easy as one, two, three
Audi took a three-step process to increasing customers’ feelings about the brand.
First, the brand started within the company. Audi executives wanted to get Audi employees focused on a shared mission for the brand, where everyone plays a role.
“We wanted to instill passion in them for what they do each and every day,” Ms. Ward said.
Ms. Ward with Forrester's Harley Manning
To kick start this shared value, Audi headquarters in Germany established the word “Kundenbegeisterung,” which is loosely translated to “Inspiring customer delight,” as the company’s goal.
Audi of America took this motto and changed it to “Creating Audi fans.”
Next, Audi decided to go big with its universal company message.
The automaker took its executives on a tour around the U.S. to speak and share stories to Audi employees to inspire them about the brand. Executives shared stories about what the brand means to them.
In addition to getting employees excited about the brand, these talks were also meant to inspire employees to make personal connections with customers.
“Through this we brought together an experience that was personal, emotional, genuine and fun,” Ms. Ward said.
“We needed to immerse our employees in an experience that is replicable at the customer level,” she said.
Lastly, the automaker kept moving forward and lost no time during this company reinvention.
“We felt that it was important to keep going because our competition wasn’t sitting still, our employees aren’t waiting and our customers aren’t waiting,” Ms. Ward said.
“We brought everyone together in one place and we took this emotional first step,” she said. “Creating Audi fans is our mission from this point forward.”
From this revamping initiative, Audi of America saw a 26 percent increase in brand awareness from 2006-2012 and loyalty has increased from 40 percent in 2009 to 47.5 percent in the first quarter of 2013.
In addition, the brand has also achieved 29 consecutive months of record sales.
Continuing the expansion
Recently Audi has been continuing the expansion of its brand through physical and digital platforms.
For instance, the automaker enhanced the customer journey by remodeling its Web strategy to provide easy navigation and a cleaner look among other updates.
Audi is tapping Google Search Appliance to let visitors to its U.S. Web site find what they need faster. Other improvements to the site include a high-resolution car configurator, responsive and adaptive design and in-depth inventory search (see story).
Furthermore, Audi is investing $5 billion in three years to expand and update its showrooms to help boost the brand’s presence in North America.
The automaker recently opened a flagship showroom in New York with its sister brand Volkswagen, which is the largest real estate investment by the Volkswagen Group. Audi is aiming for the new showroom and dealership updates to increase its exposure in New York and the U.S. (see story).
Audi Manhattan dealership
Audi says that although it is committed to its dealership and its products, what fuels the brand is its customers.
“The customer experience is critical for us and our business success in America,” Ms. Ward said.
Erin Shea, editorial assistant on Luxury Daily, New York