How Volkswagen Group Australia Develop Empathy

2018-10-05T19:40:51+00:00May 22, 2018|
Reading Time: 3 minutes

“Put yourself in the customer’s shoes. How would you feel in their situation?”

In 2015, the German car giant admitted cheating on emissions tests in the US, sending shockwaves throughout the world. To try to regain customer trust and loyalty the organisation worked hard to improve its Net Promoter Score (NPS) by over 25 points in 2017 (within two years). At a national level, VGA’s performance improved on average by 20% across the key touchpoints directly related to loyalty.

I spent time interviewing Jason Bradshaw, Director Customer Experience, and through these conversations, I learned that training and development of its people was a high priority for VGA. Sales skills, technical skills and customer service skills all receive equal effort and investment.

Internal advocacy has been Jason’s priority first, in order to build customer advocacy for the group: “Whether it be here in our head office, whether it be with our field team, or whether it be in the dealership.”

An important goal for Jason was to develop a customer-centric culture through empathy. He encouraged all dealership owners and managers to think more about the customer and put themselves in the customers’ shoes:

I think inherently everyone has it – empathy. But because of lived experiences, we put up personas. And some people’s way of surviving is not to show empathy because they feel (and it’s right because it’s their feeling), they feel that they’re going to be seen as weak or that they are being challenged. I think everyone has the ability to be empathetic in a service environment. What organisations need to be able to do – and I’m not suggesting it’s easy – is to make sure they put the right tools around their people, so if they’re not naturally comfortable being empathetic to a stranger they’re still able to manage in that situation in a genuine way.

An example Jason referred to of when they started to focus more on seeing things through the customers’ eyes was the time of day they assigned parents to come and collect their car:

We get so focused on, what’s that one thing I can do that will take my score, my loyalty, my whatever, from A to B, that we forget that it’s not actually one thing. It’s one hundred little things every single day that makes the difference. For example, when a mum with kids or a dad with kids needs to pick up their children from school at 3 pm, then it is not helpful when you say their car’s going to be ready at 3:30 in the afternoon. Have it ready at 2:30 because at 3 their kids need to be picked up and that will be their number one focus at that time.

This might sound like common sense, yet it is the single thing that Volkswagen has leveraged: more common sense.

First people, then results.

Want to learn more about the tools VWG use to develop empathy and read the rest of the interview? Get your copy of Creating a Customer Service Mindset released in June.

Jaquie Scammell

‘Love Being in Service’

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