Not Just Fast: Understanding a Responsive Experience

As a customer experience consultant, I find myself working with leaders across the globe and across business sectors on some very familiar themes; needs fulfillment, customer effort reduction, surprise and delight, etc.


One of those bedrock issues in daily consulting includes “responsiveness.” From my worldview, responsiveness is a make or break differentiator in all business arenas including retail, banking, online sales, air travel, and automotive.

Often responsiveness is cast as simply a swift reaction to an inbound request from a consumer but there is more to it than speed. Responsiveness carries with it the need to provide a relevant and effective reaction.

24 Minutes from Tesla

Let’s take a recent example from Tesla Motors to illustrate the key elements of responsiveness. At 8:47 p.m. on August 18th, Paul Franks from Bamford, Alabama tweeted the following to Tesla’s CEO Elon Musk:

@elonmusk can you guys program the car once in park to move back the seat and raise the steering wheel? Steering wheel is wearing.

A mere 24 minutes later Elon Musk tweeted a response to Paul which read:

Good point. We will add that to all cars in one of the upcoming software releases.

Unquestionably, Elon Musk’s reaction could be characterized as cutting-edge responsiveness from a swiftness perspective, but it is the nature of the response that is equally noteworthy. Elon could have responded in half the time and been less “responsive.”

What if?

Imagine instead of Elon’s actual response arriving in 24 minutes he instead crafted a tweet which arrived 12 minutes from Paul’s original message. That tweet could have read:

Paul everyone has ideas on how to make products better. Get a programming degree, make the fix, and send it over.

The hypothetical tweet would have been faster, defensive, unaccommodating, and “less responsive.”

Ultimately the test of Tesla’s responsiveness will come if/when the automatic steering wheel/seat adjustment is “added to all cars in one of the upcoming software releases.” It is easy to utter a swift and accommodating response after a customer offers input. But it is quite another thing to see that promise into fruition.

Writing for Electreck, Jameson Dow, suggests that Tesla uses its smaller size to be nimble in executing customer responsive solutions:

One of the things Tesla is able to do, as a smaller company, is to make changes a lot more quickly than larger companies can. It also helps that Tesla’s cars are capable of over-the-air updates, so if a feature is missed, it can be added later in a software update. Most manufacturers would add these as part of a new model year, in order to entice owners to upgrade their cars, but since the cost of the upgrade is so minor to Tesla, there’s no reason not to push the software out to every owner. This keeps customers happy and keeps them evangelizing the brand, resulting in high customer satisfaction numbers.

The Payoff

Tesla not only holds strong satisfaction numbers, as referenced by Jameson but more importantly it drives enviable loyalty among its existing customers. In the 2016 list of Car Brands, Consumer Reports ranked Tesla first among customers who said they would buy from the same manufacturer again. Not only was Tesla ranked #1 in this Consumer Reports survey but they substantially outdistanced all competitors. Here are the results for the top 6:

Rank Brand Would Buy Again
1 Tesla 91%
2 Porsche 84%
3 Audi 77%
4 Subaru 76%
5 Toyota 76%
6 Honda 75%

What About You?

Whether you are a massive service organization like the American Red Cross, an individual brand like an attorney in private practice, a mom-and-pop restaurant, or a retail behemoth like Amazon; responsiveness matters. To be known as responsive, we can all take a page from Tesla:

1. Be Swift

2. Be Accommodating

3. Be Relevant

4. Be Active (delivering on all promises)

If you consistently deliver on those four ways of being you will “be” two of the most important things of all – rare and long-lasting!

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Joseph A. Michelli, Ph.D. is a professional speaker and chief experience officer at The Michelli Experience. A New York Times #1 bestselling author, Dr. Michelli and his team consult with some of the world’s best customer experience companies.

Follow on Twitter: @josephmichelli

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