Volkswagen Customer Service: A case study in delivery and benefit

“Thank you for calling Volkswagen roadside assistance. This is Dan. Are you in a safe location?”

“Yes.”

“I’m very happy to hear that, sir.”

Thus began my call with Volkswagen about an ever-so-slight issue with my 2009 Rabbit this weekend; a case study in absolutely perfect customer service and the very tangible benefits it can bring the companies that deliver it.

When I called, concerned about low tire-pressure readings on all my tires, they offered to pick my car up and take me to my dealership for service. While I waited, I drank steaming hot chocolate, enjoyed free Wi-Fi and took a few test drives in beautiful new 2011 models. When I was done, my service invoice read $0. Now that’s coverage.

It’s easy to be blown away by customer service like that. When I reflected on my experience, I realized that delivering customer service the Volkswagen way came down to four things — simple to outline — certainly not simple to implement or deliver:

  1. Understand Your Customers
    Yesterday, Bill Alberti wrote about the importance of customer-centricity in the design of successful online communities. Amanda Fraga recently talked about how understanding customers’ needs could lead to a better app. Customer service is no different. Throughout my interactions with VW, it was clear that they either understood exactly what my needs and concerns were, or they were interested in finding out.
  2. Stay on Brand
    Make no mistake — brand is a critical piece of the equation. Aligning the customer service experience with the psychology of your brand can create an enduring connection for consumers. The Volkswagen brand is playful, irreverent, a little bit edgy, a little bit stark, but always crisp in its delivery. By reinforcing the brand throughout the helpful interactions I had with customer service, VW cemented a positive association for a long time into the future.
  3. Follow Through
    Reliability is the lifeblood of customer service. Promises are easily made, but keeping them sets you apart. Put systems in place to ensure you deliver on your assurances and that follow-up happens. When VW told me they’d send a driver to pick me up and take me to a service location, they also mentioned they would call to check in and make sure I was taken care of. A representative called me on my cell to confirm I had been helped within an hour, just as I was saying goodbye to my friendly driver.
  4. Over-Promise and Over-Deliver
    Companies like Zappos, Southwest Airlines and American Express know that keeping customers happy is step number one to building lasting success. Not only do they consistently one-up competitors; they go above and beyond, when required.

The focus on customer service is clearly working for Volkswagen: the company reported a YOY sales increase of 17.9% in October, 24.2% in November and closed out 2010 with their best overall sales year since 2003.

It’s very easy to see why. No one I spoke to in customer service knew that it was a very important day for VW to impress me (one of the last days on my lease). But people in different departments (in different geographic locations) all carried out exemplary customer service that was consistently impressive and reassured me that they weren’t taking me for granted — not even a little bit.

And guess what? I doubled down on my relationship with VW, turning in my Rabbit and driving out of the dealership, that very day, in a brand-new 2011 GTI.