Popped through our letterbox the other day came our invite to the launch of the new Lexus GS at our local dealer. As I opened and read the information inside it read
"You can expect the very best of Lexus hospitality, with delicious food and drink to tempt your palate... and some unusual twists to the entertainment, as part of your opportunity to ENCOUNTER AMAZING. If you think all executive cars are much the same, you're about to be amazed."
With this tempting news I promptly filled out my details and popped the leaflet back into the post box, diarised the event and eagerly waited for the day.
The day arrived, my daughter decided to come with me, so dressed for the premium occasion we drove to the dealership in our car (not a Lexus by the way). On arrival at the entrance to the forecourt of the said dealership, we were surprised to be met by a gang of men huddled together.
These men were stood around all in black; one asked me to wind my window down and asked for my keys should I wish to have my car valet parked.
I felt a little apprehensive at this point as the men rather resembled a group of bouncers outside a nightclub (not that I frequent nightclubs but you know what I mean). Stepping out of the car with my daughter we were directed towards the dealership's main entrance, as our car was taken away to a parking spot.
We both felt a little uneasy as if all eyes of the group of men in black were upon us. A better experience would have been made by directing us to the entrance of the showroom and then have somebody open the doors for us and then offer to park the car so that we only had a few steps to make to enter the dealership rather than walk across the entire car park!
We proceeded to the door and saw another member of the Lexus team, a lady who without any real sense of a welcome asked for our names so we could be ‘ticked off’ her mandatory list of guests and to ensure we were entered into the evening's prize draw for a bottle of Champagne.
Still feeling a little unsure of what to expect next other than 'encountering amazing' we stepped into the crowded showroom of guests standing around having a drink, most of whom seemed well into retirement! Complimentary wine was offered, but as I was driving I chose the orange juice - a boring choice no doubt from a carton with no imagination thrown in?
Was this a summary of amazing - red wine, white wine or juice?
We walked unnoticed or challenged to the back of the showroom to find some space to stand and as we did so could see a table of nibbles of some kind. There was a chef dressed in the outfit of his trade, who seemed to be preparing the food in front of his guests. Could this be to showcase what he was making?
Was this part of the amazing experience, theatre in the making? We assumed not based on the other tools of his trade as alongside him was a large kitchen roll and an open box of blue latex gloves and his bin for waste materials. This was definitively a case of off stage and on stage, routines being mixed.
The food was half prepared, some vol au vents, wafered cones of meat and little pates on toast. These were admittedly very tasty if you were lucky enough to be offered one or two. Unfortunately, these were being eaten rather quicker than the chef could finish preparing them. Was he late with his schedule, or was it a presentation in the making, gone slightly wrong?
Either way, it hardly lived up to the expectation promised by the invitation. So rather uneasily we waited for a while alongside a quartet of classical players that were performing ‘Summertime’ by G. Gershwin "Porgy and Bess". If you have ever heard this piece you will realise it is not quite the upbeat kind of tune to launch a new model of car.
By now I was beginning to realise that the dealer may have underestimated the concept of a 'customer experience' and got this event less than congruent with the promise the premium brand makes. High quality has to be exactly that in every aspect of its delivery, throughout the customer journey. The customer experience increasingly drives perceptions, intentions and, perhaps most importantly, customer commitment and word of mouth, which are critical to loyalty, retention and consequently customer profitability and sustainable growth. It is critical, therefore, that the customer experience lives up to and delivers on the brand promise.
After another 20 minutes or so of just standing by waiting, a man with a microphone could be heard but not initially seen through the crowd. He drew our attention to the unveiling of the new ‘Lexus’ covered under a sheet at the corner of the rather sparkling glass showroom. I could not hear most of what was said I must confess although when the car was revealed it was certainly a stunning black model.
Unfortunately, however, I also noticed the equally stunning black shiny model of a cello case on the left-hand side, some manuscripts laying on the floor about the chairs where the musicians had been stood moments before and the four music stands like unwanted speakers in the spotlight of the arena too. Oh dear!
The pièce de résistance?.... not the car, for us it was a magician who appeared as if by complete magic (pun intended) in front of our eyes. He shook our hands, the first introduction and welcome of the evening.
He was lively, funny and made us feel at ease for the first time that evening. He continued to do a magnificent card trick reminiscent of the style you would find on the best cruise ships. In sharp contrast the launch speech had finished as quickly as it began, a few oldies were trying out their agility of getting in and out of the stunning black car, and that mournful music started up again. At this point, we made our farewells to the only person to communicate with us, 'the magician,’ and slipped out the door as unnoticed as when we had arrived.
My conclusion and point to my writing; given that marketing is the logical custodian of the brand in this and most organisations, it stands to reason that the ‘branded’ customer experience is something that should be totally congruent with the promise it makes.
If it aims to ''wow’ us then it should do just that. If it aims to amaze us it should do just that and be well thought through at every stage from the entrance to exit. It seems that it is only too easy to concentrate on the product itself and put the rest of the customer experience to the background.
In fact the customer experience has to be consistent with, and aligned to the brand.
Otherwise, customers will simply tune into and pick up on other messages and signals that are not relevant and turn to other distractions rather than focus on the very product that they are meant to be ‘lured’ to.
And guess what part of the experience really stuck in our minds more than anything else...yes you guessed it the magician! I wonder what all the Lexus workers from the design to the build of the car would have thought had they known that all their efforts from the initial pencil sketches, to the final test run, would have ended up at this dealership as such a bland experience after all?
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