Customer loyalty strategies by former Tesla CEO at MaGIC E-Nation 2021


MaGICs E-Nation 2021 began yesterday with a morning interview by Beth Davies, former director of learning and development at Tesla. Prior to that, she held management roles at both Apple and Microsoft.

To set the scene, Beth reminded the audience that Apple and Tesla, although big today, started out as small startups. Apple almost went bankrupt in the 90s, and people doubted its survival when it first idealized the iPod.

When Tesla announced it would produce electric cars, skeptics wondered how a startup could compete with larger players like BMW, Ford and Toyota. And not only that, but who would want an electric car? It was a stupid idea, Beth recalled as people spoke.

So how did these companies overcome nauseating people to come up with products that now have hard fans? All the way to Silicon Valley, Beth almost talked about how Malaysian entrepreneurs could increase their customer base with strategies modeled on those she had experienced at Apple and Tesla.

Have The company’s mission It goes beyond your product

There on the wall of Tesla’s factory in capital letters was the brand’s mission, “Accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable transport.”

It’s a powerful mission, Beth said, because it wasn’t about Tesla, but about how everyone who worked on her team had a role to play in influencing the world. It was about accelerating the global transition from internal combustion engines to reducing emissions and becoming more sustainable.

“We knew we couldn’t do it alone, but we wanted to show what was possible so that others could join us. Our mission was not about one car or product, but how we could lead the way, ”she said. “So the first lesson is to capture the minds of the team and encourage others.”

A Look at the Tesla Factory / Image Credit: Steve Jurvetson, Flickr

Elon Musk would explain this goal in Tesla’s early days by posting blog posts explaining their innovations and how they were created to attract media and public attention. The first 2 sentences in each article would reinforce the company’s mission, making it clear what they are doing and why they are doing it.

Coming in 2012, 4 years after the launch of his first electric car, the Roadster, Elon noticed that other companies were not switching to self-manufacturing any type of electric vehicle (EV). Wondering if it was their misunderstanding of technology, he opened up Tesla’s patents so other players could board and create their own.

Elon’s actions inspired his employees, but his energy bled out of the company and attracted customers who were excited and intrigued by Tesla’s work. They then showed support for Tesla’s efforts by putting themselves on the waiting list for the launch of the Model S.

Make a product Customers can’t find it anywhere else

At Apple and Tesla, regardless of role or employee level, everyone was expected to be an innovator, find better ways to do business, and question everything with the question “Why?” Or “What if?”

Simplicity was another core value at Apple. It was simply elegant, desirable for customers and easy to use and learn. To create the first iPhone, its designers and engineers considered a list of features and reduced them to the top 5, which they would double when creating. This led to initial customers posting videos of their two-year-olds learning how to use phones. The product itself is marketed.

As for Tesla, by rethinking the way the car’s chassis can be made differently, the car’s battery was moved from the front hood to the bottom, under the car, like a skateboard. This made the car safer, as it had a crumpled zone in the front in the event of an impact, while the battery at the bottom lowered its center of gravity, reducing the risk of overturning.

The car battery was located below and looks like a skateboard / Image credited to: Tesla

These changes allowed Tesla to get a 5-star safety rating (the maximum that a car can achieve) in each subcategory of crash tests of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). They also made it a family car, because without the engine in the front, customers would have more space to store things in the front and have two children sitting in the trunk.

And that mantra about designing things spilled over into how cars were sold.

Surprise and delight your customers

Instead of selling Tesla cars in regular showrooms, they sold them in malls where customers could enter, learn, and try out the technology first hand.

The same goes for Apple, where customers have the opportunity to touch and try out phones that are displayed in stores, even if they haven’t purchased them.

Therefore, for companies, the most important part is the customer. To have a product that will change the world, companies need customers to adopt the product first and foremost. Apple does this using the philosophy of surprise and delight of its customers.

For example, if a customer buys a heavy product, his Geniuses (what the brand calls employees) will offer him help in carrying the items into their car. Or, if customers have a problem with their device but their warranty has expired, Geniuses will still act as if their warranty is still valid and will help them repair the phone.

Such actions have delighted and surprised customers, convincing them that the brand is reliable and they have become customers for life, even sharing them with their relatives. “It’s not about a transaction, it’s about creating a customer for life who would like to change the world with you,” Beth shared.

  • If you missed attending E-Nation this year, you can still access this session and others after registering here.
  • You can read more about what we wrote about MaGIC here.

Featured images: Beth Davies, speaker at the World HR Forum, Aurum Speaker Bureau

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