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Lexus: Customer lifecycle now more important than luxury

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9th Apr 2014
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What’s more important to a luxury car brand – maintaining the air of opulence associated with its vehicles, or sustaining satisfaction for its customers throughout their car ownership?  

In a provocative interview with CarsGuide.com, Sean Hanley, chief executive for the Australian division of Lexus, suggested that any car manufacturers who plan to choose luxury over experience are choosing a path “fraught with danger” and that the lifecycle of customers should now be the number one priority for all car brands.

"Whilst consumerism is on the rise, if our kids become successful, they will want a point of difference,” Hanley explained. “That point of difference in the age of technology and social media and whatever else is available in their time, will be the experience they get from that product.

"The uniqueness, the recognition and how they feel. If you sell your soul now and believe that luxury is at the front end and not for the lifecycle of the customer, then I think that's a strategy that is fraught with danger. Good luck to the rest, if that's what they want to do. It's just not what Lexus wants to do."

The automotive industry is one that faces an uncertain future, in the face of a continuous decline in global sales and an increasingly homogenous market.

And while loyalty has always been a given for leading car brands based their reputation, personalisation and customer experience are now considered to be the most vital elements for maintaining this loyalty in the future.

Cisco recently conducted a survey suggesting that car owners were increasingly expecting more connected, interactive, automated vehicles, and that customers were willing to give manufacturers vast amounts of personal data in exchange for a better brand experience.

Other research, including a report from TeleTech, iterates the need for car brands to move away from seeing themselves as manufacturing companies to become all-encompassing service-providers. And it is Lexus that appears to be heeding the call, specifying its long-term plan for lifecycle over mass-production:

"There's no-one better credentialled in Australia to run a retail volume campaign with Lexus if we wanted to, given our parent company (Toyota),” says Hanley. “If volume was all we wanted, we could activate a campaign tomorrow. But we don't.

"We believe very clearly that in the future, luxury customers will want a point of difference. More important than anything, you have to provide service and an experience from the time they look your car up to the time they dispose of your car. It's got to be exceptional. We believe we've got the customer experience pretty right. You can check whatever stats you like, independent or otherwise, we've got that right.”

A recent survey by Temkin in the US appears to back Hanley’s statement up, ranking Lexus just behind its parent company, Toyota, in terms of customer experience.

Lexus also regularly features in the top three for customer service levels in the automotive industry.

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