Hungry for Conversation with Customers, Lexus Exec Goes from Boardroom to Dining Room
December 20, 2010
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Food for Thought – Lexus GVP and GM Mark Templin welcomes guests to a dinner he’s hosting in a customer’s Los Angeles home.
Lexus has always pledged to “treat each customer as we would a guest in our home.” Now Lexus Group Vice President and General Manager Mark Templin is giving the covenant a contemporary flavor.
He recently treated customers like guests in their homes by hosting dinners in their dining rooms – and sharing morsels of the conversation on Twitter.
“For the past 21 years, we’ve been listening to customers and giving them what they want,” he said. “We live in a new world now, and they’re telling us what they want in a lot of new ways. We want to communicate in a way that fits today’s world.”
Templin hosted two dinners this fall in Los Angeles and San Francisco as part of a new program called “An Evening with Lexus.” Lexus selected two members of its customer advisory board to host the dinners, and each invited about a dozen friends who are past, present or future Lexus owners. Renowned chefs prepared five-course meals, and Lexus picked up the tab.
Templin picked up insights from the guests. For example, one RX 350 owner raved about signing her sales agreement in just eight minutes. “I couldn’t have planted a better ‘sales consultant,’” he said.
House Call -- “Iron Chef” winner Christopher Kostow prepares an exquisite meal in a Lexus customer’s kitchen.
However, another guest who owned a Lexus sedan 15 years ago said it wasn’t fun to drive. “His perception was based on an experience with Lexus in the past,” Templin said. “He didn’t know we have cars that are
fun to drive. We need to get that message out and reclaim customers.”
To interact with even more consumers, Templin also hosted a virtual lunch on Twitter and Facebook on Nov. 12. In a Lexus conference room stocked with sandwiches and salad, six associates flipped open their laptops and scrolled through more than 100 queries on Facebook alone. Wheeling his chair from one workstation to another, Templin recited his responses aloud, and the associates typed them into their computers.
“Describe in one word what it means to be the general manager of the No. 1 luxury brand,” wrote one Facebook user.
“Pressure,” replied Templin. “It’s always easier to become the best than stay the best.”
Another consumer asked what Lexus intends to do to bring recall-wary customers back into the fold. “We’re going back to our roots, which is listening to customers (just like we are doing right now) and giving them what they want,” he said. “We’ve shifted a thousand engineers to product R & D to build tons of prototypes and ensure we have the best quality cars in the industry.”
A Lot to Chew On
Templin is making good use of consumer concerns and comments. “I’m using them to tell our dealers what needs to be done, to influence our marketing communications and to guide product planning,” he said. “Our market research tells us many of the same things, but it really brings it to life when you hear someone say it in their own voice with passion.”
The “meals with Mark” may also result in at least one direct sale. Lexus sent the following Tweet from the San Francisco dinner Nov. 14:
“Customer was swayed by the tenderloin Chef Danko served: ‘Now I’m buying a Lexus.’”
To watch a video about an “Evening with Lexus,” please click here.
By Susan Pack