Aug 22, 2017
Elon Musk Just Spent the Weekend Making Changes to Tesla's Cars (by Listening to Customers on Twitter)
This isn't the usual way a CEO deals with customers.
Absurdly Driven looks at the world of business with a skeptical eye and a firmly rooted tongue in cheek.
Elon Musk has become something of a deity for certain people.
Here is this marginally eccentric, occasionally depressive man who wants to make very nice electric cars and, oh, go to Mars.
He can, though, be quite disarming.
Especially when he decides to waft onto Twitter and listen to what customers have to say.
Some CEOs might ignore customer suggestions and gripes. Some might pass them on to flunkies who will reply with platitudes.
Musk, however, listens, responds, and agrees to make changes to his company's cars.
As he did this weekend.
One absurdly simple exchange began with a customer suggesting: "While you're adding exit mode to 3/S/X, would you also please save head rest position to driver profile? My petite wife thanks u."
Musk replied: "Will do. Also, we need to make it a lot easier to adjust the headrest."
When another Twitterer sniffed, "That should be a basic native feature @elonmusk!" the Tesla CEO didn't block him or tell him to get stuffed.
Instead, he offered: "Totally agree. This was a foolish oversight."
Not a tinge of huffiness. Not a snort of arrogance. Just an acknowledgement that someone else could be right.
You could call it humility. You could call it an exalted level of customer service.
But here was a CEO promising to make detailed changes to his product because customers were pointing out its flaws.
Another exchange went like this:
"@elonmusk can you guys program the car once in park to move back the seat and raise the steering wheel? Steering wheel is wearing," asked a customer.
"Good point. We will add that to all cars in one of the upcoming software releases," replied Musk.
This was so insanely civilized.
Even when he couldn't solve the problem, he was open about the fact that it existed.
A customer tweeted: "Having left my sunroof open at an airport. Would it be possible to have the rain sensor close the sunroof if it detects rain?"
"Yeah. That's been on the future feature list for a while," replied Musk. "Need to make sure rain sensor doesn't false positive or drain battery."
Some might wonder, of course, where Tesla's customer-service department might be.
Indeed, there have been loud whispers for some time that Tesla's customer service isn't quite, well, self-driving.
What Musk is capitalizing on here is the fact that the brand itself has inspired a curious loyalty that borders on fanaticism.
He's speaking to his base and offering utterly unexpected frankness about the fact that his cars could be better.
I'm actually surprised that Tesla isn't more like certain airlines, dealing with customer tweets as they come up with promptness and decency. (Well, one or two airlines, that is.)
The customer isn't always right.
But when your customer tells you something that you instinctively know exposes a flaw in your product, you can stall. You can even be defensive.
It's quite refreshing to hear a CEO say: "Yeah. Crap. You're right. I'll do something about it."