As Elon Musk and others have put it, the road between the crystal vision you have for your business and the successful delivery of your product is paved with chewed glass. His is no different at Tesla. There will be plenty of broken glass on the path to delivering some 400,000 Model 3s in the year ahead. One of Musk's best entrepreneurial traits, though, is he doesn't just engineer from the product vision backward. He also engineers from the customer experience forward.
Few entrepreneurs know how to see the future just as clearly from the perspective of their customer. That ability is what has kept customer confidence in Tesla high and stock prices strong this last year. Even as Musk has missed production targets and service complaints have started coming in on older Tesla models, Tesla successfully raised a new $1.2 billion just last week to support the Model 3 ramp up.
Creating for the customer of the status quo
All innovators face the same reality challenge: your customer is stuck in the status quo. You're building a company and a product that exists in the future. As the entrepreneur, you're trying to lasso a specific future and haul it into the present. Tesla's plans to simplify Model 3 delivery give you a lot of insight into how Musk thinks about this difficult process. In his case, since Tesla has no dealers, the issues are compounded by not only a new product (fully electric car) but also a new infrastructure (chargers) and a new service model (no dealerships).
How the customer experiences the product is part of the product.
"The delivery of the cars is where the investment is needed. We need to deliver three or four times as many cars," Musk recently shared on an investor call, as reported by Elektrek. It's almost an understatement when you look at the big picture. Tesla delivered just under 77,000 cars last year; shy of their goal of 80,000. Next year estimates are that Tesla has deposits to deliver 400,000 Model 3s.
Even with the Tesla Gigafactory coming online, the process that built the first all electric American car icon is not the process that can deliver it at scale. Tesla only produced 24,882 vehicles last fourth quarter. It was a respectable leap of 64% over the same period in 2015, but still--there's a steep hill to climb.
Customer experience engineering
Musk keeps his eyes on a peak experience for customers from both a production and a customer satisfaction perspective. "We don't want to have three or four times as many delivery centers. How do we make that delivery process more streamlined, less paperwork, less bureaucracy and get people really ahead of time with really well-produced instruction videos for how to use their car?" he said.
Since Musk is able to paint the road backwards from his vision, and forward from his customer, we can all go along for the ride and even anticipate some of the bumps. Until his cars deliver themselves (and my bet is, they will), he's planning on investing in a process that helps customers enjoy the whole experience. As you innovate your next product or service triumph, think about the road not just from your dream back to the customer, but from the customer forward to you.