Lessons Learned from Tesla’s Supercharger Idle Fee

Posted by Alison Yama on Feb 9, 2017 7:00:33 AM
Alison Yama
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Recently, a Tesla owner tweeted his dissatisfaction at having to wait at supercharging stations, complaining that too many people are using the spots to park for long periods of time, including overnight.   Elon Musk responded that the owner was right and the waiting must change.  Within a week, Musk instituted a $.40/minute charge, payable at the next service appointment, for ‘idling’ at a spot.  This works out to $24/hour penalty for hogging the spot.

What does this tell us about Musk that we can adapt to our day-to-day lives as CEOs, CMOs, Pricing Execs, or Pricing Managers?

1)     He’s fast – From tweet to solution in under a week.  There was no A/B testing, no conjoint, no voice of the customer studies.  Just pure commitment to ensuring Tesla customers were heard and a serious concern addressed.

2)     He’s smart – The fee not only will help change customer behavior, it also goes a long way in reinforcing trust in the brand.  Tesla cares about the delivering an innovative and high quality owner experience, from the research and buying process, to daily driving and charging. The speed and manner with which the organization responded is testament to their commitment.

3)    He’s not perfect, but he’s fast and smart  - Musk is showing great leadership here.  Although, the fee structure is not perfect, it doesn’t matter.  It works well for metro areas in which Tesla charging stations are often full (Silicon Valley for example), but idling is not such an issue in other areas that often have charging availability.  So, the conversation can now become how to change the software to note utilization of a Supercharging station so maybe the fees are assessed during the busiest times.  We are still talking about using fees to improve the customer experience, and just refining the implementation. Meanwhile, the change in customer behavior is already occurring.

Implementing idle fees was preceded by another Musk announcement in September 2016 in which he explained to his company-owned stores why they don’t discount Teslas.  I am looking forward to watching his next pricing move!  Truly, pricing leadership in action.