October 08, 2020|
9 min read
The Customer Experience IS your Living Brand!
Over the last decade, many companies have become interested in “customer experience.” Experiential marketing isn’t really new, but the idea that it’s one of the only ways to marketis somewhat new.
Why has customer experience become so integral to our brands? If you look close enough, you’ll see it’s actually one of the only ways a brand can even make itself stand out in the crowd. It's one of the only ways we can be different and be a brand.
What Is Customer Experience?
The customer experience is any interaction or touchpoint someone has with your brand. This includes the moment they first land on your website, when they first hear your name, and so on.
It also includes the moments they interact with you: when they’re buying from you, when they’re asking you questions.
There are two reasons customer experience has become so big in the last ten years or so:
1. The expanded number of touchpoints a customer has with a brand
2. The increasingly homogenous product offerings out there
Let’s look at the crowded market and homogenous product offerings. To have something unique is pretty rare these days. Unless you hold a patent, chances are there are similar products on the market. Yes, there might be differences between products, but they're often superficial.
Let’s take a look at bikes, for instance. Many bicycles are made on “open moulds” these days. A new brand can start up, select a mold that’s used by competitors, and come out with a bike that’s almost exactly the same.
Proprietary molds do exist. Many bike manufacturers will play “pick and choose” with open mold pieces as well. They might add the tail of one bike to the front end of another to come up with something that’s “different.” Unless you have one of those proprietary molds though, you and everybody else are using pretty much the same parts.
So, is there any real difference between these bicycles? Not really, at the end of the day. Yes, components play a role, as does material, and so on. A carbon fiber frame is always going to be lighter than an aluminum one.
Cellphones are similar. You might be a die-hard Apple fan or maybe you swear by the Android operating system. But, if you look at them, the two are similar. Yes, the icons are in different places. You’ll perform different functions in somewhat different ways. But it’s not actually all that difficult to flip between using an Android and an iPhone.
That’s because they’re so similar.
If there’s not much functional difference between these two products, why are some people so fanatical about Android over Apple?
It comes down to experience and branding.
The Increasing Number of Touch Points
The other factor in the predominance of customer experience is the increasing number of touchpoints between a brand and a customer.
It used to be that there were about three ways for a customer to have contact with a brand. One was walking into the store itself. The second was writing a letter. In the early part of the 20th century, the telephone became available.
In the late 20th century, we saw the number of potential contacts start increasing again. Fax, pagers, and email created new opportunities. Those were followed up by text messaging, instant messages, and social media.
Brands use advertising to create touch points, which has also expanded in the last couple of decades. Events and guerilla marketing have gained ground in the “real world” space. Digital marketing has presented dozens of new avenues.
The result of this is that a customer could be interacting with your brand at almost any time, anywhere in the world. A Google search puts them on your website, where they interact with your chatbot. They see a tweet from a friend on a YouTube review about one of your products. A relative share a negative experience with them on Facebook.
As you can see, the customer “experience” of your brand has become more encompassing, more pervasive. That’s why brands have to give the total experience more thought than ever.
How Is Customer Experience Your Brand?
Customer experience encompasses every touch point. Today you need to include the Customer Care Experience as part of your Living Brand. Think of this as all the leaves that are touching the world externally. Every single leaf is a reflection back on the brand. When you think in these terms, you realize that Customer Care is almost inseparable from your brand itself.
And those touchpoints can cost a customer FOREVER! I can remember a really bad experience with my first new car purchase. I LOVED my little baby Porsche as I called her. Then I went for my first service check and had such a damaging experience and follow up mail exchange…that I sold the car earlier and swore to NEVER purchase any Mazda vehicle again. That brand’s touchpoint broke my trust forever.
Today, before purchasing, customers typically research looking to understand the quality of the product, but more importantly is the after-purchase service or care. If something goes wrong, how valued is the customer?
Social media, partnerships, instore activity, videos, everyday customers sharing thoughts are all different experiences that one person can have from the same brand.
The point here is that you have to be thinking in this expansive manner. It’s much like interacting with a person. If you have good interactions with them, a good experience, you’re likely going to form a good opinion of them. You might even look forward to talking to them or working with them.
If you don’t find the person helpful or you find their personality a little off-putting, then you’re not going to be very excited to interact with them again.
It's the same thing with our brands—except that the customer is interacting with a lot of people under the same brand. But when they’re tweeting at our branded account on Twitter or emailing “customer service [at] your brand [dot] com,” they’re lumping that all together as the “brand experience.”
So, when your team gets back to them on Twitter or you make it easy to find out how to contact you, your customer has at least one good experience.
On both these platforms, though, your team needs to be offering the same quality of experience. This is what we mean when we talk about omnichannel marketing. Customers can move seamlessly from platform to platform, having the same experience. As they jump from your website to your Insta, they’re talking to different people, who might be in totally different departments. But the customer doesn’t see it that way.
They see it as them talking to your brand. So, when Sally gives them a sarcastic answer on Insta, but Mitch on the website team is super formal, both become experiences of your brand. You can see how inconsistency could be disorienting for the customer—they might walk away thinking you’re not very helpful, that your brand is cold, or even that your brand is “mean.” If they have a great interaction with someone on social media, but don’t get the same treatment when they write to you via email, they might be upset or confused.
Thinking End to End on Experience
As Marketers, we have to think end to end about consistency. We have to think about every step, from the ad copy that gets the customer to the website to the promotion that lands in their inbox, to chatting with our reps.
It’s a lot to take in, and some of it is definitely outside of our wheelhouse as Marketers. (After all, we’re not the ones providing sales support or customer service.) But this is where the brand ties in—that’s the part we define. And branding then has to be carried forward through every part of our organizations.
Our customer service reps should know our brand values inside out. There should be a strategy for how they can deliver on them no matter how they’re assisting customers.
Our websites should support those values too. Our social media feeds are a kind of community. How are we supporting those communities and recognizing them?
Starting with the roots, the essence of our brands, is really the key to providing an all-encompassing customer experience.
When we’re in relationship with our customers, this kind of thinking is easier to achieve too. We’ll often find ourselves in sync with our customers’ values. We’re in a better position to anticipate what they want, what they need, and to deliver it to them.
The long and short of it is that how we interact with our customers—at any touch point—defines our brands. We should definitely take the opportunity to define those experiences in a way that reflects our brands. Think not just logos but messages and actions. Make all your customer touch points reflect who you are as a brand!
By doing that, our customers know what to expect from us, no matter where they interact with us or how. And that’s the essence of branding—creating something consistent, so our customers always know what they’ll get when they pick up our products or interact with us.
And creating that consistency comes back to brand values—so start with the why!
Meet Margo…brand visioning & marketing
Margo Jay is a Master Brand Strategist with a career leading globally recognized brands; developing and launching a proven model that maximizes competitive sales potential and consumer appeal. She has built the model to help companies of all sizes. Her Client roster includes entrepreneurs through to Fortune 100 brands: NHL teams, Global QSR brands, CPG brands, Broadcast brands, Agencies, Non Profit brands, Hard goods…this model and process provides competitive advantage in any category.
Complete clarity. Ownable distinct selling proposition. Shared values. Brand Clarity. Brand Focus. Brand Inspiration. Brand Obsession. Unlocking brand potential is what she does.
And it all starts with why!
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