Got your swimsuit? Check. Sunglasses? Check. Suntan lotion and poolside reading material? Yep! How about your branding & CX 101 primer? No? Well read on…
Ok, well maybe I’m being a bit optimistic about the British weather, but one thing’s for sure – as we head into summer, with its bright skies and flowers in full bloom, now’s a great time to pause and reflect on your brand’s identity and how you can use this to make your customer experience efforts more effective.
For starters, what is the link between customer experience and branding? Traditionally, customer experience has positioned itself as quite distinct and separate from marketing and branding – and there are many good reasons for that as they are unique disciplines, the latter focusing more on campaigns and advertising, whilst customer experience is about the creation of customer-centric organisations and successful delivery of great experiences through every customer touchpoint. However, as CX practitioners we have to be careful to not operate within our own ‘CX bubble’ since we know as part of our work that silos are a big no-no.
And through effective partnership with your brand team, you will find great synergy which makes your customer experience efforts all the more effective.
Denise Lee Yohn states it very well in her book ‘What Great Brands Do’((What Great Brands Do reference Yohn, D. (2014) What Great Brands Do – The Seven Brand-Building Principles that Separate the Best from the Rest. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.)), essential reading for anyone working in customer experience – to paraphrase, you don’t want to please every customer – you want to please the ones that are right for your brand. Anything else is wasted effort, therefore, focus on doing what you do very, very well.
There is a risk of being blinded by customer centricity, listening to a cacophony of all customers and then ending up terribly confused. This is where being brand-centric, and by extension, customer-centric to the right customers comes into play.
Let’s look at an example.
Abel & Cole are a brand that focuses on providing fresh, organic, locally sourced produce to households across the UK. And they do it very well, with low customer effort through their flexible online ordering & delivery system and through the use of customer feedback to continually improve (for example, I’ve noticed the carrots are much crisper and packaged better to maintain their freshness, following customer complaints about less enticing limp orange vegetables). Say for example that you are a parent who orders from Abel & Cole – how would you feel if, one day, you opened up the recycled brown box full of organic veg and found… a plastic happy meal toy staring up at you. Confused? Your reaction would most likely not be, ‘oh look how thoughtful, they are thinking of my little ones, isn’t this a lovely treat’ and would probably be more like ‘crikey, have they lost their mind. All this plastic is bad for the environment… I wonder what poor kid in China suffered to make this for us!’ Now, the case is purely theoretical however it demonstrates the harm that good intentions can do if they are not in alignment with the brand values expected by the target customer base.
If you try to be everything to everybody, you will become nothing to nobody.
Mercedes-Benz are another example who, having built a reputation as a luxury German car, are expanding their range and now offer lower level models(( Maandag, M. and Puolakka, L. (2015) The Only Book You Will Ever Need on Branding to start, run and grow your business. Paperback edition. Great Britain: Robinson.)), (( Benz on a Budget, Angling for Youngsters [Online]. Available from: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/03/16/automobiles/benz-on-a-budget-angling-for-youngsters.html?_r=0 [Accessed 19th May 2016])). Their cheapest model in the UK now starts at £19,990.00(( Mercedes-Benz model chooser [Online]. Available from: http://www.mercedes-benz.co.uk/content/unitedkingdom/mpc/mpc_unitedkingdom_website/en/home_mpc/passengercars/home/new_cars/models/a-class/a-class/prices___spec/catalogue_prices.html [Accessed: 19th May 2016])) – within the same price range as Toyotas – a move which could confuse their brand in the eyes of consumers, and could threaten their position as an exclusive provider of luxury vehicles.
So what are we to do within customer experience to harness the power of branding and make sure that our efforts contribute to the strengthening, not detriment of that brand?
A few handy pointers:
- Understand inside and out, both emotionally and intellectually, what your brand is about and what feelings it is meant to generate for customers. This brand vision should inform all of your efforts. Without it, it’s like trying to fly a kite without wind – where is it going?
- If you have seasonal fluctuations in your business, ramp up customer service and operations in preparation for the holiday season to make sure that your customer experience lives up to the brand promise year-round. This can require careful planning around staff holidays and cover, but will be worth the return in customer satisfaction and increased loyalty.
- Customer communication preferences may change over holiday periods, with some preferring text, web chat and email over phone calls – are you geared up to meet customer demand on multi-channel support?
- If your business is quieter during the holiday period, use quiet times as an opportunity for improvement – now is a great time for making changes that will help in the long term, such as redesigning a customer survey or undertaking some proactive customer research.
- Make sure that your employees are clear on your organisation’s goals, brand vision and what it means to them at an individual level, team level and for the company. Summer is a great time for refresher sessions on key topics.
- Brands should fulfill a deep, human need – get to the heart of this and you will have a source of rich storytelling which you can use to help align your organisation, getting senior buy-in for your efforts as well as helping with employee engagement. You can use some of these real life stories in your summer communication campaigns with customers, as there is nothing like real examples to bring your brand to life and help customers connect with you on an emotional level.
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