Back in 2005, the web and prevalence of blogging helped shed shocking new light on the myriad obstacles to building sustainable loyalty: the NJ couple who were labeled as ìJew coupleî by restaurant staffers, the financial services company that addressed a US citizen as ìPalestinian Bomber,î and the mindless customer service reps who changed a telecom customerís name to ìBitch Dogî in its CRM database. These little things can get in the way of building your brand.
Not surprising, customer experience management has become a critical objective during the last two years. Customer Experience teams and enhancement initiatives have emerged everywhere. Companies of all shapes and sizes now are dedicating themselves to identifying, isolating and managing their customer interactions, both to improve satisfaction and to retain their most valuable assets.
The push for simplicity
Simplicity and business-ease have become more important than the comfort of business as usual. We see this in our work every day. One executive, in describing the desire to make it simple, told us that his services needed to be as ìeasy as Google.î Another talked of leapfrogging the competition by offering simpler transactional forms and intuitive interfaces. By recognizing the power of everyday media and communications to reinforce brand strategy, each of these companies ñ and others like them - are setting a trend that will gain steam over the next few years. They are breaking down functional silos, desegregating marketing and operational budgets, and beginning the process of refocusing frequent and often unheralded touchpoints to better deliver enhanced customer experiences.
Quantitative management of brand
This is particularly exciting to us at CoreBrand. Because of our enduring passion for the power of corporate brands, we know what it takes to tie strategy to implementation and to unlock brand equity. We also know that brand alignment and consistency are prerequisites for improving the customer experience ñ especially when the brand has been damaged by isolated events such as those above. And in partnership with our clients, we know that customers respond well to our efforts. A former financial services client estimated the savings from clarifying applications and presenting fewer opportunities for defection at $8 million annually! Who can afford to ignore these results?
Five keys to improved brand management and customer experiences
If you are interested in attracting and retaining your new best customers, you are not alone. Here are a few tips to getting started down the path to a well-managed brand:
- Customers return to companies they understand and trust. Make yours one of them.
ï Raise your conversation with customers to its most natural state of clarity and simplicity.
ï Be honest ñ Recognize past problems and articulate what you are doing to fix them. Employees and partners will respect you; customers will listen.
ï Reward participation (internal and external sharing of expectations and experiences). Competitive reviews can help establish a baseline against which to compare.
- Revisit your companyís core identity, values and operating principles. Are your people and processes supporting these? If not, find out why.
ï Think about how you gain or lose value through ìcustomer experiencesî and map out a picture of the current state.
ï Identify the key behaviors that impact brand performance.
- Once you know where the pain is, run cost-benefit analysis to determine the magnitude and value of needed changes.
ï If the ROI is there, go for it. Prioritize first, then set achievable goals. Focus on the most critical points of interaction with your most valuable customers first.
ï Try to make innovative changes that reinforce your brand and demonstrate customer focus.
- Consider how you measure satisfaction.
ï Work with business leaders to balance financial and customer experience goals; these should align.
ï Fast-paced industries, such as technology, may measure satisfaction more frequently.
ï Slower or traditional industries might use quarterly touch point research to remain responsive.
ï How you present products and services is also important. Linking product development specs to post-sales surveys can expose innovations for which there is little demand while averting future dissatisfaction.
- Evaluate and quantify progress against goals at planned intervals.
ï Employ tracking studies to maintain focus on customers and provide a regular basis for realignment.
ï Online questionnaires, direct mail surveys, and paid user research can be effective ways to collect this data.
And remember the Golden Rule
Finally, as we embark on a new year, 2007, letís remember why customers matter. Brand is a total reflection of a company and the experiences of its customers. Without customers, brands lose meaning. Meanwhile, customer experiences are a constantly changing reflection of brand strategy and how effectively it is delivered. This has only become more complex with the steady maturation of the web. By acknowledging the strong correlation between simpler and more transparent interactions and higher customer satisfaction scores, fewer companies now question whether returns on customer experience investments justify the expenses. After all, the customer is always right in the end.
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