Whilst brand experience is becoming a very popular expression in marketing circles it seems to me that we should be considering the more holistic concept of the customer experience in order to deliver greater returns for the business.
According to a 2014 survey by Gartner, 89 per cent of companies in 2016 will be competing mostly on the basis of customer service alone which is massively up from only 36 per cent four years ago. It seems that more businesses are seeing the potential to having great customer service, however there are still many that need to follow through with such changes.
In the past, a brand was more about what it said it was. Nowadays, a brand is what it does. As Carl Jung put it: “You are defined by what you do not what you say you are going to do”.
We are now firmly in an era of experience branding and the impact of this is felt right across the business, which is why we feel that envisioning, mapping and delivering the experience should become core capabilities in a modern business and not just a tactical marketing activity.
In this new era everyone in your business is either a brand builder or destroyer. We need to engage the whole business in the delivery of the customer experience, all of us using our brand as the lens through which we plan and deliver. We wouldn’t ignore our financial wellbeing, our logistics efficiency or our operational processes so why would we ignore the most important aspect of our business – our customers and their experience when they interact with us.
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In the words of one of the greatest customer experience people ever – the late great Steve Jobs: “You’ve got to start with the customer experience and work back toward the technology – not the other way around.”
We have seen amazing new brands arrive and almost immediately become famous across the world. Brands like Uber and Airbnb can pop up from nowhere with no assets or heritage and yet be trusted by millions of consumers because the firms instinctively understand what customers want and have the data to continuously improve that experience and make it even more relevant. They have built an amazing digitally enabled customer experience that removes friction and consistently delivers. This is reinforced through peer group recommendation and review processes that create their authenticity and legitimacy.
The same is true of Direct Line, which turned the banking experience upside down by redefining customer service. By creating a genuine experience powered by technology it managed to empower people. In other words, offering differentiation through experience.
What binds these three brands together is deep insight into customer attitudes and needs and a clearly envisioned customer experience, guided by what their brands seeks to deliver. This is built by people from across the business as they don’t see silos they see people as brand builders no matter where they sit in the business.
For many of us running businesses the task of building a new era brand may appear daunting as we must align our new era digital experiences with a legacy operating model is a highly complex and potentially costly initiative. The question we need to ask ourselves is not whether we can afford to do it, more whether we can afford not to do it – the point being that consumers are not going to wait for us to make our minds up.
With this in mind I offer you the following four stage approach that has been over 16 years in the making and is helping our customers to deliver what we call Irresistible Customer Experiences.
Stage one: Exploring
Through immersion and investigation we explore the concept’s internal and external strengths and weaknesses. Using inspirational new insight we outline the possibilities and opportunities for the concept and build the case for any change needed.
Stage two: Visioning
Using the output from the Exploring stage we engage the company to create a vision that is distinctive and inspiring. We robustly test it and ensure it delivers in alignment to your business ambition.
Stage three: Aligning
We identify or create the brand basics and brand amplifiers that ensure your customer experience, people and communications are aligned to your new concept vision.
Stage four: Delivery
We help create a robust, sustainable blueprint detailing exactly what your people, communications and products/services must do in order to deliver the new customer experience.
Throughout the whole approach we use internal and external data, both tactically and strategically, to monitor progress towards the vision, diagnose issues, prioritise actions and assess the impact on business. By using systematic and rigorous approach we are able to help our customers deliver consistency and distinctiveness for their brands through what they do not what they say they are going to do.
Working on your own brand can be incredibly difficult. That affinity you feel is a double-edged sword. So what are the common pitfalls when attempting to work on your own brand?
Andrew Stothert is the CEO and a founding partner at Brand Vista, the Manchester based experts in brand alignment and delivering irresistible customer experiences.
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