Is your brand customer-centric enough to ensure ultimate satisfaction for all your consumers? A cursory look at most brands today might want us to believe that they are indeed customer-centric with nothing but consumers’ best interests at heart.
After all, most businesses today boast of having dedicated customer experience programs with customer success managers on standby — ready to correct any mistake or right any wrong. But is this enough?
Even though there is merit in combining a customer success strategy with a plan that improves service delivery and brings value to clients, if the resulting strategy does nothing to improve the brand journey and overall experience, then it is bound to receive a tepid response from consumers.
Brands without a comprehensive customer experience strategy or those brands with outdated customer success policies will struggle to survive in today’s hyper-competitive marketplace. In fact, retrofitting customer-welfare programs with impromptu experience strategies is sure to be an exercise in futility.
For most organizations today, the race to become customer experience (CX) champions has become a rat race. And winning this race isn't appearing to be easy. Add increasing competition among brands and continuously evolving customer expectations to the mix, and the challenge only gets tougher.
What steps then must a brand take to ensure the ultimate satisfaction of its customers? Besides adopting technology and implementing “foolproof customer engagement policies” that are recommended by “experts”, is there anything else that brands need to do to become the apple of customers' eyes?
Satisfactory Isn’t Satisfying Anymore
Until not so long ago, most business owners were content with only fulfilling client needs. It was (incorrectly) assumed that a brand had successfully completed its scope of work when its product or service addressed a customer’s queries or eradicated pain points satisfactorily.
How customers engage with brands, whether or not they repeat their purchase/subscription request, or even (ironic as it may seem) instances of bad support experiences by brands did not have any business implications. Not for long, though.
As we now know better, satisfactory isn’t good enough. Satisfied customers generally feel that their experience is just okay — not better, just average. And the truth is nobody raves about anything average, let alone brand experiences.
Merely satisfied consumers will only reconnect with their current brand partner if they do not find an experience that costs less and is better than the one they are experiencing.
Customers today have high expectations from brands they do business with. It does not matter how awesome a brand’s offering is — consumers will not engage with, or worse still, leave a brand if their objectives are not met. But this was not always the case.
Also read: The Importance Of Customer Sentiment Analysis
The Dawn Of Experiential Economy
If we could turn back time and observe how business is done, we would be shocked!
Before technology had advanced as much as it has today — normalizing excessive competition among brands, and the proliferation of web-enabled smartphones ushered in an age of hyper-information — the economic scenario was less friendly for consumers and more generous towards businesses.
Companies focused solely on earning profits — often at the consumer’s expense. Customer success was a myth to most enterprises, and customer outcomes usually were mediocre.
Let us fast forward to the present. Innovation and advancements in tech resulted in a digitalization wave that transformed the economy from being revenue-driven to an experiential one. In an experiential economy, customers are more inclined to try out new products and experiences as it helps widen their knowledge and understanding.
Consumer outlook isn’t the only thing that changed with time. Brands focused less on profiting and became more sensitive and accommodating towards clients. All of a sudden, the number of businesses vying for consumer attention increased significantly.
Besides ensuring that clients got what’s due and opening up the marketplace for enterprises without favor or bias to deserving brands, an experiential economy raises the bar for all things customer-centric.
Brands and their representatives started looking beyond ‘satisfaction’ as a business goal and focused on creating meaningful outcomes for consumers. That meant improving engagement, support, deliverables, and the overall experience.
Also read: ThinkOwl CX Playbook – Your Ultimate Guide to Customer Success (eBook)
Why are experiences valued more than purchasing products?
- Research tells us that there is a deeper psychological link between happiness and sharing experiences with people who are close to us.
- Experiences can become a meaningful part of a person's identity.
- Experiences are more likely to be positively interpreted.
- Experiences foster social relationships.
Satisfying customers is essential, but that should not be the sole objective. The foundation of any successful business lies in creating a memorable customer experience. This should be woven through the company's strategy, values, and culture - and true to the nature of a customer-centric brand, everyone in the organization should be involved. Besides this, companies aspiring to be customer-centric hope that clients correctly understand their brand message.
And what happens if customers do not understand or misunderstand a brand’s message?
Understanding Brand Debt
Brand debt happens when an enterprise's actions/decisions do not match its proclaimed/advertised ideals or values. Or when consumers' brand journey and or brand experiences do not align with an organization's proclaimed/advertised style of functioning.
Brand debt can erode an organization's brand equity and reputation over time as consumers lose confidence in the entity's brand promise and value proposition.
Let us understand what brand debt is with an example.
Timothy is a brand success manager at ABC Corp Pvt Ltd. As a brand success manager, Timothy is expected to represent his company in various customer outreach programs and marketing activities. As part of his responsibilities, Timothy is expected to create the journey maps of ABC Corp’s customers whilst ensuring his brand’s signature experience is enjoyed by every single one of them. Besides creating customer journey maps, sometimes, Timothy is tasked with formulating plans for upselling value-added services and offerings from ABC Corp’s partner brands.
To do so, Timothy has to create workflows that can ensure delivery of what's promised to prospects and subscribers without hampering the dispensation of his employer’s key brand offerings.
Analyzing the scenario
In this scenario, we see that at ABC Corp, Timothy’s chief responsibilities are creating brand-appropriate communication for prospects and existing clients, besides formulating strategies to improve the sales of ABC Corp’s primary offering as well as its partner brands’ ancillary offerings.
By and large, his focus key responsibility area (KRA) is articulating his organization’s vision and strategy. To do so, Timothy must be able to define his brand’s purpose, vision, values, positioning, messaging, and personality. That is to say, all branded content created by him should be uniform across all channels and touchpoints.
Lastly, Timothy is expected to assess his brand’s performance as well as analyze customer feedback regularly and make adjustments to ABC Corp’s communication strategy wherever required to keep the brand relevant and trustworthy.
There can be two varying outcomes to the scenario mentioned here. One outcome is favorable, and the other is unfavorable for ABC Corp. and Timothy both.
The positive outcome: Supposing Timothy successfully achieves his KRAs, then there will be no scope for any dissonance between the brand’s values and the message it sends to consumers. The result: Timothy’s employer, ABC Corp Pvt Ltd., does not incur brand debt.
The negative outcome: Suppose Timothy isn’t successful in achieving his KRAs, in which case, the brand’s values will disaccord with the message that is sent out to its customers and the general public. The result: Timothy’s employer, ABC Corp Pvt Ltd., incurs heavy brand debt.
While irrelevant and insipid offerings to consumers have eroded many brands, inconsistencies in messaging and style of functioning by and large increase brand debt manifold and directly impact the level of trust enjoyed by a business. Debts incurred on account of trust erosion are much harder to pay off and can force businesses to bankruptcy.
Businesses that do not have a long-term vision or customer success strategy incur this type of debt and nose-dive into a tailspin straight into oblivion — often without any scope of recovery.
Here are a few examples of entrepreneurial activities that can create discord between what a brand aspires to be and how it is perceived by consumers.
Factors Causing Your CX Strategy To Go Off The Mark
- Incorrect or inadequate advertising and marketing.
- Incorrect or inadequate communication with customers and other business stakeholders.
- Activities like incorrectly developing customer outreach programs.
- Incorrect customer journey mapping.
- Inadequately rewarding loyal clients.
- Designing and overseeing inherently flawed customer advocacy programs.
- Obsession with vanity metrics - leading to the incorrect measurement of KPIs.
How Enterprises Can Ensure They Do Not Drift From Their CX Plan
Brand debt is the cost of failing to maintain a brand’s reputation by creating inefficient CX strategies. To avoid brand debt, enterprises should build meaningful and productive in their customer relationships. Doing so entails connecting and communicating contextually with customers and understanding their goals, needs, preferences, and pain points.
Increase The ROI of Your CX Strategy
Remember to invest in customer education programs. Collect feedback and implement your customers’ suggestions. Ensure customer happiness now so you don’t have to deal with churn later.
Five Focus Areas for Improving Your Customer Experience Strategy:
Customer-centric leadership: Customer-centric leaders focus on customer quality and thus create better value for their business.
Customer intelligence: Insights that help better understand customers’ wants and needs, their preferred methods of interaction, and ways to improve their customer experience.
Customer service: Interaction with customers to address their concerns, answer their questions, and assist them with their needs.
Employee experience: Employee experience is the journey an employee takes within an organization and includes the interactions they have with people, systems, policies, and the physical and virtual workspace.
CX strategy: CX strategy encompasses all of the plans that a company makes to ensure positive, high-quality customer experiences.
So far, we have seen that ensuring a consistent brand experience, meaningfully engaging prospects and clients, maintaining an active presence on multiple communication channels, and being willing to provide excellent products/services and reliable support can help brands earn consumer trust and foster loyalty.
Customers have an emotional connection with you. The more emotional the connections, the more memorable the experiences, and the more loyal the customers are. Loyal customers will return, again and again, raving about you to others.
Consistency builds trust. Trust builds relationships. Relationships build loyalty. Loyalty builds your business.
When you use ThinkOwl, your customers will thank you for the fantastic service they receive. Not just that, even your agents will thank you. Pay attention to details, improve service quality, and impact your clients positively with an exceptional service and support experience. Sign up for a 30-day free trial now.