Customers experience your brand in numerous ways: products, packaging, price, marketing, sales personnel. Each of these contacts or touchpoints molds the customer’s impression of the brand. Some of these touchpoints are obvious, like product performance and one-on-one customer interactions. Other touchpoints, such as the product manual, monthly statements, or postsales support, may be subtler in their brand affects.
Your brand image creates expectations. It defines who you are, how you operate, and how you’re different from your competitors. In essence, your brand image is a promise – a promise that must be kept.
If the brand is a promise you make, then the customer experience is the fulfillment of that promise. The customer experience can’t be left to chance. It should be actively designed and controlled in a manner that enhances your brand image. It must consistently reinforce the brand promise across every customer touchpoint or the value of the brand itself is at risk.
Here are five easy steps to building a strong brand and an optimized customer experience:
1) Identify your reasons to believe.
Your brand promise is irrelevant if your customers do not believe it. Therefore, your promise must be supported by reasons to believe. This will automatically add substance to the promise and define specific expectations for the customer.
For example, an automobile manufacturer promises potential customers that Car XYZ is an “intelligent choice for serious drivers.” What makes it an intelligent choice? Why should the customer believe this promise?
To address this question effectively, the manufacturer could frame its promise with two reasons to believe: sporty performance and safety. These two reasons in essence define “intelligent choice” and clearly set customer expectations. They also give the company specific direction for designing the customer experience through tangible customer touchpoints such as vehicle design features, advertising campaigns, dealer sales approaches, and customer service activities.
2) Identify customer touchpoints.
Each individual step in your business process contains a number of points where the customer comes in contact with your brand. Your ultimate goal is to have each touchpoint reinforce and fulfill your marketplace promise.
Walk through your commercial processes. How do you generate customer demand? How are products sold? How do your customers use your products? How do you provide after-sales support?
This comprehensive trace of your marketing, selling, and servicing processes allows you to create a simple map that defines your customers’ experiences with your brand.
3) Determine the most influential touchpoints.
All touchpoints are not created equal. Some will naturally play a larger role in determining your company’s overall customer experience. For example, if your product is ice cream, taste is typically more important than package design. Both are touchpoints, but each has a different affect on our customers’ experiences as a whole.
To determine the touchpoints driving your customers’ overall experience, your organization can use a wide array of techniques ranging from quantitative research to institutional knowledge. The methods you use will depend on the complexity of your products, your commercial processes, and your existing knowledge base.
4) Design the optimal experience.
Once you have completed the above three steps, determine how to express each reason to -believe at each key touchpoint. For example, how can you reinforce sporty performance (a reason to believe) in product design, at the dealership, and in marketing campaigns (the influential touchpoints)?
5) Align the organization to consistently deliver the optimal experience.
A holistic approach to aligning your organization is essential to consistent delivery of the optimal experience. So when you identify the people, processes, and tools that drive each key touchpoint, look beyond employees who have direct contact with your customers to include behind-the-scenes employees. Their affect on the customers may be less obvious but no less important. Similarly, the affect of workflow processes and tools such as technology systems on the customer experience may be less intuitive but crucial to consistent delivery.
Identify which activities don’t align with your envisioned customer experience. Determine how to address them so that these components can be brought into alignment.
The final word
Every product or service you bring to market yields a customer experience. Is it the experience you intend? Does that experience fulfill the promise you’ve made to the marketplace?
By identifying the people, processes, and tools that drive your customer experience, you can actively design and control your own, unique, optimized experience. The brand promise you make to the marketplace will be kept day in and day out across every key customer touchpoint.
Scott Glatstein is president of Imperatives (www.imperativesllc.com), a strategic-marketing consultancy based in Minnetonka, MN.
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