- …let your actions reflect your brand message (personal reflections from the just-ended CXP inaugural event)
Last week I had the privilege of attending the launch of Customer Experience Ghana in Accra to climax the Customer Service week. As it turned out, I missed a big part of the discussions due to a meeting that coincided with the event. Be that as it may, I managed to catch up with the final discussion of the day – which was on how to manage Brand Experience; and, boy, was that insightful! The panellists did justice to the subject and shared openly their insights and experiences. I picked some nuggets from the discussions which I hope will throw some light on the conversations I have engaged in on Customer Experience over the past year or so.
To begin with, it was heartwarming to note that Customer Experience is being actively championed by proponents in Ghana who are pushing the agenda with all their might and resources, striving to address the mindset change needed to enable us to embrace the experience agenda wholeheartedly in our local context.
And so the brand experience was preceded by other interesting discussions around what was termed the citizen experience. Even more interesting was the theme for the day, ‘The ROI of Customer Experience on Organisations and Countries’. Participants took turns to express sentiments on the pivotal role of customer experience and how it can potentially grow your business if handled aptly. The highlight of the day was an opportunity to own an autographed copy of Ian Golding’s book ‘Customer What?’
Touching on brand experience, I must say the session I participated in left me completely blown away by the panellists candour and frankness. The definition of brand experience was shared by a member of the panel as ‘a total of all experiences when one comes into contact with a brand’. According to him, it is about telling the story versus the reality of what exactly happens. The narrative needs to be matched by what happens as a customer journeys through touchpoints of the brand. One pivotal lesson shared was that we must not always expect things to go well when dealing with customers. There are moments when everything goes wrong; however, service failure is not the end of the world.
What sets a brand apart is how one recovers from failure even when things go wrong. Very instructive indeed! Nothing is perfect; however, for the customer, the recovery goes a long way to demonstrate that you care. When I encountered a machine malfunction at a self-checkout in a supermarket years ago, I recall the privilege that day of taking my groceries home without having to pay for them because the shop manager offered me this privilege to compensate for the time wasted in trying to resolve a machine glitch.
That was a great recovery, I can still recollect how I felt even though the incident occurred a good many years ago. Three lessons I took away from the event were: the posture of being customer-centric vs system-centric, the need to empower employees to succeed in your brand experience quest, and the importance of getting organisational values right.
Customer-centric vs System-centric
A word of advice was given on how to manage technology. Businesses tend to prioritise technology above people. We must note that customer experience is a feeling, and therefore it is important to focus on being customer-centric rather than system-centric. Get your priorities right. Know your customer through profiling and learn how to engage them proactively. It is important to track the journey and anticipate the needs of your customer; this way, you are primed to deliver consistent experiences across all touchpoints.
How do you achieve consistency in delivering to your customers? A key thing is to ensure that you train your employees so they are empowered to deliver on the brand promise. What employees do impacts the brand. If they get it right, they project the brand positively; conversely, getting it wrong can lead to dire consequences. According to a report by the Harvard Business Review, when BP experienced the major oil spill years ago their reactions to the devastation did very little to favour their brand. Their CEO at the time, Tony Hayward, infamously said that the spill was “relatively tiny” compared to the “very big ocean”. Again, he complained to reporters, “I’d like my life back”. Wow!
His focus was to get his business back on track. Its impact on the environment and the tragedy of lives lost as a result were not foremost on his mind. In the words of the press following the incident: “BP has been acting like a child that doesn’t want to clean up its mess and drags its feet; which is strange, given the monumental risk to the company”. Being system-centric instead of customer-centric can be extremely damaging to your brand, as we learn from the BP experience. To drive the culture of your organization as one that is customer-centric, you need to spread the word around your organication and cascade the message to all levels so that people know why they do what they are doing. In essence, take time to build a culture where communication is effective and employees are committed to the vision of delivering unique experiences and acting promptly on feedback.
Wise words were shared on how to go about empowering your employees to drive a customer-centric agenda across the organisation. The warning here was that in recruiting for your business, ensure that you have people with the right profile. They must be passionate about delivering excellent service to customers, such that their addition to your team adds to your strength. The adage goes that Happy employees equal Happy Customers. By keeping your employees happy, you will ultimately satisfy your customer. Employees must align with your organisational values, mission and culture.
You must keep close tabs on what is known in CX circles as the Voice of the Customer (VoC). It is a research method that helps you understand the difference between expectations of your customer and how well you deliver what they need. The reality is that even if you think there is no gap, the customer thinks differently and you must know this to adapt your strategy. When your customers know that you are concerned about their overall satisfaction, it helps you gauge the likelihood of them continuing to purchase and patronise your products and services. It is nice to get high-level feedback; however, you gain a better understanding of customer issues when you dig deep and learn about their experiences at every interaction point, commonly referred to as the Moment of Truth.
There are various ways of capturing VoC insights. The most common is to rely on surveys; however, to be more effective you need to apply a range of methods including website contact forms, interviews (online and in-person), social media, ratings and reviews, website behaviour and predictive analytics, customer-care call data, and live chats on your website. It is recommended that you aggregate and centralise all VoC insights from a holistic perspective. Your goal is to turn customer feedback into actionable insights so that you can develop your products and services based on a clear understanding of what your customers think and feel.
Here, we were reminded of Peter Drucker’s famous quote that ‘Culture eats strategy for breakfast’. According to experts, brands thrive on the brand/customer relationship – such that people are so connected with the brand they feel they belong to it, they are part of the ‘family’, willing to share in the brand triumphs and to forgive minor transgressions. The word ‘feel’ is important here. Brand experience is all about helping your customers form an emotional connection. As an organisation, you need to manage this relationship carefully to build the ‘family feel’. The challenge is how you can effectively drive this mindset across your organisation to deliver consistently on your brand promise across all touchpoints.
Culture is as important as the systems and processes you leverage in delivering customer value. Three things are important: technology (systems), people, and processes. Culture is reflected in your organisational values. Leadership defines culture and lives it. Culture is famously known as ‘the way we do things over here’. The right culture will enable you to grow and nurture essential traits such as empathy and customer-centricity. Harnessing the right culture will ensure that your employees are well-aligned and have ownership of the customer-centric mindset. This ultimately translates into behaviours. Invest your best efforts in influencing a customer-focused mindset across the organisation.
This must be achieved through concrete steps. For example, you must take time to interrogate your vision, mission and corporate values. Encourage conversations around these through focus group discussions and pieces of training. This will lead to a common understanding of what your organisation stands for. As you drive these processes consistently, you will eventually gain buy-in from your employees as they align with your values. They will be empowered to engage customers confidently and deliver the experience that will ‘wow!’ them. By articulating your values among your internal stakeholders, you are better able to deliver superior services to your loyal clients effortlessly. Here is a practical method a known brand in the market, Duracell, has adopted to ensure their brand reflects the experience they deliver.
Duracell has taken an everyday item that we put in our remote controls, torches and children’s toys – a battery – and elevated it to a product whose unstoppable power we feel we can trust. By playing on the concept of power and the emotion of trust, Duracell’s brand experience stands out – through their ads telling inspirational, moving stories which create an emotional connection with the brand through their sponsorship of sports, such as NASCAR and rugby, and through their association with the Star Wars movie franchise. By associating with the customers’ interests they keep the brand flying high in their hearts and minds.
Recent research demonstrates that brand experience is significant and has a positive influence on brand image. A strong brand image influences consumers to choose a company’s products or services. What your consumers feel and experience will determine how they view your brand, so ensuring that your brand promise is consistent with reality is important. And, likewise, how your consumers perceive you may pre-determine whether or not they will use your brand. Great thoughts shared by great minds at the just-ended CXP Ghana inaugural event at La Palm Beach Hotel offer food for thought, leave us to carry on with the conversation and commit to buying into the Customer Experience mindset. I wish the Association well: and, boy, it was a great experience in knowledge-sharing.
|The Writer is a Management Consultant. He can be reached on 059 175 7205, [email protected],