For many companies, branding remains an elusive concept. They know they need a strong brand, but struggle to define precisely what that means. Some settle on the visible symbols of branding—a logo, a slogan, a color palette and style guide, for example. Others focus an inordinate amount of attention on the subjective elements of branding, like their company vision, or the values which best differentiate their company from the competition.
Both efforts are misguided, because branding isn’t only symbols and slogans. It isn’t merely vision statements and values. It’s both. The most successful branding strategies find a way to effectively integrate the tangible and intangible elements of brand. Think of Nike’s logo, that omnipresent, cursive slash, their exhortation to “just do it,” and their much-vaunted association with world-class athletes. Their logo, their slogan, and their vision all convey the same message in different ways—that Nike delivers on its promise of high-quality sports gear which connects its customers to superior athletic performance. Said differently, Nike remains authentic to its brand.
Company brands which understand the interconnection among all elements of their brand remain authentic and succeed—those which don’t tend to fail. One of those elements is the experience customers have interacting with your company. Outstanding customer experience is the best way to remain authentic to your brand.
Customer Experience: The Next Battlefield for Branding
Branding and customer experience are inextricably interconnected. The pervasiveness of digital connections—with companies increasingly relying on chat lines, automated messaging and remote computer interventions—make the challenge of delivering outstanding customer experience more complex, and more fraught with brand-demolishing dangers.
As Brian Solis tells Forbes in “How To Create A Brand-Defining Customer Experience,” the stakes couldn’t be higher:
“Customer experience is the next battlefield for brands. Those that get it right will not only create long-lasting customer relationships but will also earn a significant competitive advantage over those that solely compete on product, price or promotion. On the other hand, companies that do not master the art of customer experience will lose relevance and market share over time.”
Strategies to Link Brand to Customer Experience
Marketing managers agree. When Econsultancy asked them what they considered their most exciting marketing opportunity in 2016, 22% said “customer experience,” more than content marketing, social media, personalization or mobile marketing.
As Econsultancy explains, customer experience is more than customer service—it’s every interaction a customer has with a business:
“Customer experience (CX) is defined by interactions between a customer and an organization throughout their business relationship. An interaction can include awareness, discovery, cultivation, advocacy, purchases and service.”
Customer experience intersects with branding in every one of those interactions, and improving one necessarily improves the other. That said, here are 5 strategies to improve customer experience:
- Add customer experience to your vision statement: including customer experience grounds your vision in a set of guiding principles, like Zappos core family values, deeply embedded in company culture and encompassing every conceivable customer touch point.
- Create customer personas: these are different from buyer personas, which characterize prospective customers. Customer personas segment current customers based on factors like key demographics and purchase history, among others. By defining the varying needs of key customer segments, they enable more effective customer support strategies.
- Personalize the experience: great customer experience means allowing for important exceptions to the rules which simplify business operations, like when Zappo’s allowed a late return on a pair of shoe’s because the buyer’s mother had passed away, then sent flowers to her home. According to the Journal of Consumer Research, more than 50% of an experience is based on an emotion—to deliver outstanding customer experience, companies need to get personal, with empathy and individual attention.
- Use customer feedback to improve the experience: there’s little point to asking for feedback if it ends up collecting dust on a shelf. Take what customers say about your company seriously, and make the necessary changes to improve experience, such as retraining front-line staff, retooling automated systems, and improving your website’s performance.
- Measure the ROI of customer experience: linking customer experience expenditures to ROI helps persuade others in the company that those costs are justified. One way to measure ROI is by using the “Net Promoter Score (NPS),” which asks customers “Would you recommend this company to a friend or relative?” Because so many companies use NPS, it becomes a valuable benchmark against which to assess the effectiveness of your own customer experience strategy.
Effective branding doesn’t end in the conference room. To be authentic, it must extend to every interaction your company has with its customers, from your website to customer support staff to the content you post on social media. To more effectively manage your brand, first ensure that you deliver on the promises you make with outstanding customer experience.
To learn more about the ways a full-service digital marketing agency can help you manage your brand and grow your business, contact us today.