Do you have a successful brand? There’s one main person who will determine a positive response to this question: your customer.
That’s why it’s important for customer expectations and brand delivery to be aligned. If your brand promise says one thing but your customer experience delivers something else, your business won’t grow.
Brand is a key lever to driving growth. More than a buzzword for marketers, brand is a C-suite power tool.
When everyone from employees to executives makes decisions based on brand, your company can align the brand experience to what matters most to your customer. The most successful companies have products, cultures, marketing strategies and customer experiences that all stem from what they stand for. Today’s thriving companies truly weave the brand into the fabric of their organization.
For companies who are unsure of their brand position, or unclear about what matters most to their customers, brand research can help. It can pinpoint what matters most to the customer throughout the experience your brand has with them (pre-, during, post-purchase), where your strengths are relative to the comp set and how you should position your brand to drive customer acquisition, retention and loyalty.
If your brand stands for customer service, for example, one way to deliver on it is by making the corporate decision to train your employees to listen and make emotional connections with customers. In The New York Times piece, Is Customer Service the New Therapy, Safelite Solutions, Safelite AutoGlass’s claim management arm, trained its employees to emphasize empathy and compassion to the point of helping customers beyond claims—one agent took this to heart and kept a distraught customer on the phone until law enforcement could arrive to prevent a suicide. By going beyond customer service basics, the company delivers an exceptional customer experience.
Zappos, a brand that also stands for customer service, knows that customers have functional needs—they want shoes. But Zappos differentiates itself by understanding that its customers have emotional needs too—like being able to talk about their shoe options and have them validated—even for six hours, if necessary. A brand that wants to stand for customer service and truly deliver on it might make the corporate decision to allow customer service reps to spend as much time as needed on every call. Or they might also provide emotional intelligence training for all employees.
United Airlines learned the hard way that some corporate decisions, like a policy that allows for the physical removal of passengers on overbooked flights, reflects poorly on a brand that positions itself as a flier of the friendly skies. When a United flight attendant dragged a customer off an overbooked United flight in 2017, the result was a far-reaching negative customer experience that could actually be quantified: A $1.4 billion stock drop told United’s C-suite all they needed to know about the intersection of customer experience, brand and growth (or in this case, loss).
Corporate decisions that impact customer experience are so important that Adobe created an Experience Index, which is a tool that attempts to calculate what matters most to customers. The Wall Street Journal reported that today’s consumers are most impressed by experiences that are personalized (an airline that provides the perfect recommendation for the city a customer is traveling to) and innovations that improve everyday experiences (like the coffee shop that makes ordering easy via an app).
Customers also define a great customer experience as one where any problems are solved seamlessly and proactively. Southwest Airlines, for example, has been known to send both apology letters and $100 credits to customers who experienced flight delays—even if the customers never complained. Unlike many other airlines, Southwest allows customers to check two bags fee-free, and has made it easy for its fliers to cancel and change flights too. The brand knows how to translate their “LUV” of customers into outstanding customer experiences and because of that they continue to report record earnings.
It’s clear that in a world where customer experience leads, growth will come to brands who know how to deliver on it through smart corporate decisions that reflect and elevate their brand positioning.