Milestones are important reminders. What will your brand’s promise and purpose be in 2017, and where does the Customer Experience (CX) Program fit in? Perhaps more importantly, what should we as CX professionals consider about the brand?
It’s no secret that the New Year is when most of us slow down for a moment to ponder life—what we’re doing right and where room for improvement lies. For the cynic, such introspection is all too often brushed off as a formulaic nod to the calendar and the exuberance of the holiday season that is too quickly forgotten. On some level, however, the cynics have a point. Let’s face it, how many times have we all started the year off with great intentions to eat better and exercise more?
Even so, I’ve always preferred to look at the start of the New Year as a great time to take stock of where things are—not only in my personal life, but also with my CX program. Setting time aside to review the achievements of the CX team, and determine where more needs to be done, has become a tradition in its own right. And over the years, one question has become an integral part of my process of closing out one year and beginning a new one: What will the brand’s promise and purpose be in 2017?
The topic of brand strategy absolutely lies with our marketing experts, but the more I talk with customers, the more I hear the undeniable connection between their experience and brand perception. In fact, at a recent event, a customer shared how his organization really felt that we delivered on the promise of what our solutions and services can provide. That is when it became clear to me that the brand sets expectations, but it’s the customer experience that meets those expectations (or not).
So, yes, there’s a symbiotic relationship between CX and brands. In fact, I consider the relationship in three significant ways. When taking that annual inventory and setting resolutions, I approach each of the three in a deliberate fashion, monitoring progress and results and planning for the following year.
Three Ways CX Impacts Your Brand
CX Supports the Brand
Marketers and branding experts may apply a more nuanced view, but for the purpose of CX the brand promise is just what, when everything else is stripped away, you promise to do for your customers. Similarly, the brand purpose is what the organization exists to do (not in the sense of making money or gaining market share), and what value it seeks to provide with the products and services it offers.
The Verint brand offers improved customer engagement and operational efficiencies. CX is a primary mechanism through which the brand promise and purpose are transformed from aspirational and hypothetical ideas into reality. As an example, our annual survey indicates that customers wanted more than an effective system implementation. Specifically, they want to understand the path from point-of-purchase to point-of-value. With that knowledge, we’re redesigning the onboarding process to proactively communicate this path, accompanied by a detailed view of the process and resources available.
CX Helps Evolve the Brand
In past columns, we’ve explored not only how to gather and track data from the CX program, but also how that same information benefits other business units and the organization as a whole. Those who oversee the purpose and promise of the brand are particularly well positioned to benefit from information gathered through the CX program. All brands evolve and CX done right can play an important role in the process. The marketers and strategy teams, for which the brand is a key focus of their work, should be the first people you think of when starting a new project or measuring the results of a longstanding one.
Since Verint’s brand promise includes the delivery of operational efficiency, all of the surveys and efforts to gauge customer perceptions embodies a section on how the company is performing. After all, the customer-facing and customer-impacting functions must also be efficient in their dealings with customers to make its brand promise a reality. We’ve seen changes in customer perception over the years and have shared the insights with marketing and strategy teams so they can reflect the changes in the brand promise.
- CX Drives the Brand
In today’s age, we see CX more clearly playing a role in driving the brand, but the reality is that the customer experience has always driven and defined brands, with or without the brand owner’s cooperation. Henry Ford promised to make automobiles accessible to the average American and in keeping with that focus on economy and value, consumers could buy cars in every color as long as it was black. The customer experience, and their demand for more choices, resulted in a brand that ultimately conveyed economy, luxury and distinction.
When the customer experience demands change, brands must adapt accordingly. The greatest brand promise and purpose means little if the customer experience leaves customers with a very different impression. In fact, you can make a strong argument that CX today drives the brand to a greater extent than ever before.
Once you begin to appreciate this increasingly direct relationship between CX and the brand — and the impact the CX team has on the brand — it quickly becomes apparent just how much of a difference the CX team can make. This applies to the interactions with customers it shapes, and the ability it gives companies to truly hear the voice of the customer and to refine the brand accordingly.
What’s Your Brand Promise Question?
To align CX efforts with the promise and purpose of the brand, it’s important to have what can best be described as a “brand promise question.” The value of this question is two-fold: First, because it cuts to the core of the brand, it can serve as a great litmus test when asking if any new CX initiatives align with the brand. Secondly, and more importantly, asking it and tracking related customer sentiments enables you to answer two singular questions: Is the brand, and its promise and purpose, consistent with the reality of how customers view it, and is the brand evolving and if so, how?
You can create an effective brand promise question by considering the following:
- What benefit, more than anything else, are customers seeking when they do business with you?
- What do departments across the organization want customers to attain through the company’s products or services regardless of the role these departments play?
- Would a change in how customers answer this question be considered important?
Increasingly, businesses are realizing that the brand is not what we say it is. Rather, it is what the customers say it is. With instantaneous communication and social media, flawed CX will impede even the most robust brand. Brand becomes a guiding principle for the CX team against which all processes and systems—from onboarding, to service delivery, renewals and billing—should be vetted to ensure quality and alignment. With this diligence and a strong CX program, 2017 just might be the finest year yet for your brand.
Particularly appreciate how you built out what you’ve defined as the ‘symbiotic relationship between CX and brands’. CX impacts brand perception on pretty much a continuing basis, and brand influences CX, especially at the earlier stages of the customer life cycle.
Study after study proves that, from a foundation of emotional trust, the interplay is almost always in evidence. From one of my posts on the subject from a few years ago: “As regards both b2b and b2c customer-supplier relationships, lack of confidence and belief is driven by insecurity and egotism, and ability to be confident is based on feelings of safety and acceptance. The name of the emotion-based game is ‘trustworthiness’. Customer behavior research studies consistently show that elements of vendor trust, represented by image and reputation, are significant drivers of loyalty and disloyalty, advocacy and alienation, bonding and rejection.”
Thanks for your comments, Michael. The importance of “trustworthiness” as it relates to loyalty can’t be overemphasized. And, while it has logical underpinnings, as CX practitioners, many of us work very hard to define and inculcate this “true north.”