Brand versus CX is a false argument

By Damian Sharpley

Are you guilty of assuming the customer experience you’re providing is greater than the reality experienced by your customers? It’s not unusual for companies to hold an inflated view of their own CX, as evidenced by a Bain & Company study from some years ago, that holds just as true today.

Key points: 
• The study of 362 US companies found that 80 per cent believed they delivered a superior experience to their customers.

• When their customers were asked for their perspective, however, they said only 8 per cent of companies were in fact delivering this.

• This is a common scenario. At the heart of the matter is the experience gap – the gap that’s created by what the brand states in its mission and promises through its communications, versus what the customer actually experiences through the company’s multitude customer touchpoints.

• Experience gaps appear when there are breaks or misalignments within the customer experience infrastructure that feature between a whole roll call of important elements: people, culture, process, technology, data, message, content, channel and so forth.

• Of course, another way to look at it is that the brand is overpromising.

My Takeout

The experience economy is changing the way we need to compete today. There is no doubt that customer experience is a competitive advantage.

The most successful organisations tomorrow will be those that take their customers and services seriously by closing the gap between what they promise and what their customers actually experience.

We know this to be true, because research consistently shows that companies that are leaders in customer experience can charge a premium for their products and services and are creating much stronger growth compared to laggards. That’s the bottom line.

Selecting the most effective approach for closing an experience gap comes down to how sophisticated a company’s experience management (XM) system set-up is to begin with, and whether the need is immediate or longer term.

Scenario 1: Sophisticated XM in place

Let’s say an automotive company has a well-established XM system set-up, running always on; collecting CX data, flagging issues, reporting it to the people that matter, constantly managing and monitoring the XM system in place.

A flare-up in a particular area of its service would be easily identified through the company’s customer experience capture points – for example, post-purchase surveys and call centre complaints. If the problem is left unresolved for long enough, the issues would eventually begin to affect the overall customer satisfaction and NPS scores.

Let’s say, for example, that a premium automotive brand – which has put a lot of effort into its experience design pre- and post-purchase, including vehicle servicing – doesn’t anticipate that Monday was the peak day for car servicing and couldn’t support that demand. The result would be an experience gap in which customer satisfaction for those who couldn’t service their car drops significantly.

Here we would unpack the problem and design a solution that resolves the issue – ultimately bringing the CX back in line with the brand promise – thereby closing the experience gap.

Scenario 2: Simpler XM in place

Let’s say a large national retailer isn’t set up as sophisticatedly to sense such changes to its CX. The company may know something’s amiss by, say, the gradual decline in customer satisfaction or NPS, when conversely its brand scores have remained high.

In this instance, the retailer could attend to the obvious ‘crisis’ elements with some short-term triage – knowing this wouldn’t necessarily be fixing the cause, but managing the symptoms in the first instance.

Beyond the triage, there are two potential approaches depending on the company’s level of urgency and/or intent:

1. Gain a better understanding of the critical CX points in their service and their relative importance to the retailer’s overall customer satisfaction and NPS outcomes. This would help them establish where the greatest ‘pain’ is coming from and we’d then go deep on that. That might include the use of social data, call centre verbatims, shopper interviews, and so on to develop a working hypothesis around the issue, ideate solutions, design and then monitor the outcomes.

2. If there’s less urgency perhaps, and the organisation is looking for a planned, sustained program of improvement over a longer period, then an in-depth review of their customer engagement operation would identify where there’s opportunity to drive up their CX. This is where CX Lavender’s 8 CX Domains would help – these are eight crucial points of diagnosis and potential along the journey to consummate CX, covering Brand Expression; Experience Design; Intelligent Systems Design; Acquisition & Onboarding; Right Offer Right Time; Recognition & Reward; Learning Organisation; and Customer Satisfaction.

Think of it as the definitive checklist for effective CX.

The importance of Brand throughout CX

Most CX experts would probably not consider brand in the context of CX. It’s all about the customer, some would say. Experience trumps brand and so on. CX extremists might even say brand is dead.

But they would be wrong. If you design experiences around the customer devoid of your brand, you are simply designing a homogenous solution that any other brand could easily replicate.

Why would a company investing millions in differentiating its brand through advertising and other forms of marketing, let its CX activities dilute that brand? It doesn’t make sense. CX is simply another medium for your brand promise to thrive in.

It’s only when the customer feels the brand promise in the experience that they start to receive the true value of your brand.

Contrary to many CX practitioners, we believe brand to be as important as ever.

As featured by Mi3 on the 2nd December, 2019