Your Customers Are Your Brand Experience

by , Feb 21, 2013, 8:07 AM
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Brand experience is defined by your customers' perceptions of their interaction with you. The experience -- active or passive, good or bad, in-store or online -- builds or breaks your brand reputation, equity and loyalty.

Customer experience has become the new differentiator. Short product development cycles now mean that many companies release new products that offer little differences in actual product features. To stand out, organizations now need to meet and exceed customer expectations.

Organizations need to answer: What kind of experience do we want our customers to have? And what kind of experience does our customer want or expect? Which brand experiences lead your customers into conversation, conversion and long-term loyalty?

Know your customers

What are they saying about you? Does this reflect the relationship you want your customers to have with your brand? By hearing the customer voice, the organization can prioritize change and support the most valuable touchpoints. Web, mobile, in-store, advertisements, products, email… each has its place in the customer journey and your brand value.

More and more social listening tools have enabled organizations to collect, analyze and use customer information in increasingly sophisticated ways. This is valuable in the process of making broader strategic decisions and for choosing tactics and channels. You can create that positive experience from the start by guiding your tactics to meet expectations.

Privacy and customer experience

Organizations need to walk the fine line between providing a unique experience without stalking their customer base. The key lies in creating genuine value. Using real-time data provided by a customer combined with information that customers have volunteered through forms or past purchase behavior allows organizations to tailor the interaction across channels by answering the question: what does the customer want to do -- right now -- in this channel.

Responsible use of customer data enhances loyalty by responding to preferences for product, channel and interaction. It provides value by enabling customers to find what they need, making it easy to do so, and creating enjoyable interactions.

Customer-centricity is about how your organization operates

When a customer interacts with you, they don’t care that customer support is an entirely different department from product development or from their online or in-store experience. For them, each of these faces represents you and your brand.

All of the good intentions in the world and all of the speeches from CEOs and customer advocates in your organization cannot replace the need for a fundamental customer-centric culture and process.

All functions in the organization -- including brand management, marketing, customer service, sales, product development and HR -- are necessarily parts of the customer experience and part of the brand. 

Where and when matters

There's nothing worse than getting a "Preview of Our Summer Line" when it's snowing outside. While this may make your customer long for summer, chances are they won't run out the door to buy a new swimsuit or jetski. And while it doesn't usually snow late in March, the change in weather may well have an effect on the results of a carefully planned campaign.

In addition, mapping the customer journey to time of day can also have a big impact on effectiveness and customer experience. This affects social media interaction, timing of email campaigns, location-based promotions or advertising and more. Experts in these fields already have some established best practices that relate to these areas. For example, 5:00 p.m. is apparently the best time to tweet for retweets, while midweek and weekends are the best days to tweet, and Saturday is the best day to share on Facebook (Kissmetrics). 

Practically, this means organizations need to monitor and create their own best practices based on own measurement, best practice, real-world events (including weather) business model and objectives -- but more importantly on their customer insight and analytics.

Moving forward

Forrester defines customer experience as "how customers perceive their interactions with an organization."

As analytics and customer experience practice mature, so will the ways in which we quantify and qualify the way that customers perceive their interaction. Currently, Forrester gauges this based on subjective customer satisfaction, observable characteristics (e.g., pages per visit, transaction value, channels, location and time) as well as outcome, which measures things such as actual purchases, recommendations and even renewals.

As these measurements mature, supportive technology develops and as we equip our organizations to respond, our ability to predict, improve and locate opportunities will improve customer experiences even more. 

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