Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Branding Is All About The Customer Experience

I have been focusing a lot on the customer experience as of late and how it shapes a brand strategy. I have realized that their is probably no other area that has as great an impact on the success of the company as the customer experience. Now, to me, the customer experience is many things. It is far more than any marketing or advertising campaign. It includes the sales process, advertising, customer service, product design, packaging, POS, purchase, 1st use, hopefully 2nd purchase and more. It is every interaction a customer (or potential customer) has with your brand.

Well, how does that shape a brand? If you break down the customer experience into scenarios, what happens in each scenario, who is involved and what is currently happening, you will see from a customer's perspective what your brand stands for. This is so important to be able to look from your customers' point of view, because it is what they believe your brand is that's important, not what we as brand creators think. This relates to a quote I once read about personalities. It says a persons true personality is how one acts when no one is watching. The same holds true for your brand. How your customers think and talk about your brand when you are not communicating to them is what your brand is. No advertising campaign or innovative product alone can tell a customer what to think about a brand. It can begin the thought process, but without the positive customer experiences to back it up, all that advertising and innovation is going to waste.

I've had a couple of experiences with companies as of late that have made sure the customer experience at all phases of a purchase cycle were what they wanted it to be. I recently purchased furniture from West Elm (westelm.com) and Pad/Calligari's (www.calligarisshop.com/Pad - part of Su Casa in Baltimore). Both of these have a modern, upscale line of furniture for those hip and trendy creative types. Okay, that's my description but you get the idea of who they are. Now oddly enough, both of my shipments from both companies were delayed for different reasons. But, neither were discovered until I called inquiring. Now, they could have just said nothing and told me they would deliver as soon as possible. But, what both customer service reps did was find out what the problem was, call me back with an explanation and offer me a refund on shipping charges, not to mention expediting the shipments and following up after the shipments were delivered to make sure they were to satisfaction. Now, do you think I'm going to go somewhere else the next time I'm furniture shopping? They made sure a potentially negative experience turned positive and actually created a loyal customer. Now, isn't BRAND LOYALTY what we are all striving for?

I would love to hear how you have taken a customer experience scenario to make a dramatic change to your brand.