Customer experience is a memory. An impression that can stick in the mind for a minute or a lifetime. A positive experience can result in lasting loyalty, endorsement, and evangelism. A poor experience, on the other hand, can almost instantly mean the end of a brand relationship.
PwC reports that 79% of customers rate customer experience as the most important component of the purchasing decision after product quality and price. According to this research, 59% of consumers who love a brand are prepared to forsake it after having a series of poor experiences. The firm also claims that 17% will walk away after only one bad experience. Needless to say, this is concerning for any business.
In order to create amazing customer experiences, companies need to ensure that they have the appropriate bedrock in place to enable brand and culture to be successfully integrated. In this article, we will discuss the three primary foundations – purpose, promise, and values.
Brand purpose defines a company’s reason for being, beyond making a profit. While it’s essential that every organization defines its purpose, few do so effectively. This can have a significant negative impact on performance in the long-term. According to a 2016 Gallup poll, 88% of millennials would remain in their jobs for more than five years if they were satisfied with the purpose of their company. If a marketer or front-line employee cannot explain their company’s brand purpose, then what hope has a consumer of understanding how the business can satisfy her or his needs? As a result of brand purpose being unclear, both brand execution and employee behavior are limited in their effectiveness, leading to substandard customer experiences and lost revenue opportunities. They usually veer off in their own directions and operate as silos. Those brands that do understand their own purpose have an incredible asset on their hands. They have the glue to bond brand and organizational behavior, and together, the two provide a holistic and engaging experience for the customer. Purpose unites people and in the case of business, employee-to-customer and employee-to-employee unification is a primary key to growth.
The primary reason for bad customer experience is a company’s inability to deliver on its brand promise. Usually defined by its marketing executives, this promise is at the heart of a brand’s image, messaging, and points of interaction. It is central to a brand’s DNA and contributes towards setting it apart from its competitors. While a crafted brand promise may be deemed to be perfect and the execution of its messaging flawless, the customer experience can still leave something to be desired. This usually comes down to employees’ inability to meet the brand promise and satisfy the expectations of its customers.
While many companies share their brand DNA with their team members, they often don’t explain what’s behind their brand promise. Even less so, business leaders often fail to show employees how to integrate that brand promise into everything she or he does in the day-to-day and how it can be consistently delivered at every touch point.
The Wikipedia definition of organizational culture is “behavior of humans within an organization and the meaning that people attach to those behaviors.” The key word here is “within.” Traditionally, organizational culture has been viewed as the opposite of brand, looking internally versus externally. But in recent years this viewpoint has started to evolve as more and more businesses now view culture and brand as two sides of the same coin. It’s a powerful concept that has paid off for many.
For example, take Reverb.com, a Chicago-based, online, musical instrument marketplace. Reverb places equal importance on culture and brand. The company’s level of customer experience leaves its primary competitor, eBay, in the dust. Music creation is an emotional process and Reverb encourages its staff to channel their passions through every customer interaction. Employees are tasked with creating dialog and developing content that is inspired by their personal preferences and reverence for great equipment, artists, and music. The results are unique, fueled by passion, and serve to empathetically connect with the needs of its musician community in meaningful ways. Customers are willing to lay down $10,000 on a guitar without even playing it. Reverb’s culture is its brand and its brand is its culture and this alignment results in amazing customer experience.
To provide a high-quality customer experience like Reverb’s, it’s essential that a company’s values are intentional. Values are the foundational guidelines behind both brand and organizational culture. They unite the two. In order to be relevant and actionable, they must be carefully crafted to cultivate emotional connections and indisputable belief both inside and out. In some businesses, they are selected through what is most important to the CEO or to the senior leadership team. This is the wrong approach.
Values should be defined through a customer-centric lens and by the ability to optimally execute. Values must be robust and understandable. They should not be “givens”. It’s all too often that we find “commitment” in an employee handbook. What company or employee doesn’t want to be committed when it comes to customer experience? The values that matter most are those that are important to the customer’s specific needs.
For example, simplicity is a behavioral and executable value that may be considered by e-commerce business. It guides employee behavior throughout the company from the nature of product issue resolution on the front lines to providing technical support in a super-relatable manner. It also matches the customer’s need to easily search, order via a single click and quickly pay. In short, getting the values right means that the likelihood of meeting or exceeding a customer promise will be much higher.
Five Points for Consideration
- Create a Brand Culture Based on Care
At the end of the day, customer experience is about one thing; caring about people. Leaders must be equally committed to caring about employees and customers in equal measure. A shared culture of caring results in rewards for all.
- Make it Real
Bring together brand and culture in ways that are authentic. Customers need to know that the experiences they are getting are genuine. Avoid the script. Within parameters, empower employees to make spur of the moment decisions to meet customer needs. Setting clear boundaries around this can help to ensure that no one gives away the farm.
- Get Your Messaging Right
According to marketing firm Aberdeen, 67% of best-in-class companies have a clear brand message that brings together HR and marketing. A “We’re here for you” message is pointless. Messaging must go much further and make real brand commitments made by real people.
- Increase the Human Touch
Brands live through employee behavior and connection. Blend culture and brand through more interpersonal experiences. While it can streamline some processes, too much automated interaction can be detrimental to a customer-brand relationship. PwC research suggests that 82% of U.S. consumers are looking for more interaction with employees. Give it to them.
- Integrate HR and Marketing
Be brave and consider fully integrating the HR and marketing functions. Put a proven customer-centric leader in place. Redefine roles from scratch and make sure that most have crossover responsibilities to ensure consistent experiences for both customers and employees.
As more and more businesses work to bring together their brand and behavior, the likelihood of increasing the quality of customer experience increases. But it’s those companies that are willing to step back and review their brand DNA that will win out. Carefully defined, communicated, and ingrained brand purpose, promise, and values are the keys to a successful alignment that can deliver.
This article originally appeared on Forbes.com.
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