Every organization has an idea of how they want to be perceived, and they usually think of this image as their brand. They know they want to be perceived a certain way by customers and after they define how they want to be perceived, they blindly accept it as reality. But the truth is organizations can’t will the world to see them as they wish to be seen. The reality is that an organization’s true brand is the sum of the experiences customers have with that organization.
A customer’s perception of your organization is shaped by the cumulative interactions they have with you. So you should ask yourself: what do your customers experience when they interact with your organization? Are the experiences your customers have with you creating the beliefs and actions you desire?
Customers have experiences whenever they interact with your brand – in retail locations, by phone, via self-serve channels, online or through social media. Leading customer experience organizations know that it’s their brand that differentiates them from their competitors.
Like all organizations, they use marketing messages to communicate their brand promise and attract customers to do business with them. Unlike many other organizations, they go a step further to make sure they also keep their brand promise. By making all their business decisions – about products, policies, processes, systems and people – through the lens of their brand, they ensure the experience customers have reflects the brand promise.
For example, if you are a premium luxury automobile dealership and your customers are greeted by a gruff mechanic in a dirty, tattered uniform, you are not delivering your brand promise. Your customers expect the experience to match your brand promise.
The ideal experience is the perfect alignment of your brand promise and the actions your employees take every day.
Based on the experiences a customer has with you, that customer will form beliefs about your organization. Maybe they will believe you are the place to go for expert advice and guidance or maybe they will believe you are the place to go for quick and easy self-serve options. Both can be good or bad experiences. It’s the customer who will make that decision and whether the experience is perceived as good or bad depends on what you promised in your marketing messages.
If your brand and marketing messages portray your business as the place to come for expert advice and guidance, but your customer can’t easily find anyone knowledgeable enough to answer questions, the customer will deem this as a bad experience and will form negative beliefs about your brand. You made a promise and the customer feels you didn’t deliver.
Finally, the beliefs customers have about your organization impact the actions they take in the future. If your customers believe you have delivered on your brand promise and provided a good experience, they’ll not only tell their friends, they’ll also come back and spend more money with you. However, if a customer believes you haven’t delivered on your brand promise, they will also take action. In fact, customers who have a bad customer experience will tell twice as many people about poor service than they would tell about a good experience.
The best way to ensure customers aren’t sharing negative sentiments about your organization is to deliver the experiences you promise! Satisfied customers remain loyal to your brand, and they will even send referrals your way.
Think about the experiences your customers have with your brand. Does everyone in your organization understand your brand promise and how they deliver it? Does your organization make all decisions through the lens of your brand? Do you keep your promise? Do you know what your customers believe about your organization and are they taking the actions you want them to take?
It’s only when you consistently keep your brand promise that customers will become loyal and raving fans.