MindFire Communications, Inc.
Focus on the customer’s experience to build your brand
October 18, 2008 | Inga Rundquist

There’s been a powerful shift in control over the past eight years or so. Marketers used to be in control. They would shape advertising campaigns to influence how consumers viewed their products or services, and – with a little luck – influence their behavior. But now consumers are clearly in control. No longer are marketers the only ones with the ability to communicate to the masses.

This power shift has important implications for how you manage your company’s brand. Regardless of whether you’re selling products, services or a combination of the two, the consumer’s experience is important. That has always been the case. The difference today is technology.

We have an environment where consumers have very few barriers to providing feedback. In addition to traditional communication tools, a dissatisfied consumer has a wide range of digital options: blogs, forums, photos, video, social networking pages, mobile Web 2.0 apps, and even Twitter.

That same environment provides companies the opportunity to monitor what consumers are saying about their products and services, along with opportunities to engage consumers in a conversation about how to better meet their needs and improve the customer experience.

Keeping consumers satisfied over a long time dramatically increases profitability – from price premiums, increased purchases and even reduced operating costs. But companies also profit from referrals and good word of mouth. That long-term satisfaction – and profit – is directly tied to the customer experience.

It’s the experience the consumer has when interacting with your company, your product or your service that motivates referrals and advocacy. Do you know what that experience is like from the perspective of the consumer? Do you listen to your consumers? I mean REALLY listen.

Consumers want a good experience, and they’re happy to tell you (and anyone else who will listen) when you don’t deliver. But you have to be listening to benefit from that feedback.

If you don’t have a clear understanding of how you are perceived by your consumers, qualitative brand research is a good place to start. Talk to your customers about their brand experience. Ask them what they like about doing business with you and what they don’t like. Ask them how you compare to your competitors. Make sure you clearly understand how they perceive you and why.

Do you have a clear understanding of your company’s brand touch points? Most companies have literally hundreds of brand touch points. The strength of your brand is based on how well your brand promises are upheld at the many touch points in which your consumers interact with your brand, from the experience with your product to the experience with your people.

The foundation of providing a great customer experience is built on hiring the right people.  If your customers trust your people because they consistently deliver on your brand promise, you are well on your way to building a strong brand. Conduct internal research to better understand the internal perceptions of your brand, your employees’ understanding of the brand promise, and the barriers to giving every customer the experience they deserve.

When the whole company focuses on the customer experience – not just the customer service and marketing departments – the consumer can feel the difference. It results in customer satisfaction, trust, loyalty and positive word of mouth. And a powerful brand.

 - Lynn Manternach, Ph.D. This article originally appeared in the Tree Full of Owls column in the Corridor Business Journal.

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