Companies with high customer loyalty and advocacy levels ensure their brand values are not just logos and colors, but that they are values that are recognizable and real to clients.
Companies with high levels of customer loyalty and advocacy make great efforts to link their brand promise and core brand values to the experiences they deliver to their customers. Traditionally, many firms go to great lengths to define brand values, relying on brand consultants and extensive workshops with stakeholders across the organization.
Unfortunately, these mainly look good on paper. Usually these values end up doing little more than defining logos and brand colors, marketing campaigns, and web designs. They rarely translate into product development, recruitment, management, staff behavior, service promises, and process refinement.
By contrast, companies with high customer loyalty and advocacy levels ensure their brand values are not just logos and colors, but that they are values that are recognizable and real to clients. Take as an example a firm such as Ikea, which embraces the idea of being simple, sensible, modern, friendly, Swedish. The entrances to its stores are open and inviting, with visible play areas for kids and occasionally certified childcare specialists onsite to watch children while parents shop. The path through the store is clearly marked and liberally peppered with customer service stations and friendly staff ready to answer questions, create shopping lists, and ensure people get the items they are looking for. When someone needs a new part or wishes to exchange or return something, the service window is easy to find and usually asks no questions and demands no payments. And the website is well organized and integrated with store inventories (though not all store items are available on the web). At Ikea, every customer interaction is staged in a series of memorable experiences that are literally sprinkled along a journey from the entrance to the exit and car park.
The traditional understanding of customer experience is flawed
Traditionally, firms that have attempted to improve their customer satisfaction scores have tended to focus on improving satisfaction (or rather reducing dissatisfaction) one touchpoint at a time. They systematically identify where satisfaction is low, then take steps to reverse the situation.
With the rise of “customer experience” as a new catch phrase, many of the same firms, along with their consultants, rebranded their traditional touchpoint-centric customer dissatisfaction improvement efforts as their “customer experience” strategy, and declare premature victory once the touchpoint dissatisfactions are minimized.
Take the example of a call center. A firm identifies customer dissatisfaction with call center wait times. It recruits and trains support specialists and installs advanced call-forwarding systems to reduce the times and thus customer dissatisfaction with those times. The key is that while customer dissatisfaction may be reduced, reduced call wait time only plays to the rational needs of customers, and does not create the emotional attachment needed for long term loyalty, since they will be unlikely to recall the experience once the call is completed.
Fixing dissatisfaction at each touchpoint is a necessary first step
Companies that focus on touchpoint satisfaction are not necessarily going down the wrong path. Ensuring all touchpoints maintain a baseline level of acceptable satisfaction is a necessary first step towards creating an integrated and branded end-to-end experience that is greater than the sum of its parts.
Thus a touchpoint-focused satisfaction improvement program has been and often is a fine strategy for a company that is at an immature stage of development in terms of customer experience; and which suffers from chronic and significant customer dissatisfaction. In most cases, customers that walk away from a firm often do so because of their experience with one or two touchpoints. Each of the identified areas where satisfaction is chronically low must therefore be systematically corrected. Once dissatisfaction has been eliminated (or at least brought to a “neutral level”), firms can start investing in creating differentiated, branded, memorable experiences, where the objective is no longer the elimination of dissatisfaction but rather the creation of emotional links, delight, customer trust, and loyalty.
Customer delight requires a mindset shift, from silo’d touchpoint improvement to cross-touchpoint journey design
Reducing dissatisfaction caused by individual touchpoints addresses the basic needs of a customer. But it does not create the emotional attachment that leads to customer delight, trust, and long-term loyalty. Moreover, further touchpoint improvements will also not do this. Rather, to achieve the emotional attachments that create trust and delight, management mindset needs to shift away from continued improvements at touchpoints in a siloed manner, and towards the expression of brand values at interactions customers have throughout their journeys, which often involve multiple touchpoints.
The superiority of the journey approach over the touchpoint approach is largely borne out by the data. In industry surveys, around 77% of customers that report a positive customer experience say it is based on interactions with three or more touchpoints. More telling, the journey approach is 30-40% more predictive of satisfaction and the likelihood that customers will recommend a given brand. Finally, when customer experience focuses on branded journeys, it is far more likely to be associated with high levels of customer satisfaction (namely delight) than when customer experience is centered on touchpoints.
This cross-touchpoint journey approach is the hallmark of customer-experience leaders. In Ikea, for example, the experience is revealed not in an isolated manner per touchpoint but as a series of coordinated interactions across multiple branded touchpoints that begins long before the customer reaches the store through advertising and online channels and lasts long afterwards with distinctive furniture and follow-up care.
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Customer Experience and how to implement it at your organization, download Synergy Consulting Group’s White Paper: From Satisfaction to Emotionally Connected.
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