Customer experience: the new branding imperative

By Brendan Dykes, Director of Product Marketing, Genesys

Leading retailers that achieve consistently high levels of loyalty among UK consumers do so because they fulfil their brand promises. They deliver on what they say they will do, whether that’s providing on-trend fashion quickly and simply or hitting the sweet spot between price and quality.

While some brands set great examples for businesses trying to forge lasting customer relationships, its more difficult than ever to achieve that goal. That’s because the old product and price benchmarks are no longer enough to keep customers coming back – especially in the cut-throat UK retail landscape. And, because consumers can buy what they want, where they want, when they want, its easier than ever for them to forget loyalty at the first sign of poor service or product quality.

Today’s successful retailers are laser-focused on customer experience. Not only is it a crucial differentiator, it’s the reason many consumers keep doing business with a company. Customer experience has, in effect, become the new branding—both before and after purchase.

Get it right, regardless of channel

A critical stage in creating customer experience excellence is the point when consumers ask a brand for help making a change, finalising a purchase, or resolving a problem. As consumers have become increasingly connected, their expectations have multiplied. They want to interact with brands on their preferred channels, on their schedule. Whether contacting by email, phone, Twitter or WhatsApp, customers expect the same high level of on-demand service every time.

If a brand misses these opportunities to connect, it risks suffering a chronic disconnect and lost loyalty, because second chances are few and far between in retail today.

Overcome messy systems to see customers more clearly than ever

Achieving that customer focus is well-nigh impossible for brands if contact centres rely on a complex patchwork of systems, resulting from merged technologies and processes. It’s not possible to simplify the customer experience when the business is still playing channel pinball. If all a company has is interaction history rather than intelligent insight, it can’t offer well-timed and targeted recommendations that make the customer feel like the brand truly knows them.

What we can learn from the blueprint of winning retailers is that they view their contact centre as a value generator – not a cost centre. And, they always put the customer first – they know they can never rest on their laurels.

Yes, that requires a level of focused, ongoing investment and technological sophistication. But more importantly, a customer-centric model requires the conviction to promote an open culture, to break down organisational silos and unify objectives to build a solid foundation for implementing new tools and technologies.

Provide a great experience and the customer does your branding for you

Everything about a brand – its marketing and advertising, sales, and customer care – factors into the customer’s experience. Every touchpoint in the journey, from marketing to sales to service, impacts the customer’s decision to forge (or not) a deeper relationship with the brand.

That means every interaction must be easy and frictionless across the customer’s favoured channel. It means customers don’t have to repeat information, incur longer wait times or lacklustre service when shifting from one channel to another. And it means inquiries are resolved quickly by knowledgable resources each and every time.

When a company misses the mark on any of these, customer views of a brand will erode, Net Promoter Scores will suffer, repurchase rates will drop and revenue and profits will take a hit. And, customers will share their poor experiences with their peers through social media.

But, when businesses get it right, customers will do much of the marketing and acquisition for them – sharing their experiences with friends across social channels. Jeff Bezos has never doubted the power of customers who become brand advocates. He is quoted as saying: “If you do build a great experience, customers tell each other about that. Word of mouth is very powerful.”

Growing advocacy, whether through word of mouth or other means, requires brands to increase the channels through which customers are able to connect with them. To become, and remain, a brand that consumers champion, companies must continually improve the way they communicate through existing channels while exploring and opening up new ones.

The variety of channels consumers will use to connect with brands will only grow. That will bring challenges for businesses – and opportunities. Ultimately, customers haven’t strayed from what they’ve always wanted: to communicate with brands conveniently and get their problems solved quickly and easily. More channels bring additional chances for businesses to prove their brand promise and deliver exceptional experiences. While that may require more technology and tools, the investment will pay off in spades when customers turn into brand evangelists.

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