This isn’t another scathing piece on how outdated marketing is, or how useless promotions and advertisements are when it comes to building customer loyalty – no really, it isn’t.
However, like many tools and tricks of the trade, advertising and marketing is often misused, overestimated or just poorly measured and managed.
Speaking from the perspective of a customer, I love a great deal or promo just as much as the next person – but it doesn’t affect me on an emotional level; and without that level of engagement, it’s simply nice to have.
Setting the scene
Let’s imagine that the top Ad Agency in South Africa has just produced a Cannes Winning integrated campaign for a new retailer. It has created such a buzz that you can hardly log on to Facebook, go out for a coffee or switch on the TV without hearing about it. It’s clever, it speaks to you and you are starting to love said retailer for understanding you so well. In fact you’ve got shopping on the brain and come Saturday it’ll be the first place you stop to shop.
The main event
Total. Brand. Fail.
The clothes are overpriced, the shop assistants stare at you but don’t make any attempt to offer assistance and when you finally find something you like, they don’t have your size. You decide to ask someone if it can be ordered or located at another branch and you are stared down like it’s your responsibility to be three dress sizes smaller.
As for the ‘integrated part’ a tweet coupon and virtual change room are like a slap in the face at this point, because honestly you don’t want to stay in-store long enough to make use of them.
You receive incompetent service but the promotion bells and whistles keep you in store. You ask to speak with management not because you are a miserable person who loves to complain but because you are upset with the level of service.
The manager gives you the obligatory apology, hands you something free for your troubles and sends you on your way.
What an experience.
You walk into a vibrant, well presented store. You start to browse but the variety is quite baffling. Then a friendly store attendant walks over to you, and instead of simply asking if she can help, she opens the conversation with a recommendation on the colour choice of the outfit you’re looking at.
She asks if you would like to try it on, if you know how the virtual fitting room works, and going further, she asks if you are looking for an outfit for a particular occasion and makes conversation around the topic.
She assures you that the store keeps extensive stock records and that she can order a size if you can’t find it. You’re so immersed in the conversation that you forgot to tweet for your coupon – only you do get the discount because you’re reminded at the till by another friendly staff member.
Moving from what you’ve heard to making actual contact is the proverbial first date of a brand and its customers and all the marketing and advertising in the world can’t make up for a bad experience. Ironically, a good experience validates everything you have heard or been told about a brand – and in these instances advertising and marketing are definitely not fruitless ventures.
And as for every date after that i.e. the call centre, the website or any other brand-customer interaction… it all goes toward building a valuable, worthwhile relationship between brand and customer.
Exceptional Service delivery is expected, and customers won’t hesitate to drop brands that don’t deliver it. Brands that respond to complaints aren’t necessarily the good guys because this too is expected. In fact the key differentiators that most brands build their organisations around aren’t actually differentiators.
Real differentiators facilitate connections and in this arena, Customer Experience is King.
Customer Experience (CX) Architecture
Without a clear, documented Customer Experience vision, any number of situations could happen in the same environment, on the same day, with the same employees.
Quite simply CX architecture is about understanding how to make situation #3 more than just a happy accident and to eliminate the possibility of experiences like situation #1 and #2 from ever happening.
If customer- facing staff are working to meet purely service delivery related targets and they are given very little power to make decisions, what point is there in delighting the customer when they can simply ‘do their job’
But a brand that always delivers situation #3 is the product of an organisation where employees are empowered to use their own personal flair and intuition. These employees understand what the brand is all about and they want to convey that meaning to customers – because they are passionate about the experience.
Customer-facing staff understand how to build human connections with customers and they are empowered by the products, services and the business model they are working with, instead of restricted by it.
After all, successful brands don’t only rely on the strength of their products, services and service delivery standards. They offer something more, and it’s that something more that leaves an impression, creates brand advocates and builds customer loyalty.
To find out more about the Journey to Customer Centricity, click here.