Customers today have high expectations of the brands they interact with, and make their opinions known when those experiences elicit strong feelings.
In this environment — where a satisfied customer can become an invaluable brand evangelist, and a dissatisfied one can cause real damage to a business with a snarky Yelp review — it’s more critical than ever that companies invest in understanding and optimizing the customer experiences they provide.
Brands must consider every channel and interaction which can shape a customer's opinion of the brand, including the brand’s website, social media channels, online or on-phone customer service, advertising, in-store buying experience, and, finally, using the product.
An Inconsistent Customer Experience
Technology continues to expand the playing field for brands via new channel platforms, leaving them maneuvering to establish a presence on Instagram or Vine, or implement real-time web-based calls on their websites.
This branching out may cause brands to provide customer experiences differing in content and quality, as the employees behind these separate efforts may lack continuity in their training and in the customer information they are able to access. The structure of such an operation tends to look like a tree, with each channel rooted in the same marketing plan, but each branch out there swaying on its own.
For example, the marketing department in charge of social media channels may respond to customers in a tone and manner that best fits its own messaging and goals. In-store workers may have yet another point of view based on local interpretations of the brand’s game plan.
Each department in this uncoordinated operation may work from the same marketing plan — and even believe that everyone is on the same page — when in fact the customer experience offered is discordant and choppy from one channel and another.
These disconnects can leave a lot to be desired.
Presenting a Single Brand Face
In a world where brands seek to forge personal, emotional connections with customers, the simple fact that a brand you love cannot recognize you as an individual from one channel to the next breaks the illusion of that personal relationship, and can leave customers feeling like they’re dealing with a bureaucracy (an attribute no brand aims for).
What today’s brands must seek is the ability to offer personalized and knowledgeable customer experiences across channels — online and offline — and with related resources structured so that customers are presented with a single face no matter how and where they interact with a brand.
Brands are helped in their strategy by engagement platforms that unify efforts across all channels of interaction with customers (online, over the phone, in-person, etc.), integrating identity knowledge and ensuring an emphasis on the human aspects of customer exchanges. An integrated platform for engagement can offer feature-rich capabilities around rules-based personalization and the aggregation of customer information collected from all customer interactions in a single view.
With these tools, employees can quickly identify customers as individuals (with their own distinct history of brand interaction) when they come in contact with the company and enable personally tailored interactions. Different representatives across the company (this can cut through business units such as retail banking and wealth management or functional departments, say, sales or customer support) can interact with the same customer and give that customer a consistent, unified experience.
Effective engagement platforms make available all the particulars of a user’s experiences: the specifics of the user’s identity, behavior, history of company interactions, and the specifics of any perks to which they are entitled.
Because of this, a customer need not go back to square one when making a new call, nor start over if transferred to another representative or department. Users can get to know companies and expect a certain unified personality and level of familiarity and rapport, as these digital experience platforms give representatives the agility to speak to past experiences and to the user’s personal preferences.
Serving All 'Customers'
These audience engagement strategies and tools should deliver uniform customer experiences and help to humanize the brand. The plan is also effective in treating the brand’s other “customers” well — namely, partners, employees, suppliers, etc. These relationships are similarly important, and software can again assist in treating these groups with the same knowledge, respect and goodwill shown to customers who purchase the products.
Individuals in each of these groups will have their own personal preferences in their brand interactions, and platforms can enable the company to know them and meet them.
We all know that when customers believe a brand knows and understands them, it’s easier to trust that the brand will know how to meet their needs. In this way, a personal brand offering positive customer experiences across channels that are unified by powerful engagement tools is better able to achieve customer loyalty, brand evangelism and repeat sales.
Title image Timothy Muza