In our life, how many times have we heard, “He seemed to be a great person, but after getting to know him, he’s a jerk!”? Enough times, I presume. Enough to know that appearance is only skin deep and that the true substance of a person lies in what is underneath the surface- a person’s character, behaviour and values. And yet, we still meet people who are overly concerned about their outward appearance and have a complete lack of regard for what’s within. These people may attract others for a time but they will never build lasting relationships or have many true friends.
Similarly, there are many businesses that are too focused on their outward appearance and placed too little an emphasis on what’s within. Sadly, many do not realise that this truth applies to our personal lives as well as to business. Businesses that only focus on their outward visual identity many attract people for a time, but they are unlikely to build long-term relationships with customers nor do they have many passionate and loyal customers.
In relationships, we begin to understand a person when we spend time together, when we observe his reaction to situations, by his replies to others. The more contact we have with him, the better our understanding. If a person is nice to others during his initial interaction, others will be more inclined to know the person even more. Conversely, if the experience is bad, we will go to great lengths to avoid having more contact.
As with a business, the more times a customer encounters the brand, the more he understands it and the more opinions and associations are formed. Every single encounter with the brand is akin to a little date, a chance to make an impression or not. During these encounters, we would unwittingly look out for the same factors- is it caring, does it do what it claims to do, can we trust it? There are many possible encounters with any brand – be it in advertisements, mobile application, customer hotline or in retail outlets – and each and every one of them is important.
I’m not saying that appearance doesn’t matter. No. Because it does matter! People are naturally attracted to beautiful things, to sparkly items, to aesthetically pleasing stuff. It is the way our brains are hardwired and we have to work with this fact rather than to go against it. Please do ensure that your brand looks good in all ways! A brand that seeks to improve their image is commendable. What I am saying is that appearance will only help you to a certain extent, beyond that, it is the substance and experience that keeps a customer coming back.
Too often the first response of any company embarking on a rebranding project is to amend a company’s visual identity elements, taglines and marketing campaigns but more often than not, little effort is spent on training employees, improving products or to revamp a company’s policies and processes. It may seem strange to consider these factors as part of a branding project but the truth is that they are inextricably linked. We know that the mark of any great brand is having a group of loyal raving customers but we tend to forget that these customers will only return to companies that they have a great experience with.
So this is the crux of the matter: a brand is dependent on loyal customers who are in turn affected by their experiences with the brand. Customer experience hence defines the brand since that is what most customers remember and communicate to others.
What then, are brands doing to ensure that their customer has a good experience with them?
Very often, nothing at all.
Unfortunately, companies that rely solely on changing their outward image will soon find their efforts losing effectiveness because such efforts are simply not meant to reap long lasting results. Instead, they should make a real definite change in the way how customers interact with their brand.
So what should companies do if they want to ensure a positive customer experience? Below are some tips.
- Stand on solid ground. Ensure that you have a great product or service that you can work with, one that is able to deliver your promise.
- Find your identity. In order to tell your customers who you are, you have to first know it yourself.
- Live out your culture. Values, vision, mission, positioning – all these are just words until employees know exactly how to act them out through day-to-day behaviour. Define these behaviour and reward them.
- Happy team, happy customer. An unhappy team member cannot create an engaged customer and will be inconsistent in delivering a branded customer experience.
- Lead by example. Leaders in any organisation must drive on-brand behaviour by first making the right experience a part of any day-to-day conversation and behaving how they would want employees to.
- Be deliberate. Determine the aspect of customer experience that should be changed and decide on the actions to take.
- Think ahead. Anticipate and mitigate potential risks.
Only when you ensure that the customer constantly has a great experience with the brand, then only can you say that the company enjoys good branding or has successfully rebranded itself.