This is what holds brands back from building a powerful customer experience

Business Insider Article Pic

This is a copy of Pip’s article which appeared in Business Insider Magazine on May 18th this year.  A great read about what holds brands back from a great customer experience.

Being big doesn’t equal better when it comes to customer experience. Stymied by a ‘but that’s the way we’ve always done things’ attitude, established businesses have struggled to compete with their more agile, younger competitors, particularly when legacy business procedures hamstring internal processes. As the expectations from consumers rise, there’s only one choice – adapt to survive.

With Forrester predicting one-third of companies in the B2C space will begin changing their business structure in 2017 to get closer to the customer, established businesses will need to be prepared to compete on the basis of experiences.

Looking deeper at what makes a brand established

Consumers are largely responsible for defining whether a brand is considered established in the first place. In our consumer research at BrandHook, we’ve found when consumers talk about established brands they mean brands that are long-standing, perceived as having scale and they have a reputation – even if consumers don’t know necessarily what that reputation may be. They’re generally perceived as brands that are ‘doing okay’ – they’re established and successful.

While an established brand may enjoy the consumer perception of success, internally this scale can handicap opportunities to adapt and diversify their customer experience. We all know that increased structure and stakeholders can inhibit movement in larger businesses, but the ‘established’ status can also lead to cultural lack of understanding consumers. In a large business decision-makers are removed from the consumer, leading to less opportunity to listen. Over time this drives less opportunity to truly understand the consumer, because you become accustomed to not understanding.

And let’s be honest – not everybody in large organisations always wants to change – because they might be happy the way it is.

The importance of ‘powerful’ in customer experiences

We now know that a good customer experience is no longer good enough. Competition is tough, markets are crowded and the opportunities for new disruptors to come along is a constant. So when we talk about elevating the customer experience, we know it needs to be powerful. And making a customer experience powerful comes down to three things: forming an intuitive bond that includes effortlessness and brand purpose; personalisation and real-time action.

An intuitive bond refers to the kind of experience that functions invisibly – it’s intuitive and feels right. When you use it it feels effortless, it’s easy and it makes sense – you don’t come across issues at the first hurdle.

Making it personal is also crucial in a culture where we are overwhelmed with communications and channels. Instead of sending 45 emails because the user signed up to the newsletter, send one that is related to the individual and have a proper conversation, like “Hey Pip, I noticed that you bought a skirt in our shop last week. Do you know other people have bought these tops to go with it? You might want to have a think about it;” or “Hey, Pip. I notice that you over spent on credit card last week by 20 bucks. Is there something we can talk to you about.” Data is personal, and the least you can do is actually respect that relationship as a proper conversation.

Thirdly, activating in real-time is important. It’s no longer appropriate to say you’ll get back to the consumer in 24 hours, because that’s not how the wider market operates anymore. Take Lemonade, an insurance company in the US. You can sign up and select the icons for what you want (such as home and contents insurance) through Facebook or a bot on their website. Then should you need to make a claim there’s another bot to help you with that and you’ll get the money back in your bank account within minutes. They don’t hold you over the ropes to give you your money, they deliver at the right time, and the experience is powerful as a result.

Seizing the opportunity

While it might not seem this way, established businesses actually have unique opportunities to create powerful experiences. Beyond resourcing, structure and scale, established businesses have the opportunity to fill multiple roles and explore the customer experience in greater detail due to their size.

Instead of trying to bend your existing business to ‘be more entrepreneurial’, bring entrepreneurs in – build in these innovative ideas as separate pieces of thinking, and bootstrap agility through incubation businesses and small business startups that can be nimble in ways a larger business can’t.

Internally, identify and analyse the problems with your current customer experience. Map out the current experience and identify how people are experiencing your brand, and where are the opportunities to shift it. And when you identify problems with this experience, be prepared to solve that problem.

At the end of the day, businesses of all stages are a result of the people in the tent. You’ve got to have someone that says “This is not working”. With a forward-thinking CEO, strong CX team and the honesty to identify where your customer experience is and isn’t working, building a powerful customer experience is certainly possible.

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