Key Takeaways (4-minute read)
- The consumer journey starts with a positive connection to your brand.
- Your company must work symbiotically internally to deliver a great customer experience.
- Communication, transparency, and a people-first approach are vital to success.
Connection is everything.
Let’s repeat that and even clarify a little—human connection is everything. It doesn’t matter if you’re in marketing, healthcare, entertainment, entrepreneurship, or retail; if you can’t connect with your customers, you will not succeed. This has long been the great challenge of the CEO and CMO or the agency they hire. How do you connect with the people your product or service was meant for? How can you get to know them better so you can improve and grow? The methods might continuously evolve, but the answer remains the same: Adopt a brand strategy based on consumer engagement and consumer experience, not based on numbers or trends. If you are serving people, then serve them as people, not phone calls to be answered or emails to be forwarded. This should be the norm in every department of your organization.
On their customer journey, people want to feel connected to the brands they purchase from and the services they use. This extends across all brand platforms, from digital to mobile to in-store and more. According to Salesforce’s latest State of the Connected Consumer survey, 76 percent of consumers expect consistent interactions across departments when they connect with a brand.
Unfortunately, 54 percent also believe that brand departments such as sales, marketing, and customer service usually feel disconnected, with 65 percent saying they often have to repeat their information multiple times when connecting with a brand representative.
Think about that. How many times have you called your internet service provider, given your account information, talked to one representative about your issue, then been transferred to another department and had to repeat the process before you could get closer to a solution to your problem? Sadly, it is an experience with which many of us are familiar.
To mend this divide and improve your brand’s customer experience—and therefore increase brand loyalty—you must start from within. Your house should be in order before you can have guests over, so to speak. This begins from the top. Company leaders must adopt a people-first brand strategy and let the trickle-down effect become part of the core values of every department in the business. This also means practicing good communication and employee relations, as you can’t help others until you’ve helped your team prepare to do so.
Trust is built when a brand communicates clearly, practices transparency, and reinforces corporate social responsibility that customers can see and believe. (Also, being nice to the customer is always a good idea.)
Communication is more than half the battle when creating an outstanding consumer journey. People want options, so it’s important today to offer consumers various means of connection, including email, phone, in-person, social media, SMS/text, chat apps, and more. It’s also vital that brands become more unified across internal departments so they can better serve consumers and elevate that user experience. If your customer begins a service request via text message, make sure your team is logging and saving this information so that if and when the customer calls or emails, your representative will know them, already have a record of the issue, and be more equipped to deal with it directly without having to ask an already frustrated mother of three to repeat her problem again.
A recent article from Fast Company sums it up pretty well: “As customers assert greater control of the brand relationship, it’s vital to understand what they’re doing and what their thinking is at any given moment. When a business has this information readily available, it’s possible to take a much more nuanced approach to the customer lifecycle—and business.”
A successful business or product is not sustainable if said customer-brand relationship isn’t fostered and nurtured for the duration of a customer journey. Take Tesla, for example; the enormously buzzworthy electric vehicle manufacturer has seen tremendous growth thanks to its clean-energy mission, its top-rated products, and the hype of its loyal (so far) fan base. But now that the company has grown from a startup to a publicly-traded entity with over 80,000 employees worldwide, its consumer experience ratings seem to be slipping, with owners struggling to find the right contact for their customer service needs. The innovative brand’s decision to operate sans dealerships also brings up a critical flaw in its model—if the customer has no one (i.e., the traditional salesperson) to talk to about their needs, how can they remain the top priority for the business? There must be a dedicated representative or system to take up the slack. Bloomberg business reporter Dana Hull states on the matter that appointing a CX leadership role could help: “Tesla’s lack of a dedicated, public-facing executive who owns customer experience in all its forms is really starting to show via complaints and lawsuits, and it risks hurting the brand.” The brand needs internal restructuring to ensure that it can continue to build upon the consumer loyalty and trust it had in the beginning; otherwise, its vehicle owners are going to assume all Tesla cares about is money.
To prove you care about more than the bottom line, be real with your customers. Treat them as people, and they will respond. They want to know that they are safe and taken care of by your brand, so transparency is crucial, now more than ever. Show them behind-the-scenes footage of your factory. Post about new innovations your team is cooking up. Level with them when something goes wrong or circumstances out of your control have caused an issue. In today’s society and business climate, people are just tired of being bullshitted, and a brand that communicates, practices honesty, and treats customers as individuals will go a long way in gaining trust and brand loyalty. It all starts with you.
A&P, a brand agency, excels in finding innovative ways for clients to provide exceptional experiences to their customers. Their work includes consumer insight, brand innovation, creative development, mobile and technology solutions for global brands such as AT&T, Mini USA, DIRECTV, Newell Rubbermaid, Tenet Healthcare, and Barco Escape. For more information about A&P, visit them on Facebook, Twitter or antonioandparis.com.