22 August 2014
Peter Bogaards
Peter Bogaards

From customer service to brand experiences

“Every business is a service business in some sense these days,” says Mark Di Somma in a recent post on customer brand experience. For that reason, customers expect “customer service” as a pre-condition in their relationship with a company. It’s only the customer experience that brands deliver that makes the big difference.

At a time when customer experience is becoming more and more operationalized within companies, Mark sees a threat in reducing it to just a formulaic, process-centric activity. The unique, intangible aspects of a brand need to shine through in its interactions with customers, if it really wants to shine and outperform its competitors. Says Mark, “(…) while customer relationships based on best practice metrics might be technically correct, they’re often devoid of personality. And because everybody’s serving by the book rather than from the heart, what customers are really getting is efficient variations on the same tedium. That doesn’t make for a likeable or memorable brand. In fact, cut out the brand name, and they could be dealing with anybody.”

Instead of interchangeable, ‘cookie-cutter’ experiences, “(…) enduring relationships with a brand pivot these days on customer encounters that really do need to be experienced to be believed. They are astonishing – at a human level, not a metrics level.”

But that’s not to say that a rigorous, mature set of processes and systems should not be behind these encounters; they should. They provide the structure – and the freedom – for providing brand experiences that foster real customer relationships.

In addition to putting in place the ability to deliver brand experience, companies need to take time to really think about who they want as customers. Mark writes, “If you want to form and build relationships that work for all parties, you need to know and to define who constitutes a successful customer for you.” A decision needs to be made on whether to simply pursue greater profit through turnover, or focus on relationships just with high-value customers.

And it comes down to three guidelines that Mark puts forward for delivering excellent customer relationships:

  1. What you deliver aligns directly with how you are structured (physically, operationally and financially) so that you can afford to operate that way and you have a competitive reason for choosing to pursue that course.
  2. It aligns with who you are as a brand and the core values you represent.
  3. You explain those terms of business to your customers very clearly, so that they really understand what they are getting.

A further point he makes is that customer relationships need to be fostered over time. “(…) the people you should be working towards having a commercial relationship with are those who are going to want to come back, and customer service should be a service process that is good enough to generate such a habit, whether it’s hours, days or years between occasions.” But, he says, “(…) the problems are that many brands do not have an active retention approach to bridge those gaps, and therefore the process that feeds that, their customer service, is not specifically designed to be habit-forming.”

Wrapping up, Mark presents a list of questions (summarized here) you need to answer for “transforming by-the-book customer service into profitable customer relationships”:

  1. What did you say as a brand that you would do?
  2. What can you afford to deliver and what can you afford not to deliver?
  3. Does everyone in your organization know who your most valuable customers are, and what they expect to receive?
  4. Does the service you offer your customers make sense emotionally to them as well as logistically?
  5. How do you know you’re doing right by your customers – what have you been asking them?
  6. Who manages the overall development of relationship?
  7. When was the last time you updated your infrastructure to make the relationship better for your customers as opposed to just making it more efficient for you?

Source: “Guide To Mastering The Customer Brand Experience” (Mark Di Somma, Branding Strategy Insider)

About the author

Peter Bogaards (a.k.a. @BogieZero) is the editor-in-chief of our blog BiRDS. Peter also works as a curator and coach at Informaat experience design. He has been an online content curator avant-la-lettre in various UX-related fields for almost three decades, choosing what he thinks is interesting, relevant or remarkable to share.

Customer experience (78), CX excellence (8)