a brand is not enough, says Shaun Smith, you need to build teams that
understand the brand, understand the customer and can act as ambassadors for
flying a MIG 21 at twice the speed of sound? No problem, pick up a voucher on
your local high street. How about undertaking a James Bond mission and, in the
process, getting the weapons training and gadgets? Buy a gift certificate.
adventures and more were available to consumers to purchase for themselves or
others at Christmas. This is not just a retailing phenomenon. Consumers are
looking for experiences that enable them to realise their dreams and achieve
their desired lifestyle. From hotels to retailing to airlines, consumers are
looking for suppliers who go beyond mere service to offer experiences that meet
their unique needs. They are looking for a ‘branded customer experience’ – a
service that is intentional, consistent, different and valuable.
started the trend. First Direct started a new concept in banking using it.
Howard Schultz of Starbucks applied it to selling coffee, and Richer Sounds is
said to have the highest sales per square foot of any retailer in the world by
doing it. All these companies are retaining customers by delivering service
experiences that create value beyond the products or services the companies are
selling. And through it they are enhancing loyalty, generating higher margins
and gaining market share.
what’s the difference between simple good customer service and a branded
customer experience? How do you get your people to buy into it and what actions
make a difference?
brand is a promise and you have to deliver your promises. Take a look at most
advertisements or promotions and the claims they make or imply. How often do
the companies making them actually deliver? Experiencing the brand is about
creating promises that have direct appeal to your target customers and then
investing in education and training, effective teamwork, performance management
and communication. It is about creating systems that provide the skills and
information everyone needs to deliver on them – consistently. All too often,
the firm stops at defining high-level brand values – such as responsiveness,
trustworthiness, and friendliness – without ever defining how these values will
be brought alive through the customer experience and without articulating how
employees need to behave to keep customers interested.
make a difference, it is crucial to unleash the power of the organisation – its
people. All employees need to ‘get it’. They need to understand their role as
brand ambassadors and need a leader who can convince them it’s the right
direction. Some years ago, Allen Chichester, then CEO of Leo Burnett’s Hong
Kong operation set his strategy for the future in the midst of disappointing
message to staff was: "Here’s what we’ll face if we don’t do this –
dissatisfied clients, eroding market share, and declining earnings. But here is
what it could be like if we work together – delighted clients, expanding
business, and record profits." Shortly after that Leo Burnett increased
client retention by 25 per cent and new account profitability by 63 per cent,
reducing employee turnover by more than 40 per cent.
these companies, top management energises its people and never relinquishes
responsibility as the ultimate guardian of the brand. This is about people who
work in an environment where, through determined leadership and good training,
everyone knows the customer is important. Customer-focused values matter and
leaders set the direction and create the climate by giving their employees the
essential tools to do the job.
market leader and staying there are two different issues. Sustaining a leading
position can only be done by constantly paying attention to your target
customers and what they value – ensuring that your organisation continues to
deliver that value and brand promise every day.
greatest brands of the future will be those that, through a ‘branded customer
experience’, create meaning for customers and employees and create value
level of differentiation cannot be achieved through advertising alone, or
through products that can be easily copied, nor through prices or ‘loyalty
cards’ that stimulate short-term affection. Only ‘branded customer experiences’
can create an indelible impression on customers that is so powerful and so
positive that they become the strongest type of advocates for the brand.