As it appeared in the Daily Nation on March 15th 2016
What brand is your customer experience? Not many of the chief executive officers in Kenya’s service organizations would give a straight answer to this question. One such CEO’s responded to the question with a question. He sought to know what I really meant by that. What I mean is “How would you describe your company’s customer experience?” Is the customer experience on-brand or is it off-brand?
Organization across the globe spend billions of dollars developing brands. These brands mainly at the corporate level or at the product level such as I-phone take time to build. The five most powerful brands in the world namely Apple, Microsoft, Google, Coca-Cola and IBM as per Forbes 2015 ranking need not much introduction. In fact a quick glance at the top 100 most valued brands according to Forbes yields more than 90% brand recognition. The key question though is “What brand of customer experience do these brand provide?” Is their customer experience as strong as their brands?
For a service organization, the customer experience and the brand experience are one and the same thing. It is difficult to separate Amazon.com the brand from its customer experience. The customer experience remains at the heart of all top brands. Brands in the service industry such as Disney, Amazon.com, First Direct, the Marriot Hotels and even brands such as Apple that has grown brands at the product level are today focusing more on the customer experience than ever before. Though ranking of most powerful brands in Kenya is haphazard, strong brands such as Safaricom are ideally expected to have a customer experience that is in harmony with the strong brand.
Matching the brand and the customer experience can no longer be an afterthought. Strong brands are deliberate about their customer experience. They know that their brands can only be as strong as their customers’ experiences. They work tirelessly to make the brand shine throughout the customer experience. They have a 360 degrees view of the customer. They recognize the specific points that customers interact with the brand. They aim to make the customer interaction at each point of interaction painless. To them branding is no longer about logos, websites or the corporate colours. Branding is about the entire experience, it is about keeping the promises made to the customers, and it is about how the customer feels about the experience. These brands aim to make it easy for customers to do business with them.
Branding the customer experience takes time and effort. It means striving to embed service excellence into the culture of the organization. By so doing valued brands commit to focus on the customer experience in its entirety. What the brand promises is clear to all internally from the CEO at the corner office to the guard at the front gate. In these Smart Companies, keeping these brand promises is not optional, it is mandatory. Looking at the trends into the future, only brands that meet the customers’ expectations will survive the wrath of the more informed, more demanding and less forgiving customer. Is your desired brand evident in your customer experience? If it is not evident it is time to plan a re-branding of your customer experience.
Lucy Kiruthu is a Management Consultant and Trainer and can be reached on firstname.lastname@example.org/old or via twitter @kiruthulucy