Meeting Individual Customer Expectations
Delivering consistently on the brand promise plays a greater role in creating loyal customers than any other customer-facing capability does. It accounts for one-third of an organization's ability to achieve high customer loyalty, according to marketing and customer management research by Accenture. In fact, for all companies in the study, regardless of their industry or business model (e.g., B2C, B2B, et cetera), developing and delivering a branded customer experience comprises 33 percent of a company's ability to achieve strong customer loyalty.
Since customer expectations vary by brand given a brand promise and customer personal styles and interests, the highest level of loyalty is achieved when the branded experience is customized to meet the individual's demand. The challenge for high profile brands is how to ensure strength in ROI and scale as you aim for this loyalty.
Strong brands are setting the stage and success is being realized as they extend the brand to resonate on a personal level one individual at a time with customer care that is consistent across all touch points. ("Customer experience is bigger than customer service."--Amazon.com CEO Jeff Bezos.) With this framework clear, there is much work to be done.
A study by Bain & Company found that 80 percent of companies surveyed believed that they delivered a "superior experience" to their customers. But when customers were asked to indicate their perceptions of the experiences they have in dealing with companies, they rated only 8 percent of companies as truly delivering a superior experience (The Three "Ds" of Customer Experience
by James Allen, Frederick Reichheld, and Barney Hamilton). A primary reason that companies fail to meet a customer's expectation is that they often lack insight on their customers based on customer attitudes and behaviors rather than simple demographic segmentation.
Transactional data, which tells what customers are buying, provides information into trends across the customer base. True value is derived, however, from going to the next level and tracking customers' actions. For instance, via delivery of concierge, a company can gain insight into a customer's life and preferences, and then incorporate this information into a branded customer-centric approach that is fine-tuned and enhanced with every interaction. Each interaction with the customer can then be proactive and personalized, solidifying brand relevance and generating true customer loyalty.
Strengthening this one-to-one relationship with consumers is also the driving force behind successful viral marketing efforts. Whether the viral campaign is an integral part of the brand strategy--or a byproduct of a successful multichannel communication effort--positive buzz about the brand is fueled when the brand promise is delivered on a personal level.
For instance, one customer may contact a firm's concierge a few times a month with only moments to spare in need of dinner reservations or premium seats for a theater or sports event. However, others may rely on the company's concierge provider to handle a myriad of requests--from helping plan a dinner party, to assisting with plans for a family vacation, to finding the perfect gift for someone special. With each request, the company gains valuable information that drives its ability to fulfill its brand promise on an increasingly individualized level. The more special the customer feels, the more connected she is with the brand, which fosters conversations that add measurable value for the customer and thus for the brand.
About the Author
Michael Breault is executive vice president and general manager of Circles. Please visit www.circles.com