Five Challenges & Implications for Brands in a Socially Connected World
Customer perceptions of their experience are formed over time and at every touchpoint
where the customer interacts with a brand. And it can extend beyond the
direct interaction with the company and include indirect interactions with a third
party supplier or shippers such as UPS or FedEx. Customers perceive a good
experience with a company if they are able to obtain the product or service with
minimal effort on their part for a reasonable price.
Customer experiences, both online and in brick-and-mortar stores are important.
Many brands make a considerable investment in building out a physical presence.
Today, more than ever, with increased online competition there must be compelling
reasons for customers to buy at the store beyond just “touching and feeling” the
product. Additional motivating factors can be; helpful and knowledgeable staff, in-store
promotions integrated with online offers as well as an inviting atmosphere.
A “good” customer experience is when the customer believes they are treated
well, processes were efficient, the product worked as advertised and they received
what they expected for their money.
A “great” customer experience is experienced when the sum total of all the interactions during the journey were
extraordinary and went beyond the customer’s expectations. Some companies are challenged with providing a
consistently good customer experience and others are at the stage where they want to go from good to great.
In order to get on the path to improvement, brands must ask themselves the probing question – how are we
delivering against our customer expectations?
1. Understanding the Customer Experience Lifecycle
The customer experience lifecycle typically starts when the consumer receives
an advertisement, a marketing offer, or sees displays of packaging on shelves,
catalogs or even a referral by a friend can be considered an appeal to purchase.
These awareness-consideration phases gain market awareness, garner interest
and compel the consumer to consider buying (Figure 4).
In the consideration-intent stages, some consumers may know as much or more
than the brand’s staff about products or services from online investigation. Some
consumers may even go beyond this by applying different and unique ways to
test and use products or services and even menu choices. Serving the educated
consumer is increasingly becoming a challenge for retail stores as well as in
Serving the educated consumer to move from awareness to consideration and
purchase intent is increasingly becoming a challenge. One example is with big
box retailers who offer good price but at the expense of a good experience. It is
not that customers are shying away from big box, only that the market is going in
two opposing directions, with a resurgence of high end, high touch retail brands.
These trends are combining to put increased focus on customer experience
as a risk to the big box business model with Consumer Insights research from
Empathica indicating that 61% of consumers are choosing big box retailers
specifically because of price.
The next stage in the customer experience lifecycle is making a purchase. Buying
from a brick-and-mortar company or from a website is often then followed by
delivery, the use of products/services, through to receiving customer service or
customer care (e.g. getting questions answered, returns, etc.).
At each stage in the customer experience process, marketing, sales and customer
service and even a third party who may interact with your customer can either
gain support from the customer or bring the whole customer experience lifecycle
to a grinding halt. Companies who treat these stages as separate “sprints” by
their dedicated teams run into difficulties. Those who understand that it is really
closer to a relay race, with overlap among each team and a careful handoff from
each, are prone to succeed.
2. Managing Customer Experiences throughout the Customer Lifecycle
A growing concern for many companies is having limited knowledge or control
of their customers’ experiences throughout the entire customer lifecycle. Yet
research on customer experience (Figure 5) demonstrates that because many
competing brands are so similar and the price among them so close, the only
real differentiator available is the customer experience. Brands inherently create
a particular customer experience, implicitly and explicitly, sometimes intentionally
but often unintentionally.
One way to look at this is to consider that each time a customer comes into
contact with a business the customer’s experience will result in an opinion. As
time passes, the customer’s collective set of experiences forms a picture in the
customer’s mind. That picture is what shapes their image of the brand. The trick is
to make sure that at every point at which a customer interacts with your company,
the experience exceeds the expectation.
For consumer-facing companies (e.g. retail stores, restaurants, banks, etc.) to be
effective at social customer experience management, they need to understand
the difference between just greeting customers versus creating an authentic
relationship and truly engaging with consumers over time, whether it be face-to-face
A retail example in Figure 5 shows the key touchpoints on the customer journey
that are often called “moments of truth”. These are the moments on the customer
journey that will have the biggest impact on overall perception of the experience
and will drive customer advocacy if their expectations are exceeded. Developing
active customer advocacy is necessary to generate positive, peer-to-peer
recommendations and increase the positive share of voice online compared to
Make sure to stay tuned for part 4!
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