The Customer Experience IS Your Brand

Nancy Porte

Ensuring consistent delivery of the brand experience on the front lines of customer service has remained elusive for many companies. Airlines promise no-hassle traveling, and then make their customers deal with short-tempered flight attendants and customer service agents who cannot offer acceptable solutions. Software companies promise unparalleled customer experience, then only provide online access to solutions. Large home supply companies promise one-stop shopping for novice to experienced home-owners, then under staff their customer facing teams.

Like many business situations where practice becomes policy - when customer service and the brand are out of sync, customer service becomes the brand. Raising customer expectations through advertising campaigns only to have them dashed through actual interaction erodes the power of a brand. Customers need simple solutions and their satisfaction declines when they feel the process is difficult or ineffective. Companies can take three steps to assure their brand is delivered consistently to customers.

1. Provide multiple service channel options. Nowhere is the need for customer service options more apparent than when talking about generational differences. Baby Boomers (1946-1964) like individualist interaction. They like the human touch and are likely to pick up a phone when they need help. Gen X (1965-1980) needs communication to be direct and immediate. They are comfortable with both traditional customer service and technology so will determine which channel will give them the best result and use it. Generation Y or Nexters (1981-1995) are predicted to be the most challenging of all for us in the customer service world. They have grown up in an interactive, fast paced, technology savvy, multi-tasking world using cell phones, voice mail and email. They are used to instant gratification. They prefer online resources (don’t forget chat) and want direct and to the point communication. Remember, this generation is driven by speed. Getting their loyalty means providing the fastest service – every time. The bottom line is that unless a company plans to serve only one generation, multiple channels are necessary for customer satisfaction.

2. Choose authentic rather than unique experiences. Customer satisfaction is not earned through one interaction. It is built over time with consistent, positive experiences with the contact center. Many customer service departments work to achieve the uniqueness of the experience by creating a surprise or WOW moment. However, when it comes right down to it, the delight of the Zappos great customer experience is its consistency and authenticity! While the contact center representatives work very hard to offer customer solutions, they do it without scripts and with very few boundaries. Each contact center agent is encouraged to use his or her own style while focusing on the customer—which makes it authentic.

3. Measure your brand experience from the customer’s perspective. Many customer service departments mistake operational efficiency metrics for customer loyalty metrics. When asked about customer loyalty, they may recite their track record on response and resolution times. But, what if the most important part of the interaction for the customer is the first cal resolution or the quality of the online portal? Focusing on improving the contact center response and first call resolution times will make the department more productive, but that may not be enough for the customer to become a repeat buyer or advocate your company’s products and services. Savvy customer service departments know the top drivers of customer satisfaction and make those the priority for monitoring and improvement.

In this time of social media proliferation a customer’s experience can be sent to thousands or tens of thousands of people in a few seconds. By assuring that your customer expectations are understood and met, your brand and customer experience become synonymous.