How to Successfully Invest in Brand:Part 3
Put relationship and customer needs before organizational or sales needs.
Touchpoints must meet a personal need at a specific point in time.
Determine between which are perception & performance metrics.
FROM START-UPS TO CORPORATIONS
Mike Emery of BRAND ECONOMIX offers brand investment thinking with an emphasis on creating brand equity and value. Part 3 considers ways of developing an attitude and constant reassessment of pleasing customers and how to develop and put touchpoints in context.
Build brand relationships & communities
If there’s one thing to be learned that fits with today’s super-connected world it’s that brand owners need to concentrate on the customer’s needs before their own organizational needs – or their natural desire to want to sell products or services.
Customer expectation that brands need to provide a seamless customer experience have never been higher.
Customers also want access to brands to be ubiquitous, comprehensive, full-on and 24/7.
Brand development needs to be an on-going process
Presently, standards, modes of access and brand-engagement cultures are changing faster than many companies can react.
Responsibility for the entire customer journey requires an empowered, cross-functional and agile team that reports directly to C-Suite.
For organizations and relationships to prosper over the long haul, the team must consider and continually monitor, and when necessary, revise how they’re approaching the customer journey. They need to understand – first how to build touchpoints around what is meaningful customer context – and, after that, how they’ll go on approaching it.
C-Suite’s role is now required to be much more critical and pro-active – to lead and to go beyond the immediate brand investment discussion. For them, that’s always asking the question, “what next?” not just, “what now?”
Many marketing strategies concentrate the whole of their touchpoint resources at the top of the funnel e.g. “awareness” and then below at the “interest” level, usually measuring response somewhere within the point-of-sale environment. To reinforce the potential loyalty of new customers, we've found they're often often much more readily open and susceptible to a brand appreciation at, for example, post-purchase, when it comes to their consideration of “did I do well?” or “did I have a nice experience?”
Touchpoints in context
Perhaps the second learning is defining touchpoint as a human need at a point in time.
Earlier definitions of a fixed touchpoint – where a customer experiences (or doesn’t experience) a brand – now seems insufficient; merely being a point of contact doesn’t seem to work as customers have all sorts of needs that are transient and need satisfying in place and time.
And that leads to a further refinement where the touchpoint becomes a point on the way to the customer getting information but in an interactive process, one that involves satisfying a human need.
Applying caution when customers appear to conform
Many of today’s marketing strategies still assume that customer behavior is rational, structured, linear, logical and orderly – which it isn’t.
Deep diving analysis almost always shows that customers are complex, unpredictable and impulsive, using a myriad of border-less devices and channels e.g. mobile, internet and email.
However, many of today’s brand managers will still cling to measuring satisfaction – generally in the form of a yes or a no customer response – at each touchpoint.
Yet if you ask the customers of, say, any cable company at each fixed touchpoint (call centre, engineer visit, website etc) whether they had a satisfactory experience, the chances are they will say “yes”.
But then perhaps the company wonders why their measured customer experiences of satisfaction aren’t matching their increased levels of churn, if everyone is so “happy”?
The answer is surely now to learn to look what might be happening between the touchpoints for more nuanced answers and clues to what might be driving their customers away e.g. better streaming internet content elsewhere; silly charges introduced extra to a package for specific events; increased monthly subscription rates?
Customers may be getting really angry without brand management knowing – or truly understanding why. And when they’re not communicating with the brand, customers tend to all tell other people, in a connected world, how upset they are…and affection or loyalty to a brand can dissipate rapidly.
Keep an open mind on what’s important
Sometimes, some elements of spending on brand can be hard to quantify or justify a tangible or positive outcome or return – yet often analysis can suggest that they might be a good idea to try and to test.
Consider the case of Waitrose UK supermarkets giving free coffee and newspapers to their loyalty-card customers. Waitrose’s brand perception has always been to aim at the more elite shopper and their strategy produced a backlash of customers who were unhappy that coffee-drinking “lower classes” were now filling the store who were not enhancing the up-market image.
Not only are Waitrose now the #2 provider of all coffee in the UK – much to the annoyance of McDonald’s, Starbucks and others – their supermarket sales have proved the strategy seems to work very well in improving market share when others are losing.
There are two messages here.
1. You can’t please everyone all of the time.
2. Giving away a million free cups of coffee and newspapers every week is a vast expense and substantially impacts the bottom line. It takes boldness and initiative – first to test – and then to take that kind of risk but, when successful, can return the investment over and over again.
Don’t lose sight of the big picture
However, what we do know is that many cost-to-service metrics can effectively destroy a business because usually they are closing the stable door after the horse has bolted.
Blockbuster and Yell are great examples of how managements lose sight of what’s going on around them.
For Blockbuster, it was the customer need to physically go to a store, browse, and purchase, much like a library.
When Netflix came along, Blockbuster filled their stores with cheap merchandise to boost non-video sales in an attempt to offset a loss of video income and extract more return for a vast and costly network of high street retail outlets.
For Yell, once a cash cow and the advertising 1st choice of any small business, Google and the internet were always going to be the more-efficient, first-search option for local tradespeople.
In both cases, managements had got removed from understanding the real value proposition of their businesses and unraveling the dilemma of whether they were competing on customer experience – or, say, on cost, efficiency, or productivity.
Brand Customer Privilege
No one likes a miserly brand.
Consider the airline that introduces a charge for baggage handling, carry-on bags, more legroom, reservation or cancellation fees – all areas ready to inflame customers who may believe these elements should continue to be part of the base price.
However when it comes to making a charge for on-board Wi-Fi or the latest entertainment, either might be considered a pleasing bonus or an attractive differentiator – little luxuries that are more understandably not part of the base price.
A key to success is constructing meaningful or delightful branded offerings that suggest and deliver a privilege – and offering them as a choice to the customers, so that the customer feels empowered by the brand whenever a choice is made.
More ROI for your brand investment
We’ve found that an audit of customer-service requests can also help to clarify priorities and not only to save expenditure going in the wrong direction but also sometimes to prevent making too much of a solution that doesn’t work well in any event.
As an example, we discovered that there may be a thousand different reasons (some say more than 2,000) for customers to contact a call center but figures show that probably around only 3% of the problems account for 60-70% percent of call volume and attract 50-60% of call center costs.
An audit strategy might then suggest the potential to design more online solutions for even a quarter of the 3%, which might then increase efficiency whilst reducing call-center volume and costs, perhaps, by as much as 50%.
Monitoring the whole customer journey
Continuous improvement can only be ensured by measuring customers’ experience by channels and their migration between channels.
Not everything you try will work.
However, a Lean Start-Up approach, even for big corporations, one that involves multiple testing strategies in small numbers at minimal expense, is clearly a very useful attitude to embrace – and one that can produce many customer insights and surprises of how customers want to be delighted
Bad things are not always obvious when times are good.
Sony Ericsson, Washington Mutual (WaMu), Enron, Lehman Brothers, PanAm, Saab, Hummer and Barings Bank are all examples of iconic brands that died because of inattention.
In the investment words of Warren Buffett, “After all, you only find out who is swimming naked after the tide goes out”.
We experienced a situation where a major quadruple-play cable company was experiencing massive churn to a satellite competitor and horrific acquisition costs when there seemed little in terms of product offering or price to differentiate one provider from another.
Sales and Service personnel were doing their jobs but in a vacuum – since what needed to be addressed was not just the effectiveness of each individual touchpoint but the way in which there was no obvious responsibilty in the company to connect the touchpoints and to fix a big hole in the service delivery chain.
The solution meant providing better staff training and giving more pro-active managerial responsibilities for overall customer satisfaction and offering rewards to achieve more loyalty, lower acquisition costs and higher customer lifetime value.
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