You spend years molding and shaping your business—its tagline and mission statement, its website and marketing materials, its product and services—so that the experience it offers is unique, memorable, and flawless. However, what experience are you truly working to refine?
When it comes to your company, there’s a tale of two experiences. There’s the brand experience and then there’s the customer experience. Some may mistakenly use these two terms interchangeably, yet the differences between them are anything but subtle.
The Big Difference
Brand experience is how you hope your customers and others see your company. This is the experience that, too many times, businesses devote too much of their attention to—perfecting the tagline, planning paid media, etc. You hire teams of designers, writers, marketers, and more to create this desired image.
However, customer experience is the reality. It’s what’s actually happening on the sales floor, in the checkout line, or on the order screen. You may have an engaging website or a fun tagline, but if there is a disconnect between the experience your marketing team is selling and the experience your customers are actually getting, all of your hard work, your molding and shaping and planning, has gone to waste.
In an ideal world, these two experiences would fit together like puzzle pieces. However, more often than not, this isn’t the case. In the Forbes article “Brand or Customer Experience: Who Leads, Who Follows?”, David Cooperstein lays out some pretty good examples of companies who’ve made this mistake in the past, including Ford, Microsoft, and Best Buy to name a few. Other examples aren’t hard to find.
Think of your own experiences. National retail and fast food chains are known for their short and sweet taglines: “Expect Great Things,” “Life. Well Spent,” and “I’m Loving It.” But have you ever had an experience at these stores that was anything but what was promised? If so, these taglines can quickly turn from fun and catchy to frustrating and almost mocking, which doesn’t make for a good company-customer relationship.
A Perfect Match?
So how can you make sure the brand experience you’ve worked so hard to perfect matches the customer experience you’re striving to offer?
- First, and most importantly, listen to your customers. Solicit feedback and hear what your customers are saying. Where do their experiences deviate from the brand experience you’re trying to offer? Where can improvements be made, not to the brand experience, but to the customer experience?
- Be more transparent. Transparency will carry over well from brand experience to customer experience. Post feedback and reviews on your site to show customers that you’re listening. Don’t hide negative feedback, address it. Spend more time on social media interacting with your customers, rather than promoting your brand, advertising your product, or simply trying to be witty.
- Learn how to manage your data. Numbers don’t lie. If your campaigns aren’t performing up to par, maybe it’s time to take a look at whether the promises you’re making in your marketing aren’t living up to the experiences you’re delivering. Data management also helps uncover customer interests, allowing your marketing team to shift focus onto what customers themselves want to see.
Next, it’s time to take what you’ve learned and make improvements. First and foremost, use the data and the feedback you’ve acquired to improve your customer experience. Retrain your employees, change your online ordering system, update your coupon policy. Do what you can to make sure your customer experience is matching the brand experience you and your team envision.
However, this isn’t to say that your brand experience doesn’t need to be changed, as well. You may find that your brand experience is outdated. It may no longer be relevant in this rapidly changing world. Maybe it needs to account for a disruptor in the market or new technology. If your brand doesn’t evolve with your customers, you’ll quickly be left behind—with very few customers to give an experience to in the first place.
So, the next time your company talks about experience, it’s important to take a step back and ask yourself: which experience? The one your team promotes, or the one your team actually practices? They may not necessarily be one in the same…
Contributed by: Kyle David