Originally published on GreenBook, June 2021.
In Part One of this series, three initiatives buckets were introduced. The initiatives designed to retain customers related to:
- competitive parity,
- retention and
- brand building.
In this part we examine CX initiatives designed to retain customers by identifying a hierarchy of those organizational actions and indeed, inactions that result in pushing customers away.
Alignment between Brand and Experience
In the pursuit of acquiring new customers, promises are made to the market. Brand building CX initiatives are the link between marketing and operational performance. Honoring brand promises with the delivered customer experience might seem an incredibly obvious goal however, in our experience, it is the most neglected of the CX initiatives buckets.
There are structural reasons why the convergence between brand and CX has been slow to take effect. Simply, marketing often “owns” the brand, and operations often “owns” experience. In the absence of the Chief Customer Officer, it is challenging for the organization to take an all-encompassing lens and for the marketing and operations fiefdoms to contemplate ceding territory or even just coordinating.
From a statistician’s perspective, it is not surprising that the drivers of sales are different from the drivers of retention. After all, reflecting the business outcomes, the dependent variables or outcomes are different (broadly CX=retention and brand=acquisition) and therefore, the modelled independent variables (areas for action) are also ordinarily divergent. On that basis, there seems little natural scope for convergence between brand and CX.
There are also practical reasons for the divergence. A brand promise tends to be at the helicopter level whereas, a customer experience commitment is built across a myriad of organizational touchpoints, interactions, and initiatives. And yet, organizations are cognizant of the need for operations to reflect the brand promise and at the same time, not detract from the day to day CX work.
There are criminal sanctions for organizations and executives not aligning marketing promises with customer experience
However, and perhaps above all, there is a clear need for organizations to forge the link between brand and CX. The requirement of organizations to match promises with experience is encapsulated in antitrust, misleading and deceptive conduct legislation. In some jurisdiction there are criminal sanctions for organizations and executives not aligning marketing promises with the customer experience.
How Many Brand Promises?
When it comes to marketing communications and making brand promises, great marketers subscribe to a philosophy of brutal singularity. In our experience, best practice in effective marketing communications is the Communications Triple Play. Brands communicate price competitiveness; quality and a primary discrete emotion involved in the consumption/use of the product/service. In those communications which are most effective at driving consumption behavior, emotion is implicitly elicited and price can be either implicitly or explicitly communicated. The single quality element is the choice attribute that the brand has decided to be distinctive on (i.e. reputation or performance based). This is sometimes referred to as the North Star.
The North Star is the superordinate brand promise which should be drawn from the mathematically derived, choice drivers
The North Star is the superordinate brand promise which should be drawn from the mathematically derived, choice drivers. Because the North Star is the preeminent brand promise, it must be matched with customer experience. Indeed, the North Star should be the primary link between brand and CX.
The greatest risks associated with developing a North Star occur when it is developed using opinion or instinct rather than science which identifies the customers’ choice drivers. In this instance, the North Star runs the distinct risk of becoming a distraction from the commercial goals of the enterprise. Our strongly held contention is that the North Star should encapsulate a primary driver (modelled to acquisition and/or retention) of behavior and it form the backbone of the linkage between experience and brand.
It is the responsibility of the organization to ensure such marketing promises are honored and that customer experience matches the promise.
About Forethought: Forethought is an advisory, strategy and analytics company driving business outcomes. Our focus is Brand, marketing communication, CEX and Offer Optimization. Taking the consumer’s perspective, Forethought is a global leader in quantifying the hierarchy of organization behaviors that drive customer response, both emotional and rational and subsequent action.
Ken Roberts is Executive Chairman and founder of Forethought.