When is the last time you read your brand promise?
Does it resonate with you? Does it resonate with your customers?
As a quick refresher, a brand promise articulates what your customers and employees should expect from all interactions with your people, products, services and company. It’s the experience you pledge to deliver now and throughout the relationship.
Much like in relationships, what you say and intend for someone to hear is often not what the other person takes away. Such is true for your brand promise. There’s what you say, and in turn, what people experience and ultimately share. This behavior creates an experience divide — the distance between your brand promise and the experiences people have and eventually share throughout the customer lifecycle.
In a connected society, these expressions are influential in decision-making as they form new impressions within social networks, online communities and mobile apps. If you do not measure the experience divide and understand what’s forming the disconnect, you cannot mind or bridge the gap. As a result, the experience divide leads connected customers away from you rather than attracting them.
Customer retention is valuable. Customer acquisition — through the sharing of positive experiences — is priceless. Without understanding the nuances of an experience divide, the opposite becomes a liability. The sharing of negative experiences contributes to a need to invest greater funds and resources in customer acquisition. However, dissenting experiences that go unrecognized or worse unaddressed create a vicious cycle.
The customer experience equation
The formula for addressing the customer experience is as old as it is simple…
- Great experiences contribute to customer satisfaction and loyalty.
- Great experiences that are shared influence the behavior of other customers.
- Negative experiences contribute to customer abandonment.
- Shared negative experiences ward off prospective customers.
The experience divide therefore is a tangible representation of where your brand sits within the mix above. Are the experiences people have and share in alignment with your brand promise? To answer the question, everything begins with understanding the state of the divide, its breadth, defining sentiment, and pervasive themes.
The first step is to listen. When you do, reality sets in and empathy unlocks. You see what people feel and therefore you can’t help to feel it too.
When writing my previous book, The End of Business as Usual, I studied the experience divide for several companies. In one quick example, I listed to real-time conversations around a well-known cable service provider. I then fed the conversations into a word cloud generator to visualize oft used words associated with the brand. Next, I ran the company’s “About” page from their web site through the same process.
While not scientific, you clearly see a divide between the brand promise and the ultimate customer experience. In a connected economy, where conversations and shared experiences are currency, this is the company’s brand.
An experience divide exists today for your brand. And, it occurs at every step of the customer journey, in every moment of truth.
No amount of clever marketing or SEO is going to bridge the gap between intention and reality. Only empathy, aspiration, and perseverance will reshape impressions to spark desired expressions.
Studying the experience divide before, during and after transactions is the birth of rebirth…an opportunity to begin a new beginning. This is the time to create a sense of urgency driven by a sense of purpose. From product development to marketing to sales to service to loyalty, creating and instilling meaningful experiences represents the future of branding and relationships.
How are you bridging the experience divide at your organization to further your brand purpose?
Brian Solis is the author of the book, What’s The Future of Business. He is also a principal analyst at Altimeter Group. AT&T has sponsored this blog post.