Living Value: When Brand Meets Customer Experience

I had a conversation with a former colleague this morning, an authority on call center customer experience. Dr. Walter Rolandi is a voice user interface (VUI) expert, meaning he helps companies improve telephone-based interactions between customers and companies.

We have worked together on speech-recognition applications, finding ways to efficiently handle customer requests with automated solutions. This is a tall order because automated voice response (AVR) technology can easily complicate, not simplify, efforts if it is not applied correctly. (You know what I mean if you’ve ever tried to get an “Operator” without success.)

Our conversation reminded me how important it is for organizations to extend their brand to the customer experience, rather than allowing touch points like call centers or self-service solutions to stand on their own.

When I say this, I am not talking about adding advertisements to the recordings you play on hold. And I’m not encouraging you to ask every third customer to “hold to take our survey” so you can find out what they think. What I do mean is that your brand should inform the very architecture of your approach to serving customers.

Instead of simply saying that you want every customer to have a “good experience” when they engage with your company, think about what it really means to deliver service that is consistent with your brand.

  • Do customers get stuck in “voice mail jail,” running through endless prompts in an effort to have their questions answered…while your system is telling them how valuable they are?
  • Do you provide live operators with questionable language skills…while touting your “best in class” service?
  • Are some agents dramatically more skilled than others at meeting customer needs…creating an inconsistent experience?

Perhaps your efforts to control costs result in unintended consequences for customers. Do you allocate a certain amount of time for an agent to handle each call, causing them to be abrupt instead of taking time to listen to what customers have to say? Are support hours limited and not convenient for your target market?

All of these questions are important to ask on a regular basis. The answers will provide clarity in terms of what it’s like to be a customer of your company. But they won’t specifically indicate that your customer experience is consistent with your brand. For that, you need to dig a little deeper.

Think about the brand messages you send your customers that imply a certain level of service and support will be delivered they’ve paid a premium for a product or service, a higher level of attention will be expected. Customers who pay top dollar will be extremely disappointed to find that a customer service experience is not consistent with the high-end quality promised by the brand. Likewise, if your corporate brand is fresh, fun and creative, the attitude presented through your support channels should reflect a similar perspective.

The way a customer experiences your brand goes far beyond service and support, extending to sales strategies, market decisions and product selection. Branding is not simply a creative exercise. Building brand value requires a holistic approach to understanding customer expectations and experiences from top to bottom, inside and outside the organization.

Brand equity – the tangible value of your brand – can be increased exponentially when customer experience not only mirrors your brand, but provides a living testimony to the attributes you aspire to embody.

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