Every so often you have an encounter with a brand that reminds you how little marketers think about customer touch points and how difficult it is to control and shape the customer experience.
In an era where each and every customer touch can poison a relationship and where any customer can instantly become a viral critic, its surprising how badly brands are prepared to deal with everyday issues.
Consider two recent examples.
I go to the Citi ATM and the machine dispenses forty dollars less than I asked for. I validate the underage with the branch manager, who can’t or won’t do anything about it. She puts me on the phone, after an extended wait ( evidently there are no internal priority queues) with CSRs in Guatemala and India both of whom offer no resolution and piss me off. When the issue doesn’t self correct in 24 hours as they promised, the online form won’t take and symbols, like a dollar sign or the ampersand for my email address, and the 800 number is continually busy. No wonder we all hate banks!
Similarly I get an e-mail announcing that I canceled by New York Times subscription, even though I didn’t. The special number goes unanswered because of high volume, the main 800 subscription number doesn’t get answered, the subscription website takes 12 minutes to load and render and a reply to the email sender bounces. Do you think they’re telling me something about our relationship by this dramatic inattention? Is it a wonder that newspapers are dying?
These negative experiences are random. Neither brand seems to have any understanding of my purchase history, my status, my long term brand loyalty, my potential as a brand advocate or detractor or my relative profitability or lifetime value sufficient to save me from their systems. All the platinum cards, special clubs and other marketing blather turn to dust, when you want something simple done and your brand partner can’t or won’t deliver.
Very few brands think through and map the range of customers’ interactions with the brand or anticipate the result of these interactions on brand awareness, preference, purchase or loyalty. Branding experts talk about the essence and the expression of the brand but very little of their philosophizing gets built into the plumbing of service delivery. All the high falutin’ brand babble doesn’t matter when real customers want real engagement or real services.
Brands need to execute on the brand promise not only in ads but downstream – where transactions take place and where the battle for brand purchase and loyalty is joined. It starts with an attitude. Either you are a brand that understands me, helps me, meets me where I need things or you are not. This can’t be faked or masked by fun Facebook promotions or shortened URLs on Twitter.
Marketers need to assert quality control over all touch points and anticipate the likely service needs and emotional results of day-to-day business. Infusing the delivery system and the customer service system with a genuine brand ethos will pay off much faster and much better than accumulating thousands of online friends or measuring gross viral impressions