With the evolution of the service industry, industries such as e-commerce and technology, the elements of brand-building have evolved significantly. In fact, today, even product-led organisations have a strong service pillar to their businesses. Brand-building, today, needs to go beyond the mere articulation of a brand promise, communicated to consumers through endearing, memorable creatives.
Often, brands focused on managing short term growth tend to undermine the criticality of loyal customers as the only way to build strong brands that deliver sustainable growth and profits. To build a base of loyal customers who advocate the brand, it is imperative for a brand to ensure that every single interaction with the customer across touch-points is delivered in an honest, sincere and empathetic manner. In other words, delivering superior customer experience is a key lever of differentiation, customer advocacy and business growth.
Customer experience needs to go beyond the designing of sharp strategies. It can come alive when delivered unfailingly and with perseverance, day after day, moment after moment of every interaction opportunity between consumers and an organization. This is possible when it transcends every function and employee of the organization, beyond Marketing and Customer Service.
While customer experience involves several aspects, I would like to highlight three critical ones: Customer Segmentation, Organization Culture and Employee Training.
In today's times, marketplaces and aggregator service-providers are common. A widely practised theme is the 'Segment of 1'. While the 'Segment of 1' can help in tailoring relevant transactional or tactical offers to individual consumers, at the core is the need for holistic value propositions designed to address the differentiated needs of different customer segments. Offers for the 'Segment of 1', when aligned with differentiated value propositions, can be a potent force in ensuring customer delight.
This is possible when, apart from behavioural analysis delivered by tailored offerings, distinct profiles are delineated for different customer segments for whom differentiated value propositions are created. These value propositions become the lighthouse for the tactical offers, making engagement quotient with consumers stronger.
For example, for most organisations, today, tech-enabled services either define the core business model or are a core part of their offering. However, all customers are not equally evolved on the tech adoption curve. Different 'go to market' communication, promotional and customer grievance resolution strategies are the way forward for each customer segment.
Service orientation needs to be a core element of the organization purpose with every function of the organization recognising that delivering superior customer experience is not only the responsibility of marketing or customer service but of the entire organization.
Organisations need to embed a culture of every employee 'double hatting' the role of a customer service executive in addition to their formal role.
To begin with, building such a culture is possible only if every employee is made to interact with customers in some form - beyond boardroom and conference presentations where customers are mere metrics and statistics - either through in-person conversations/ video calls/ listening in on customer complaint calls/ reading customer feedback, etc.
Over time, organisations need to develop a culture of pro-activeness, empowerment and reward system to enable employees to participate in the process of developing customer solutions and solving customer needs, thereby ensuring that that every employee feels a sense of ownership towards the customer.
All employees, especially the frontline employees, have to be trained relentlessly at both strategic levels and operational levels. Every employee needs to be connected to the vision, purpose of the organisation so that they appreciate how their work connects to a larger organization purpose. Training needs to encompass individual as well as cross-functional modules with refreshers at periodic intervals.
In the service industry, where the frontline employee plays a disproportionate role in bringing alive the brand experience and building brand reputation, the role of training cannot be emphasized enough. Often, operating in isolation at the last mile, the frontline staff can feel very disconnected from the organisation. Therefore, they need frequent training, to connect them to the larger organisational purpose, brand proposition and the criticality of their role in delivering it. Importantly, given varying levels of education among employees in the organization, the training content needs to be designed differently for different internal audiences.
(The writer is Founder of Brand Eagle Consulting. Her earlier roles include stints as brand custodian of Vodafone and ICICI Bank)