This article was originally published on CMO.
Maybe it’s time to give up on customer experience. At least as we know it.
I say that because we’ve been talking about CX for nearly two decades now, and it doesn’t seem like we’re consistently or positively evolving customer relationships.
It’s not what you would expect in the so-called “Age of the Customer,” is it?
To move forward, let’s walk away from our fragmented view of CX. Instead, let’s commit to a bolder, more comprehensive initiative around brand experience.
Brand experience encompasses every touch point a company has with its customers, as well as its employees, partners, distributors, vendors, and all other stakeholders. Supported by the customer journey, physical and digital channels, and strategically important technology, it sets the priority as the quality of a user’s experience.
In the early days of online selling, it was easy to conflate CX with user experience (UX).
Everyone was struggling to come up with a blueprint for designing, selling, and delivering better experiences. Not surprisingly, the focus was on website design and usability, the hallmarks of UX.
But CX isn’t a visual design problem. And it’s certainly not limited to a person’s digital interactions with a company.
Enter brand experience, which is abstracted from the web, email, social, and every other channel a company uses to engage people. It draws from an understanding of all the interactions and the ways they impact each other.
By replacing the word “customer” with “brand,” we can expand the considerations as you design buyer, client, and employee journeys.
Brand experience tracks and maps both online and offline interactions. It considers a person’s interactions with your brand as well your competitors. And it focuses on a bigger vision of the overall impact your brand has on the people associated with it.
In addition, brand experience extends beyond the awareness and acquisition journey to encompass the sales journey, the product/service usage journey (support), and, lastly, the loyalty/advocacy journey.
Bottom line: Brand experience encourages a big-picture lens to evaluate experience in all of its contexts while also assessing the impact it has on every person affiliated with your brand, whether that person is a customer, employee, supplier, vendor or other stakeholder.
As technology has advanced, so have pressures on companies. There is an expectation, or at least a level of wishful thinking, that technology alone will bring every customer goal, revenue projection, and competitive challenge into alignment.
As a marketing technologist, I can assure you that it will not.
If you are going to own the brand experience, then you have to recognize a reality McKinsey cited as far back as 2009. Specifically, you need to back away from the metaphor of a “funnel,” which fails to capture all the touch points and key buying factors “resulting from the explosion of product choices and digital channels, coupled with the emergence of an increasingly discerning, well-informed consumer.”
As McKinsey noted, “A more sophisticated approach is required to help marketers navigate this environment, which is less linear and more complicated than the funnel suggests.”
Today, brand leaders need to influence far more touch points than ever before. That makes a strategic plan an essential first step because optimal brand experience is built on a foundation of strategy.
Why does your company do what it does? What is its mission?
Once you answer the “why,” you can more clearly assess all the journeys your customers and employees will embark upon, the channels that will support those journeys, and, finally, the marketing technologies that will enable them. You’ll have a clear vision to assess the technologies you need, how to integrate them, and who to turn to for help transforming your vision into an efficient, effective, repeatable process that scales as your business grows.
You’ll also have a deep and solid foundation for excellent brand experiences.
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