The brand experience, the essence of a relationship, is created by brand touchpoints. A brand touchpoint occurs any time a person in the marketplace interacts with the brand. To improve the brand experience, a firm needs to identify priority touchpoints and implement a program to improve those that are not on-brand.
Five Steps to Enhancing Your Brand Experience
- Identify all existing touchpoints, as well as those that should exist. Touchpoints can be under the control of the firm such through the communication programs, the public relations efforts, the customer contact points such as service and accounting staffs, sponsorships, or customer-focused programs such as the Tide Stain Detective. Touchpoints can also be external and controlled by retailers, run by third parties like the Consumers Report, or operated by a leading recipe website.
- Provide an internal evaluation of all the touchpoints to determine which are managed well and which are deficient. What organizational unit owns each touchpoint, how is it managed, and what person is responsible? Ask how well the touchpoint experience is being delivered with respect to internal expectations, external expectations, or the competition. What will it take in terms of resources and program change to improve the performance?
- Look to past, current, and future customers to determine which touchpoints have the greatest impact on their decision and experiences. What are their needs and expectations from the touchpoint experience, and is the organization delivering? Get the customers to use their own words to describe the touchpoints and their appraisal of the experiences – don’t put words and ideas into their minds. Ask them to describe the ideal touchpoint experience. Accepting the status quo as something you have to live with may prevent customers from identifying areas that should be improved.
- Prioritize and balance three dimensions. A high priority touchpoint program would have a high rating on the importance of the touchpoint experience in enhancing the brand, the value proposition, and customer loyalty, the degree to which the experience is deficient, and the extent to which the cost and feasibility of improving the experience is reasonable.
- Develop a touchpoint action plan. For the priority touchpoints, the goals of the touchpoint and who is responsible should be clearly identified. There will need to be accountability. Further, a development and execution plan to improve the touchpoint experience that includes performance metrics will be needed. The plans may have to involve multiple functional areas and coordinate with other touchpoint experiences.
The effort to improve the customer experience should strive to achieve simplicity and trustworthiness.
Customers want a touchpoint experience to be simple, easy to use, navigate and understand. They do not want complexity, information overload and frustration. The power of simplicity is shown by its effect on customer decisions. A study published in the Harvard Business Review found that those brands that scored in the top quarter on delivering simply, relevant information were 86 percent more likely to be purchased and 115 percent more like to be recommended to others.
Touchpoints around brand search are particularly prone to complexity and inconvenience, and are not oriented to brand comparison. Several automobile brands, recognizing that reality, do offer the ability to compare their brand to a set of comparison brands of choice. Anything that can reduce the complexity of a decision will be welcome. DeBeers’s uses the 4 Cs (cut, color, clarity and carat) to frame a complex decision. Herbal Essences provides a decision guide based on identifying hair type and color treatment needs that simplifies the decision. Information that is screened for relevance will be valued. ShoeDazzle.com, for example, provides shoe suggestions based on personality information such as favorite fashion icons and heel preference.
The customer also wants trustworthy, relevant information about brands and guidance on to how to compare them. Often, customer input is seen as the most trustworthy because it is based on actual experience without commercial bias. Walt Disney World’s Moms Panel, for example, answers questions about the Disney vacation. JC Penney posts videos of teens talking about their purchases (termed “hauls”) and provide insights into what and why purchases were made. TurboTax provides over 100,000 of unfiltered reviews of their product and helps customers find the most relevant reviews for their needs. Saks Fifth Avenue relies on expert commentary and has fashion writer Dana Riggs give fashion advice to its customers. Betty Crocker has an “Ask Betty” forum that provides the specter of the heritage expert.
Improving the brand experience at every touchpoint is one way to build and solidify brand relationships. Any failure of a touchpoint to deliver an on-brand experience can put customer loyalty at risk and provide an opening for competitors. Conversely, excelling at the touchpoint level will make the customer loyalty an ongoing source of brand and business strength. For more, see the book Building the Brand Driven Business, written by Prophet CEO Michael Dunn and Chief Growth Officer Scott Davis.