Monday, January 17, 2022
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Why planning breaks down and fails [Managing the customer experience]

🕐 4 min read

Installment 8 in a 10-part series by Bruce Anderson, a business management consultant in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

Warren Buffett said, “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it.” You can argue the timeframes but there’s no challenging the admonition.

Millions of interactions among humans and brands occur every day. This is where expectations that have been created, and promises that have been made, are met and kept (or not). Brilliant ideas, years of research and development, hundreds of millions of dollars of investment in production, distribution and promotion, and it all gets sideways in a hurry when a customer has a bad experience and goes thumbs down on your brand.

Ask United Airlines. It suffered the mother of all social media crises when a video of law enforcement officers dragging a passenger off one of its planes went viral. It wiped out $1.4 billion in UAL value overnight.

If you tuned in to my column last week, you know, “Your brand is your reputation and your reputation is achieved through consistent actions, communications and delivery of experiences over time. The process of building a brand is a continuous series of making and keeping promises that grows into a meaningful relationship. Your brand accumulates value as trust, confidence and loyalty escalate through positive direct and indirect interactions with others.”

Today, how people feel about your branded organization and its products and/or services depends on their most recent interaction and how it was perceived against the backdrop of prior experiences. Think of each new interaction as an opportunity to make a valued deposit in their goodwill bank. Those deposits demonstrate their worth when an individual has an encounter that rubs them the wrong way. Show them love every time you can. Like Seth Godin says, “It’s easier to love a brand when the brand loves you back.”

Customer Experience (CX) has emerged as the new competitive battlefield. We’re living in a world where organizations are disproportionately rewarded when they deliver a great experience and disproportionately punished when they deliver a poor one. That has everyone’s attention.

CX is a game changer. It can be the absolute brand differentiator. It possesses the power to enable a business to gain a true competitive advantage in a hurry and it’s moving rapidly toward overtaking the textbook differentiators (price and product).

I like simplifying things. At the base level, CX translates into knowing and understanding how people feel about a brand. Believe me, that feeling is a very clear indicator of how they’ll talk about you and spend their money.

The complexity comes with the realization that the customer experience entails everything that can leave an impression on a customer – direct and indirect – inside and outside the organization. The natural urge is to try to control as many variables as possible. That desire is what spawns all the talk about the customer journey and mapping all the various touchpoints, which are the where, why, when, how and with whom customers interact as they experience a branded offering of products or services.

Some leaders such as Apple have reimagined and engineered the CX so each touchpoint is managed to meet customers’ needs and make them feel truly valued in the process.

But that’s no easy task.

The challenge is that the customer experience is not a onetime event with one person. It’s a dynamic, ongoing, ever-changing series of interactions with a big universe of humans composed of diverse demographics, expectations, interests, personalities and IT skills. Success requires constant observation, deep analytical understanding and persistent management because customer perspectives and perceptions are fluctuating all the time.

Fundamentally, customers want the same thing now that they’ve always wanted – to have their needs met. But technology, jet-fueled by the speed of the internet, has enabled users to be more demanding, vocal and forceful than ever. They want instant attention through the channel that’s easiest and most convenient for them, a more personalized and intuitive experience, and faster resolution of their issue no matter how they choose to connect.

Hence, there’s a lot of construction, culture changing and training underway as organizations build out broad infrastructures to deliver a consistent CX across the diverse channels.

No one department can own the customer experience. It involves product, sales, marketing and customer service operating in unison in a tight circle around the customer. Through constant observation, the multi-department group is monitoring experiences and identifying and resolving gaps in expectation versus performance, usually related to communication, knowledge, standards and delivery.

The intent of all involved is to make every effort to produce experiences that delight customers and minimize the number who go thumbs down on the brand after being made to feel underappreciated, dehumanized, disrespected and/or defeated.

Customer experiences producing satisfactory trial, followed by established repeat purchase patterns, are incredibly valuable to an organization. Research says that returning customers will spend up to 67 percent more with you in year three than they did in year one.

Invest in managing customer experiences around your brand and you’ll be on your way toward producing a loyal army of consumer evangelists actively advocating for your organization and its products and services.

More next week.

Bruce Anderson is president and CEO of Anderson Consulting. Contact him at and @bruceadfw.

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