Customer Experience: The Brand Alignment Approach

Andrew S - 16 th May 2017

Customer experience development is - and always has been - a hot topic for businesses. But executing it well is also one of the biggest challenges businesses around the world face.

To succeed, brands must bust silos by treating the physical and digital experiences as one, create an aligned employee experience and break down traditional departmental boundaries. Which means putting people - your customers and your teams - at the heart of everything you do. It also means creating a compelling brand vision that can be hot wired throughout…

A thousand small gestures make a brand

As Michael Eisner, CEO of Disney between 1984 and 2005, once said…

“We came to think of Disney as a canvas on which many artists paint in pointillist style - one dot at a time. If each of these dots is executed with precision, imagination and an awareness of the whole, the painting becomes richer, more vibrant and multi dimensional. Walt Disney and his team created such a masterpiece.

When a new group of artists come along, the risk is that they will bring a diminished commitment to excellence, or a lack of attention to the whole. Then the opposite occurs - point by point, stroke by stroke, the masterpiece deteriorates into something mediocre and commonplace, even ugly, until eventually it’s destroyed all-together.

A brand is a living entity, and is enriched or undermined cumulatively over time, the product of a thousand small gestures.”

Silos are no longer helpful. Businesses need different departments, wide ranging skills and varied viewpoints to work together. There is a need to share, and to be better, stronger and more enlightened for it. Ultimately, this coming together - these thousand small gestures - enables delivery of a superior experience.

And even then, for businesses to deliver a seamless customer experience and remove friction from each of their touch points, they must align all of this to the brand.

But brand alignment is lacking.

So, over the next few weeks we will be pinpointing how businesses can improve their customer experience and ensure every part of it aligns to the brand. Starting with this overview…

The Brand Alignment Approach

Brand must be at the heart of your customer experience if you want to create experiences that are meaningful to everyone - existing customers, potential customers, and your team. After all, if a company isn’t building an emotional connection with its customers, it is not building a brand - it is building an operation.

Organisations that use their brand as a lens through which to build their customer experience will differentiate themselves…

To develop a clear and unified vision of where you want to be - as a brand and a business - you must adopt an approach that works with the grain of the business.

It should engage and inspire your people, whilst flexing around your business needs and ambitions. But most of all, it needs to focus on delivering tangible results.

So what is in the makings of a good approach?

  • It must empirically prove the need to change using insight and data from both inside and outside of the business

  • It should be built upon a strong business case, rather than a fluffy concept

  • It should help you develop a vision that is not only understood by everyone it touches, but inspires and engages them too

  • Based upon an envisioned customer experience, it should deliver an alignment strategy that is built by the best people from all across the business

  • It should map the short, medium and long term deliverables into a cohesive plan that also sets productive priorities

  • It should provide a measurement process that informs the business of progress towards its ambitions and warns about deviation

Enter the Brand Alignment Approach.

It helps deliver a more competitive and disruptive brand that is delivered through customer experience, by aligning the needs of both the customer and the business. And it addresses the whole journey; the digital and the physical.

After all, this is how customer expect brands to perform - combining the digital and physical to deliver one, seamless experience across multiple channels.

The Brand Alignment Approach comes down to 5 things…

1. Exploring

To start on this journey to becoming more customer-oriented, and to build your brand through your customer experience, you have to start with the facts.

You need to ensure your executives are on board, and that they understand and are excited about the path ahead. They should be energised and committed from the off; without their backing, transformation is near impossible.

This is where the facts come in…

To convince your senior team, you need to present a strong, evidence-backed business case. Help them see the pressure for change and understand the value it will bring to the business.

So open your minds and your ears. Find out what people think of your business and brand and paint an honest picture of where the company currently stands.

Combine quantitative and qualitative methods to help link the why to the what and make sense of the feelings behind the figures…

  • Map the existing customer journey

  • Look at the brand through the customer’s eyes

  • Gather the unadulterated emotions of the team

2. Visioning

A clearly articulated and robustly researched vision has the power to transform a business.

It can harness the enthusiasm and passion of the people who work there and focus effort on what needs to be done. All whilst saving money by highlighting what shouldn’t be done too.

The vision itself should look forward. It should set out what the brand should be, what values should guide it and what personality it should have. And it should have one interpretation; an interpretation that the entire business can buy into.

First, define your values. Brand or organisational, they should be powerful, deeply set and almost immovable. Keep them compelling to customers and use them to guide the way the organisation works.

Then workout the vision with a visioning workshop. Engage all those at the top: the Operation Directors, Human Resources Directors, FDs, MDs, and CIDs. And the burger seller. Tap into and open their minds, bust silos and manage egos.

Next, test your vision out. Understand why people are responding the way they are and what exactly they are responding too.

Your objective is to remove any friction your customers might have with your experience. So remember, customers expect you to perform consistently across all channels; make sure you address each aspect of you experience in your vision - the digital and the physical.

3. Aligning

Bring reality to your business by aligning the needs of your customers with the needs of the business. Without this balance, the programme will fail to deliver any return to the business. So remember…

  • Customers get frustrated when brands try to create amazing moments at one touchpoint, but neglect the others. They want the customer experience to shine through at every touch point and across every channel.

  • Employees are fed up of empty promises. They want a sense of direction and help doing the job they need to do to please customers.

We have the high level map. Now we need to add the detail and action plans, bring together teams from across the business and nail what needs to be done.

To deliver truly effective alignment, we must start with the brand basics. Those essential experiences that customers expect a company to deliver - done in a recognisably branded way.

Executing these well will move you one step closer to a distinctive, irresistible customer experience.

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Once you’ve nailed your brand basics:

  • Get the right people on the job

  • Identify your brand amplifiers - or ‘wow moments’

  • Stick to the evidence based approach, and test the envisioned customer experience on your customers

4. Delivering

Delivering your brand promise is the difference between good and great customer and employee experiences. And being inspired to deliver it well each and everyday is the powerhouse of this new era of branding.

After all, seamless delivery creates great brands for you and your customers.

To deliver an irresistible experience, keep the following in mind:

  • Don’t lose sight of your customer. Keep them front of mind throughout delivery planning

  • Keep your brand at the heart of it all. Use the brand as a lens through which to look at all of the interactions with customers.

  • People make it happen. If you focus on getting the inside of the business working well and aligned to the brand, then your people will start to work together and deliver a better experience to customers.

  • Focus on the entire customer journey. Don’t lose sight of any customer touch points; they all have an impact on the experience and influence the customer journey.

5. Measuring

This entire approach is a continually evolving process. And to keep on improving whilst driving your brand’s vision, you need to know how well you’re doing, what progress you’re making, what’s working, what isn’t working, and why…

It is only with this knowledge and understanding of your programme that you will be able to build something sustainable - rooted in continuous improvement.

When measuring the new customer experience concept, you need to be able to show three things:

  • The standing of the brand: how well customers, potential customers and the team think the brand is aligned to its vision and values

  • A diagnosis of what is (and isn’t) working: are you delivering the critical things and individual points that are crucial to your business vision?

  • Action: what this all means in terms of behaviour and whether it is meeting the expected results.

This means taking samples from customer, potential customers and the team.

But how?

Well, it’s time for a brand tracking revolution.

Brand Alignment is simple

In short, brand alignment is the coming together of a brand’s positioning, values and personality through the customer experience… A customer experience that encompasses every possible interaction with the brand across the digital and physical touchpoints.

But we know it is one of the biggest challenges businesses face today - and this post only touches the surface. So over the next few weeks - months in fact - we are going to delve deeper into customer experience development.

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Andrew is the CEO and the other founding partner of Brand Vista. With over 30 years of brand experience both on the client and agency side, what gets him up every morning is a passion for helping clients grow through building genuinely differentiated brands that deliver a customer experience that becomes irresistible.
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