Are You Delivering on Your Brand Promise?

by Diane Berenbaum

A well-designed customer experience means aligning every point of customer contact, every “touchpoint,” with the brand promise. Many companies tout the uniqueness of their brand, but fail to consistently deliver on their promise. Expectations are then dashed and the brand erodes over time, as customers have a multitude of other options to consider.

Lippincott Mercer, a leading brand strategy consultancy, says that the brand is transmitted in every interaction with customers over the lifetime of the relationship.  And, they found that human interactions have the greatest impact on how a customer feels about a brand.

Consider my recent interactions with one of the top brands of electric garage door openers. In fact, they invented the apparatus in the 1920s. We lost one of our very old door openers, which we obtained 18 years ago, and needed a replacement.  Here are the touchpoints of our journey and their impact on our experience and impression of the brand.

A Website with a Clear Brand Promise and Values

Their stated brand promise was very reassuring:  “From the doors on Fort Knox to the doors on your home, it is our ribbon commitment to provide you with expert consulting, installation, and service. It's a total package we offer all wrapped up in a big red ribbon. That's how you will find us.”

I was pleased and relieved to see that their stated corporate values aligned with their promise:

  • Customers: It is our business to provide for the needs of our customers and to strive for 100% satisfaction, in our attitude and in spirit.
  • Integrity:  Always do what is right and conduct ourselves as professionals.
  • Communication: Create an atmosphere of open, consistent, two-way communication.
  • Excellence: Focus on continuous improvement – never be satisfied and always strive for challenging goals.
After this first touchpoint, I felt confident they would replace my old opener and treat me with respect in the process.

The First Contact is Promising

My husband called the company, explained our situation and spoke to a knowledgeable associate who was able to ascertain the exact model name and number after asking a few questions.  The associate confirmed that they had a unit in inventory.  We just needed to come into the office the next day to pick it up.  So far so good.

Follow-up Call Fails to Deliver

My plan was to pick up the opener the next day, so I called to ask about the company's business hours. The associate replied, “We are open Monday through Friday from 8 to 5”.  When I replied, “Hmm...I have a hectic work schedule.  So you're not open after 5 any day this week?”  She said, louder…and faster,” We are open Monday through Friday from 8 to 5”, as if saying it louder and faster would help.  It didn't help me, nor did it help the brand. No alignment there.

A Discouraging Visit

My face-to-face interaction with the company cast further doubt on their promise.  Arriving at their office at 8:00 AM the next morning, I could tell immediately who “she” was—the one I spoke to the night before.  I knew it was “her,” by her body language and facial expression.  She was on the phone and had a look like I was an “interruption,” a real bother.  She kind of glared at me; since I was looking at her with that very genuine, “Will anyone help me?” look.  After all, I needed to get to work.

When she got off the phone (which sounded like a personal call), she lumbered over and asked what I wanted.  I said I needed a garage door opener—model no. M1LM.  She asked how I knew I needed that exact model, implying I didn't look like the kind of person who would know that information.  After telling her my husband spoke with someone the day before and obtained the part number, she replied, “If I didn't talk to you then I can't help you.  Usually when I deal with a customer I have all the information I need and have all the paperwork ready.  I can't be sure of what you need.”

That was clear…and an understatement.

The Manager Steps In to Save the Day and the Brand, Momentarily

Fortunately, the manager came into the lobby and offered to help, in the friendliest fashion yet.  After giving him the model number, he told me that he remembered speaking to my husband and had the item we needed.  He even went “above and beyond” by showing me how to adjust the opener so it could work on both my doors.  I was feeling a little better about this experience, until…

Associates Focused on Themselves, Not the Customer

Another associate walked into the lobby, talking rather loudly on his cell phone.  This got on the nerves of another employee who looked directly at me and proclaimed that people shouldn't talk on their cell phones in the office. He proceeded to tell me that it is rude and he tells any customer or vendor to leave if they start talking on their cell phones! (I was glad I wasn't talking on my cell phone at the time!)  He proceeded to mumble about the rudeness of his associates, shook his head and muttered a few loud “tsks.”

Clearly, some touchpoints with this company chipped away at the credibility of their stated promise. Are these brand disconnects happening in your organization?  Research shows we stay with a company that delivers an experience that matches our expectations and their promise.  And you can understand why we stray, rather than stay, from the example I shared.

Six Strategies to Ensure Brand Alignment and Customer Loyalty

1.  Determine the touchpoints of your brand—from the first contact to after-sales service

Plot them out so you capture the sequence of events and every possible contact point in every channel of interaction and in every stage of the buying process. Keep in mind that the customer experience often continues long after someone leaves a store or even a website.

2.  Analyze how well your organization is delivering on your promise in each touchpoint

Identify gaps as well as any barriers to delivering on your promise, such as the most prevalent identified by Lippincott Mercer:

  • Inadequate staffing and training
  • Inefficient business processes
  • Lack of timely and complete information
  • Misaligned incentives and rewards
  • Poor communication with associates and customers

3.  Seek input and feedback from customers

Customer input will help you further define the gap between your stated promise and the ideal customer experience.  Once you obtain this feedback, align your people, processes, and products/services with the needs and expectations of your customers.  Continue to seek feedback to stay attuned to their ever-changing needs, particularly in these shifting economic times.

4. Focus on those touchpoints that have the greatest impact

Lippincott Mercer found that human interactions have the greatest potential for delight—and problem resolution and customer service are the top touchpoints for improving customer perception. Provide associates with a quality standard for these priority contacts, then provide training and coaching to ensure the consistent delivery of that standard.

Interestingly, they also found that electronic interactions do not delight customers, but they have a great potential to destroy brand equity.  So think first before replacing people with technology. It may help efficiency, but it could hurt brand equity.

5. Engage your associates in the process

They are the true keepers of your brand. Ask for their input on how to delight customers and encourage their creativity and initiative. Focus on their continued development and find ways to empower and reward them to model the standard in every contact. Employee commitment and engagement will have a quantifiable impact on the customer experience.

6. Assess and reassess

Many organizations believe they are delivering a "superior customer experience,” yet often only a small percentage of their customers give them this rating.  Our perception may not be reality, which means it is important to objectively evaluate your progress on each of the identified gaps. Use customer feedback to determine if changes are needed in products, processes and people.

You may also need to refine your assessment process along the way to include new variables identified in customer satisfaction.

If the electric door opener manufacturer I visited implemented these six strategies, I am confident it would open the door to many more opportunities and more satisfied customers.
Diane Berenbaum is a long-time contributor and former editor of the MAGIC Service Newsletter. She has more than twenty-five years of experience as a consultant, coach, and facilitator. Diane is the co-author of How to Talk to Customers: Create a Great Impression Every Time with MAGIC® .
Before and After
Before and After
Just one "tragic" contact can influence your customers' perception of your company (and their buying decisions). Listen to the difference MAGIC® can make.