A brand exists in the minds of prospects and customers.  It is the sum of all expectations plus all perceptions of experiences. However, some expectations and experiences no longer remain tucked up in our brains because most of us we have limited storage capacity and tend to forget things, especially as we age (think senior moments). Unfortunately, we can’t control which and when experiences evaporate.

Marketers are professionals whose mission is to produce ads, brochures, web sites, trade shows, and other forms of expectations.  They work incredibly hard to make these expectations long lasting and positive. Operational people are also professionals and their job is to accomplish their organization’s mission and, as a side effect, they create customer experiences at every interaction.  The questions are; 1) will these perceptions of experiences be positive (from OK to WOW!) and 2) will they be long lasting?

This table shows the four possible answers to these questions:

I believe this table is self-explanatory so I will not explain each quadrant.

The 3 Challenges

  1. One usually unspoken challenge is that none of us retains the same memories (if they exist) for the same amount of time. But, as long as you are always creating positive experiences the mind will always retain some of them and not leave a void or even room for an old, negative experience to rear up its head.  As you can guess, I am an optimist.
  2. Another challenge is that the same experience can result in very different perceptions.  Otherwise, how can we explain the fact that Coke (include Coke and Diet Coke) is the most widely recognized product name (what Marketers call brand) in the world and the United States yet it commands only a 26.9% domestic market share for soda?  After all, “everyone” has tried Coke at least once yet when given a choice 3 out of 4 orders of soda are not Coke.
  3. For many of us the third challenge is the toughest.  It takes about 10 positive experiences to reverse the effects of one bad experience. If your business deals with the same individuals on a daily basis then in about 2 weeks after the negative interaction all is good again.  But what if you are a “New York Steakhouse” where people go for major celebrations or to take major accounts or prospects.  Are you really sure you will get another chance to change perceptions?  Maybe, but will you really get 8, 10 or 12 chances?  Depends on your competition, location, name recognition, and other factors beyond your control.

But if a bad experience can put one account in jeopardy is that really so bad?  YES on so many levels:

  • Every customer you lose will cost you a chunk of money to replace.
  • Losing a customer without a fight can start the employees on a journey down a very slippery slope to indifference to retention.
  • On average, the dissatisfied customer will tell 22 other people about why she will never deal with you again.  Each of your satisfied customers will tell 9 people.  Not such a great ratio.
  • 80% of your future revenue will come from 20% of your current customers.  The odds are 1 in 5 that the dissatisfied customer will be from the top revenue generator group.

Retaining customers is a constant one-on-one battle to create lasting, positive memories.  This is one battle that you can’t afford to lose!