In our white paper Because I’m The Customer, we defined brand as the sum of all expectations and experiences. This implies that a consistent message and set of experiences will lock in customer loyalty. However, after an experience or two, the memory of these experiences will replace the previous expectations. This makes experiences more important than expectations, but does not totally replace them.
When the experiences meet or exceed the expectations, the customer has positive feelings about the company creating the experiences. When the expectations exceed the corresponding experiences, there is great disappointment, disillusion, and dislike.
We compare experiences to expectations and want to believe the “better” of the two. But when expectations and experiences bounce all over the place, then our mind has a hard time deciding which is real and should be used for planning purposes. And when we can’t decide, we start looking for an alternate supplier who will deliver consistency. And it won’t be you.
This type of human behavior plays out all the time. We get frustrated when the call center recording says, “Your call is important to us. Currently all of our agents are busy assisting other customers. We project that your call will be answered in 7 minutes.” If our past experiences all ended happily with a live operator answering your call on the first ring you will be frustrated. Conversely, if our past experiences resulted in a 15-minute wait, we plan that into the call by putting your phone on speaker and attacking a short project so that the hold time is not a waste. But if the call is answered in 3 minutes and you are really into your 10-minute distraction project, you have mixed feelings – happy to get the operator and frustrated that you could not finish the short project. Again frustration.
Create processes and training that will reinforce the need for consistency. While this may sound easy, it is really pretty hard. Here is a high-level graphic of the process:
Some of the challenges:
- Agreeing across the whole company – most businesses are still siloed
- Agreeing on what is important, what is doable, and what is important and doable
- Finding enough evangelists in the business to start changing the corporate culture – really hard if the
- business has been around for any significant amount of time
- Convincing the organization to get on board and not just pretend like they are on board
- Establishing metrics to identify who is “in” and who needs additional coaching
- Measuring how the company perceives your new expectations and experiences
- Closing the loop
- Doing it again
The struggle you must face head-on
An obvious, but often overlooked, fact is that if making consistency the hallmark of your business model is as important as so many of us believe it is, the company-wide change efforts must be lead by the CEO. Without continuous, visible, internal messaging, the rest of the company will nod their heads and then do whatever they want to do. And your customers will never feel comfortable working with you. They will eventually exchange your for someone else and you will never know why.
Everyone pushes to have the CEO lead every important effort but, in this case, it really is critical to the long-term health of your business.