Picture: ISTOCK
Picture: ISTOCK

According to a Forrester report on customer experience (CX), companies that deliver authentic experiences to their consumers, which are anchored by the brand and its vision, outperform not only competitors within their own categories, but also gain the trust of their customers – a feat that is becoming increasingly challenging in today’s climate.

The report, entitled “Root your CX vision in your brand” by Ryan Hart and Dipanjan Chatterjee, emphasises the importance of aligning CX strategy and the brand saying: “CX vision must link the brand promise and the experience that substantiates that promise.”

Consumers’ need for authentic brand experiences is not new; however, increasingly, authenticity is the result of a CX vision that takes its tone from the values that describe the brand and its purpose in the lives of its consumers. According to the report, the leaders in Forrester’s customer experience index are those brands that deliver experiences that link to their values and are guided by authentic, inspiring and mobilising CX visions.

Another survey undertaken by Forrester in 2017 (the Forrester Data Global Business Technographics Marketing Survey), revealed that 57% of marketing decision makers globally don’t focus on aligning their brands with CX – in fact, they don’t regard it as either critical or high priority.

The CX report highlights this statistic, calling it alarming, and adding that CX and brand alignment go hand in hand. Matt Watkinson, the author of “The Ten Principles Behind Great Customer Experiences”, says: “The ideal gap between the brand image (what customers are promised) and the brand reality (what they actually experience) is zero.” The reality, however, is that all too often there is a disconnect between what a brand promises to deliver to its consumers and what is actually the case.

This disconnect, the report points out, can be attributed to a number of factors. For example, many brands have what is termed a vague CX vision. As a result, customers develop a correspondingly vague relationship with the brand, coming and going as experiences go from being aligned to the brand and its values, to completely off-brand. This can be the product of a brand that is poorly defined, or through a lack of planning in terms of how the brand will translate into an experience.

Another reason for the dissonance is caused by a gap between the brand promise and the brand experience. A good example of this, the report says, is in the case of channel partners that use agents or distributors to sell many different brands, without differentiating between the experiences each brand offers.

The big take out

Winning CX visions should be centred on authenticity and delivering on the brand promise.

Unrealistic brand promises – overpromising and underdelivering – is an age-old problem where consumers are provided with unrealistic expectations that cannot be upheld – leaving employees frustrated and consumers dissatisfied.

The report explains that the first step in the all-important alignment between brand and CX vision is for customer experience professionals to immerse themselves in the brand promise, gaining an in-depth understanding of it that can easily be translated into the CX vision. The Forrester report emphasises that the promise should be rooted in the company’s values.

Ultimately, it can be viewed as storytelling, the report says, with CX professionals seeking out the narrative behind the values and translating the brand’s values into attributes. “CX professionals can infer attributes from the brand’s values, look for them in existing research and strategy documents or check to see if they are measured by a brand tracker,” it says, adding that it is important to remember that consumers attribute human characteristics to brands, perceiving and engaging with them as if they were people.

The final step, according to the report, is to collate the attributes to tell the brand’s story, one that is consistent across all communication platforms and brand expression. It is this story, rooted in authenticity, which becomes the launch pad for the CX vision.

It’s vital, however, for CX professionals to consider that, like all products and services in today’s environment, effective CX visions cannot be created in silos. Creative, collaborative thinking across the organisation is what is required to develop a CX vision that will lead to greater brand performance, says the report.

Finally, CX visions should authentically and accurately represent the brand’s values; be inspirational (by motivating customers and employees to take action) and mobilising in order to unite the entire organisation around a certain course of action. This is represented in the report by the acronym AIM (authentic, inspiring and mobilising).

All CX professionals, urges the report, need to consider authenticity as the backbone of the brand and its CX vision. “Companies have a responsibility to their customers, employees and shareholders to be authentic,” it concludes.