Susan Pettit
Susan Pettit 11 April 2016

Big Brand Lessons: The Client Journey

I believe that those firms that get to grips with the importance of the client journey will be the ones to reap the biggest rewards – but what can other businesses learn from the big brands of the world?

I’ve always thought businesses in general could learn more from the big brands of this world.

Of course our audiences are different, and the budgets are certainly different. But at the end of the day, we all need to use resources we have available to convince others to choose our product or service.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting for a moment that everyone starts investing in off the wall prime-time advertising campaigns. But for me there is one thing in particular that big brands do exceptionally well.

They all invest significant amounts of time and money in understanding the client journey.

It’s one of those phrases that sounds clichéd. And maybe it is, but really getting to grips with what your clients (and potential clients) experience throughout their interactions with your business is the key to client retention, growth and of course, increasing that all important profit margin. Particularly now in this time of intense competition.

And why wouldn’t we want to learn from those with seemingly infinite budgets and research departments to rival NASA?

Moments of truth

In promoting and delivering our services we create dozens of moments of truth with each client (or potential client). This is where the client’s expectations are evaluated against their actual experience.

We have an opportunity to meet, exceed or fail, at each and every one of these moments.

Yet how many businesses out there have taken the time to really understand what each of these moments are? Many will have invested in evaluating service performance or satisfaction against a particular transaction, but what about the myriad of moments of truth that the client encountered before they reached those stages?

Millions of pounds are spent every year in the UK on branding, positioning and values statements for businesses, without investing time or resource in ensuring the actual experience matches the expectations created.

How many clients are lost at the first hurdle when brand expectations lovingly crafted by the marketing department are shattered by a bad switchboard experience or an un-returned phone call?

My favourite example when discussing moments of truth is Apple.

The company may have some fundamental issues with public opinion relating to its tax strategies, but that aside, Apple is in my opinion an excellent example of getting the customer journey just right.

Their branding and positioning sets the scene. Its shiny, slick and aspirational – there’s the start of an emotional connection. We already know their products are going to cost more than those proffered by the competition, but that’s OK, because we just want them (well I do anyway). They’ve made a brand promise that I buy into.

When you go into the store to peruse the products, it’s also shiny and slick. I went in to talk to one of their “specialists” (aka salespeople) about the latest piece of tech, yet the chap I spoke to went out of his way to tell me it was OK if I didn’t buy anything. He wasn’t on commission, he just loved talking about the products. And I genuinely believed him.

I bought a product and took it home. Almost a full year later, there was a problem with it. I’d no receipt, no proof of purchase, but popped back into the store to see if they could help. My details were checked on the system, the item taken away and immediately replaced with a brand new one. No questions asked. New warranty included. Guess how many people I’ve told that story to?

I’m what you might call a brand ambassador. Because they not only met, but exceeded, my expectations all the way through the buy / sell relationship. I now trust the brand, its products and its customer service. Next time I need a new bit of tech, guess where I’ll be heading?

Let’s get straight to the bottom line

We all want increased profitability.

The vast majority of businesses I have worked with strive to gain “trusted” status with their clients. Knowing that being in this coveted position increases loyalty and reduces price sensitivity.

But will traditional client management techniques get you there? Probably not.

The reason for this, is that there is (generally speaking) no emotional connection between the client and the business. The business has its priorities and the client has theirs. There’s a notion that somewhere there needs to be a meeting in the middle, but because the relationship has been established on two different sets of terms, any meeting of minds is often grudgingly given. Not the ideal foundation for a long term and mutually beneficial relationship.

Understanding your client’s expectations of their experience with you, means that you both start from the same place. If you meet (or exceed) their expectations as you progress through each moment of truth, you reaffirm the relationship, building trust along the way.

Now you’re getting closer to being a trusted provider.

Suddenly price is less important. This is because you have delivered what you promised at each and every stage of your relationship. Taking this approach also means that you are looking at the client relationship as a whole, reviewing the entire client lifecycle. This breaks down individual practice group silos, increases growth potential and identifies cross-selling opportunities.

According to McKinsey, customer journey led transformations improve satisfaction by 20% and full revenue growth by between 10% and 15%. Bingo.

Why does it work?

Buyers are more savvy than ever before. They all know it’s a competitive market, and that there are at least a dozen suppliers vying for every product or piece of work.

Give them a reason to stick with you. To trust the trusted provider, and not be hoodwinked by the alternative provider who says they can do the same job for half the price.

People need to feel valued. That they are important. Understanding the client journey and delivering against your brand and service promises, creates a feeling of real value and importance.  And lets not forget that embedded, trusted relationships are far harder to shift than the traditional supplier / buyer relationship.

Let’s look at a big brand example of how to make a customer feel important.

Lily Robinson (three and a half years old) was confused by one of Sainsbury’s products called tiger bread. In her eyes, the bread didn’t resemble a tiger at all, and in fact looked very much like a giraffe. I have to say I agree.

With a little help from her mum and dad, she wrote a letter to Sainsbury’s customer service department asking why it was called tiger bread and explaining that she thought it should be called giraffe bread.

To her surprise, a customer support manager wrote back. He explained: “I think renaming tiger bread giraffe bread is a brilliant idea - it looks much more like the blotches on a giraffe than the stripes on a tiger, doesn’t it? It is called tiger bread because the first baker who made it a loooong time ago thought it looked stripey like a tiger. Maybe they were a bit silly.”

Lily’s mum naturally loved the response, and posted a copy on her blog. Word spread and next thing you know, Sainsbury’s launched a campaign to announce the change in the products name. It’s still on the shelves now, labelled giraffe bread. I bet Lilly and her parents felt pretty good about that. And that’s the sort of emotional connection we all buy into.

What can we learn?

In my opinion, those businesses that really get to grips with the importance of the client journey will be the ones to reap the biggest rewards in the years to come. Remember that brands – in their beautiful shiny brilliance - create an expectation that needs to be met or exceeded throughout the entire lifecycle of a client.

Investing in one end of the journey (brand) or the other (client satisfaction) only reveals a very small part of the real opportunity.

paul martin
paul martin

Apple & its associates, hmm.
I impulse buy toys/books/.. and usually not on price. A few years back I popped into a Dundee phone store and treated my wife to an iphone4. The internet was a bit dodgy, she managed by not using it but otherwise it did the job. After a few years memory problems & hardware add-ons I bought for her not functioning meant that we went for an upgrade. We had delayed hitherto as iphones were growing bigger and bigger, she wanted a one to fit her small trouser pockets. Interestingly my odd enquiry had not mentioned the iphone5s but when sat comparing it to the iphone5se it seemed a no brainer as my wife did not need built in ApplePay. My mistake was to not do internet research on my Windows mobile, I trusted the slick Apple machine.
We got it home and the ¨range anxiety¨ started to set in. All the stuff transferred over and the new model configured by the store but (unlike the 4) it was not making it through half the day. I bought a power cable or two and casually mentioned the problem to various (¨ooo, common problem¨), checked the internet and discovered that it was a well known issue. Anyway, in order to assess the situation I popped back into the store with a ¨find my keys fob¨ which I had purchased recently at the same place. Ironically it appeared that the (unused) battery had run out and as I could not physically get one in Aberdeen - I thought I might get some sympathy. I don´t learn - no receipt = no service (the 1st Marks & Spencer rule of customer service).

To conclude we are switching off various features and the battery life seems to be improving but I cannot help yearning for the customer service of Jigsaw where I purchased and returned stuff and got some nice smiles.

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