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March 18, 2013

What’s Your Brand Like When You’re Not Around?

Matt Vanderlinden's picture with the caption "Experience Matters"I had a couple of interesting experiences with brands over the last couple of weeks – one local, one national. While I’ll leave out the names to protect the innocent, I can tell you that both of these brands pride themselves on providing an excellent customer experience. And both fell short.

Now to be fair, neither experience was terrible. But in both cases, they didn’t live up to what the brands set as an expectation. Why? Because of little inconsistencies that inevitably show up when brands look at the customer experience in pieces rather than holistically.

Here’s one of my examples. I received an email from ‘Brand X’ asking me to call and clarify information about an order I had placed. So I called and answered the question. The gentleman taking my call was friendly and efficient. He did a great job and I hung up feeling really good about that brand.

Two hours later I get a voicemail asking me to call again. Now I’m starting to get a bad taste in my mouth. I call back and get the same guy I talked to the first time. He apologizes and explains that their system must not have updated, and that there were no additional questions. Now I’m hanging up wondering how good this company really is. Their internal process for handling customer information was inconveniencing their customers and degrading the overall customer experience.

So here’s the point. If you’re not asking yourself what your brand’s like when you’re not around, you should be. In today’s economy, hyper-connected consumers have a ton of choices for products and services. The brands that attract consumers today are those that are consistent and authentic.

There’s a great TED Talk by author Joseph Pine that provides the basis for the importance of brand consistency and authenticity. Pine says, ‘-authenticity is therefore becoming the new consumer sensibility – the buying criteria by which consumers are choosing who are they going to buy from, and what they’re going to buy.’

So the question is, does your customer experience align with your brand? Is the experience consistent across all the touch points that customers use to interact with your brand? To win customer loyalty, which is all about establishing trustworthiness, it has to be.

In her article ‘Aligning Customer Experience With the Brand Promise,’ Cynthia Clark, Senior Writer for 1to1 Media® puts it this way:

‘Companies are constantly making promises to their customers and prospects during every interaction as well as through advertisements and on social media. But customers don’t judge the organizations they do business with on what they say, but rather on whether they deliver on their promises, making it essential to ensure that the customer experience lives up to the brand promise.’

All of this points to the importance of that single question. What’s your brand like when you’re not around? Taking the time to thoroughly examine that question in a holistic way will undoubtedly help you increase the consistency and authenticity of your brand, and create greater alignment between your brand promise and your customers’ experiences.