Successful brand leaders know that attracting loyal customers isn’t just about the product. It’s about offering an experience that creates an emotional connection between the customer and brand.
This emotional connection is what keeps customers returning long-term. In fact, emotion is now the No. 1 driver of customer experience, according to Forrester.
This means that consumers today have a more personal and reciprocal relationship with their favorite brands. Brands that tap into these emotional expectations at all stages of the customer journey—whether they’re reaching new customers or engaging with loyal, returning customers—will reap the financial benefits.
But it’s clear that many brands miss the mark when it comes to their CX strategies. That might be because leaders simply do not understand what is important to customers, as revealed by InMoment's 2017 CX Trends Report. This annual study surveyed 20,000 consumers and 10,000 CX leaders across 12 countries and analyzed areas of customer experience alignment between consumers and brands, as well as disconnects.
The results revealed the gaps between what customers actually want and what brands think customers want. A simple but fundamental misunderstanding can lead brands astray when planning for a strong CX strategy. So what can brands learn?
Stop Making It So Complicated
As it turns out, “satisfied” (38%) is the top emotion consumers feel when they describe great experiences. It’s also the top emotion (40%) they associate with brands to which they are loyal. With all of the talk about the “empowered consumer” and their rising expectations, it’s common for brands to feel and act as if there’s no way to win.
In turning to the unstructured customer comments also included in the study, we found a more encouraging truth: Most customers simply want what they believe they’ve been promised.
Unfortunately, only 29% of brands ranked satisfaction as the top factor in customer loyalty, overvaluing “feeling important” and “being a part of something special.” In an attempt to offer great, differentiated experiences, many brands deliver the wrong value to customers.
For example, a consumer retail brand sent its staff to Disney for customer experience training. Inspired by their training, employees began delivering what they thought was above-and-beyond customer experience. While a “Disney experience” works well for Disney, it can look silly at a brand valued for its efficiency and knowledge. Customers noticed and social comments flew. What they expected and really needed was fast, helpful service, not a gushing welcome.
It’s nice to delight customers, but not at the expense of consistent delivery on their core expectations. Focus first on getting the foundational elements right, and then work toward experiences that delight and are consistent with your brand.
When It’s Bad, It’s Very Bad
While it seems easy enough to simply meet basic expectations, brands should not take this task lightly. Because customers’ expectations are so reasonable, they tend to experience strong, negative emotions when these expectations are not met.
Consider a common scenario. You receive an offer from your favorite retailer. Naturally, you think the product is available to purchase at the advertised price. Instead, you go online and can’t find it, it’s out of stock, or it’s available, but at twice the advertised amount. How would you feel?
The consumers we asked weighed in: They were nearly twice as likely to associate “anger” with negative experiences than with brands (19% versus 10%), and 23% of consumers said they’d be “frustrated.” A fifth of consumers reported they’d feel “disrespected” by brands, a very strong and personal emotion.
If this seems like an exercise in semantics, it isn’t. An angry or disrespected customer is much harder to win back than one that is merely disappointed. One respondent illustrated the consequences of a bad experience nicely: “I have no desire to set foot in this store again.”
Personalized Support Is King
To most marketers, personalization is all about specific, highly targeted messages and ads served to customers based on previous purchases and behavior, designed to spur a timely purchase. For consumers, personalization means something different: individualized support.
When asked what type of personalization is most important among personalized advertising messages, personalized support/service, or personalized purchase experiences, nearly half of respondents ranked personalized support first. Personalized purchase experiences came in second, with advertising ranking last. In the unstructured data (comments), consumers expressed a yearning to be known and valued as individuals. They’re even willing to share personal information, as long as brands deliver real value in return.
Ultimately, attracting and retaining customers long term is about creating positive emotional experiences that consistently meet their expectations. Customers need to feel valued, understood, and supported by authentic interactions.
All of these efforts from a brand can and should be powered by technology. As leading brands deliver increasingly sophisticated and successful CX strategies, the rest need to fall in line quickly. It all starts by knowing what your customers expect and giving it to them. It is not more complicated than that.