Customer Orientation – Winning Trait or Survival Gene
Perpetual disconnect between brands and customers: While companies spend millions of dollars in promoting themselves, customers rely on the experience of self and others with the brand to make purchase decisions. This disconnect thus creates a leaky pipeline where companies continue to spend more to attract new customers, while customers continue to fall off due to an unpleasant experience. Although consumer-centricity or customer-orientation have become buzzwords in the branding and marketing space, but real life experiences make us wonder are companies living it in true spirit and getting the appropriate return on their investment (ROI)?
The fundamentals of the customer first approach, largely depends on understanding the customers and demonstrating clearly “what is in it for me” from their perspective. This is followed by, retaining these customers through consistent and differentiated experience. Ideally, this retention should be such that customers not only keep adding to the company’s revenues but also become brand advocates and bring more customers.
Thus comes the thought how can brands generate advocates?
The brand journey undergoes three main phases namely awareness, preference and Loyalty. As the name suggests awareness stage is about creating an impact by making the company’s presence felt. Time and relevance are two important factors here. If the product or service is relevant at that point in time (not ahead or behind the curve), and the brand is able to create a demand for it, the first battle is won. This phase often involves high investment in marketing and advertising that helps promote brand awareness and recall. Once people are aware, it is relatively easier to get considered for the next stage of being preferred over another competitor.
The second stage, however, demands a lot more consistency in terms of experience, emotions, and communication. In the process of winning the customer, brands must remember that they are dealing with people who have emotions. In my opinion, it is important to make them feel wanted and treat them with empathy to build and maintain a relationship. For instance, in my consultation with an insurance company, we focus on training the call center employees to be empathetic towards customers. A compassionate response when a customer calls for an accident claim can make them feel valued and reduce her natural anxiety. These positive experiences not only save churn but also helps customers climb the ladder to the loyalty stage where they generate repeat business and become advocates. By being consistent and fulfilling brand promises, businesses can slowly let their advocates to do the talking on their behalf.
Similar to brands even customers go through a journey in the association. The illustration re-iterates the importance of customer experience within the brand journey. Focusing on the “loyalty zone” is critical for a brand. If on the usage of a certain product or service, clients do not enjoy the experience of interacting with the brand, it is unlikely that they will remain users. The company then has to restart the need generation process yet again. On the other hand, if the experience of a customer is delightful, then they will stay in the “loyalty zone”, wherein they will not only undertake repeat purchases but will also actively promote the brand. This in turn will help the brand build credibility and reputation.
The influence of brand loyalty and advocacy does not end at intangibles. I am particularly fascinated by two research findings put out by Bain & Co., which demonstrate that remarkable customer journey not only creates brand advocates but also directly impacts profits and growth of the business. These findings state: a) It is 5 times more expensive to acquire customers than to retaining them. b) With every 5% increase in customer retention, there is a 25-95% increase in profits (varies from industry to industry). So for those who are always asking brand and marketing team for ROI, here is your answer!
Guest Post by Mitu Samar
A first generation entrepreneur, Mitu Samar has a proven track record in strategic communication and thought leadership positioning. She is the founder of ‘Eminence’, a boutique firm with the value proposition- building brands and positioning personalities. she serves as an Independent Director on the board of Times Group companies and is also on the advisory board of Biz divas. Amongst her many accomplishments, Mitu was recently featured on the list of ’50 Most Talented Corporate Communications leaders 2015’ by world CSR congress.