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With digital becoming the primary interface, brands cannot dial down on customer experiences. Image Credit: Shutterstock

There are many things that organizations need to do to drive true customer-centricity and delightful customer experience (CX). And brands need to take both an outside-in and inside-out perspective.

What brands need to do within their organization in terms of culture, CX vision and strategy, CX governance, CX strategy, KPIs and systems to collect and act on customer feedback is a topic for another day. For now, I would like to focus on the five key pillars we have identified that provide a balanced approach to driving customer centricity. This is based on Kantar’s collective experience of more than 30 years in the CX space globally.

Clear brand promise

The first step for any brand is to ensure the entire organization is aligned – critically the marketing and CX functions. Customer experience is influenced largely by the brand promise – stated and unstated – that each brand creates.

This brand promise can come from marketing campaigns, staff, third-parties, digital and social media, history and reputation of the brand, etc. Brand promises result in customer expectations, and not meeting customer expectations can result in lower CX. For example, if a brand promises a certain timeline for a transaction (24 hours) and meets this in 36 hours, it is likely to result in lower CX than if a brand promised 48 hours and delivers in 36 hours.

Empowered employees

The word “emotion” gets used a lot in CX... and that is true. People remember the good and the bad experiences, and often these memories are linked to a strong emotion. But it is difficult to demonstrate emotion.

In this context the role of staff and, in recent times, chatbots is critical. Customers are expecting employees to be empathetic – putting themselves in customer’s shoes, not follow a written script, listen carefully and importantly genuinely help customers resolve their issues or queries.

Empowered customers

Customers – both new generation and the old - are now used to a variety of tech enablers. They now possess huge power in that they can lead brand conversations as opposed to brands dictating which channels to use across the customer journey. While many brands talk about omni-channel experience, the key is to give seamless experience – for instance, the ability to start the journey from call centre and complete it online or vice-versa.

Brands should also give customers the power and flexibility to choose touchpoints depending on their context and need.

Lasting memories

This is best summed up in one of my favourite quotes by Maya Angelou “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

There is lot of good work done around memories - refer Daniel Kahneman “How Do Experiences Become Memories?” – and this is where brands would do well to recognize concepts such as the “peak-end” rule and try and create experiences that people can remember for a long time. To create lasting memories, brands need to delight customers in the many micro-moments and exceed expectations.

Exceptional delivery

During a CX study, we found that while brands did a reasonably good job on aligning customer expectations, providing the right channels for service and delivering moments, there was a gap in terms of truly differentiating versus other brands. In other words, many customers were happy with the delivery, but do not find it exceptional and therein lies the challenge.

It is hard work to make brands truly customer-centric – a few brands have worked out the recipe for this. Let’s end with another quote by Angelou: “We delight in the beauty of the butterfly, but rarely admit the changes it has gone through to achieve that beauty.”

- Satish Dave is Director - Customer Experience at Kantar.