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The long and the short of it

One of the problems faced by customer experience managers is developing a strategy. It's tempting if you are a customer experience manager to focus on the tactics of telling the sales force to smile, telling them to be friendly, and adding a small gift with your product. These short-term actions can be highly effective but equally they blow away quickly in the wind.

We hesitate to call these actions "gimmicks" but they are ephemeral. A good customer experience strategy needs to be aimed at the people you want to do business with, and it needs to be positioned so as to warm the cockles of their hearts. In other words, it needs to hit their emotional buttons.

Targeting and positioning is brand building. It creates an awareness of your offer, it builds a high level of interest in your target audience, and ultimately it delivers pleasure from doing business with you. If this sounds airy fairy, let us assure you that it is not.

Peter Field is a world expert on promotional effectiveness. He has studied thousands of case studies of companies that have sought promotional effectiveness awards and he has determined from these that the best results come from companies that use a mixture of long-term brand building coupled with short-term sales tactics.

More worryingly, he has found that more and more companies are putting their resources into the "smile" and "have a nice day" campaigns rather than building long-term positions for their brand. This is partly because CEOs, marketing directors, and customer experience managers seldom stay in their job roles for more than a couple of years. They are seeking quick returns for their efforts as are shareholders for their investment. The exceptions are the large family-owned businesses that are in it for the long haul. Their name is over the door and they live and die by their brand.

What this means for us in customer experience is that we must respect and treat our brands as a significant contributor to delivering a great experience. People who visit Disney enjoy the parade but they also love and enjoy the Disney brand. According to Peter Field the most effective campaigns are based on a 60/40 split in which 60% of the budget is spent on brand building and 40% on the short-term sales activation.

In a world where budgets are tight and there is huge pressure to deliver results today or at least by tomorrow, this may be seen as bad news. It shouldn't be. A company that thinks that customer experience is only the results of quick tactical wins will soon become disillusioned. Each successful tactic will become an expectation and will quickly lose its sparkle. On the other hand, the relentless building of a strong and powerful position for a brand in a target audience will live for a very long time, it will draw in new customers, and it will pay for itself many times over.


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