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Why the brand has become so very important

We like to think that over the years our world has improved. We are certainly living longer due to improved food, sanitation and pharmaceuticals. Our lives are considerably easier than they were hundreds of years ago helped by electricity, running water and better utilities. We have considerable choice in almost everything from food to clothing to recreation. And of course we live in the electronic age were communication is so much easier. So with all this progress we would imagine that customer experience has also improved.

Customer experience can be measured in many different ways but a good proxy is satisfaction levels. When we examine these we see that there has not been a massive improvement since records began. There are differences in satisfaction levels across the globe and these can be related to economic and social conditions. We can surmise though we cannot be sure that the human race has always been reasonably satisfied with its lot, even thousands of years ago before any of those massive improvements to the world kicked in. This is because we know that satisfaction is a relative measure. We tend to be satisfied if we think that our lot is no worse than anybody else’s.

This brings us back to the subject of customer experience. In the past customer experience was very much influenced by personalities. The salesperson that looked after you when you bought something was notable. The milkman who delivered to your door through all weathers was much valued. The mechanic who fixed your car when it was broken was truly appreciated.

Over the last 20 or 30 years there has been a significant reduction in the personal contribution to customers. We have technology to thank for this. We don’t need a salesperson to tell us about the products we are buying because we have researched them online before doing so. We are not so dependent on maintenance people because products are now so reliable and in any case, when they fail, we replace them with something that doesn’t cost a great deal. The personal component of the offers we buy has been minimised which means that we are no longer bonded through emotional strings that tie us down. Switching has never been easier. We don’t have to explain to Asda why we have stopped their deliveries and started buying from Waitrose. Switching banks and insurances is now relatively easy and impersonal.

So what does this mean to those of us in customer experience? How can we ensure that customers remain loyal if there is an ever decreasing component of personal relationship in the offer? For sure, the technology has to work. As soon as the technology goes wrong it irritates and the customer may well switch to a new supplier who can do it better. If the personal element of our offer declines then something else is going to take centre stage. It means that we are ever so dependent on technocrats to make sure they can deliver better, cheaper, faster.

The quality and design of our products is going to receive a greater focus. Of course, the product has always been the centrepiece of what people buy but now it isn’t protected by those emotional strings that came from the human element of the offer.

And finally, the brand is becoming more important within the offer. That difficult to define emotional appreciation of the brand has taken over from the emotional appreciation of the human element.


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