The Role of Brand in Customer Advocate Creation: Post COVID

Brand, Culture, and Experience, 3 Legs of a Stool - Part 2:

The Role of Brand in Creating Customer Advocates

As the current climate forces businesses to revisit their overall customer experience strategy and tactics, we believe it’s smart to review the basics. So in our May 22nd, 2020 blog post, we introduced the concept of Brand, Culture, and Experience as “Three Legs of a Stool,” all essential to creating and sustaining a strong base of loyal customer advocates. While each of these 3 basic elements must be “defined and carved out as a single piece,” it is also important for them to be developed from the same core material (i.e. the organization’s core values), and for them to interact seamlessly with one another.

Today’s post takes a deeper look into the Brand “leg,” with direction on how to (re)define a meaningful Brand Promise, reinforce it effectively throughout the organization, and deliver on it with every customer interaction.

Revisiting the Brand Promise

Let’s begin with the obvious: you need to define your Brand Promise before you can communicate it or realize it. Yes, you sell widgets (or maybe you provide widget services).  But now may be the perfect time to revisit what rational & emotional benefits you provide for your customers, what they expect, and what they feel when they do business with you.

The pandemic has shifted the priorities and behaviors of consumers, and these shifts may have changed how customers perceive your company and your brand. Back in 2019, maybe you won most of your business because you consistently offered the lowest prices. But today, maybe you’ve retained and even acquired new customers because you’ve adapted your products and services in response to their COVID-19 related needs. In other words, it’s possible that your pre-pandemic brand promise is no longer important, or that your post-pandemic response has repositioned your brand.  Either way, be sure you can articulate exactly what value you deliver to your customers today, in this new reality.

Andreas Noe, CX Lead for Phase 5 notes,“This is not easy. It’s challenging because it involves difficult choices that balance a long-term promise of tangible value with short-term refinements to account for a changing business environment. Just look at the number of businesses that had to adjust their delivery model and delivery time promises recently to accommodate a much greater need for customer and employee safety due to this global pandemic. Some weathered this well, and continue to do so. Others fell flat on their face, and may never recover from it. Just remember this - make only those promises you can actually keep – short-term and long-term. Otherwise, you are just blowing smoke and today’s smart consumers will see right through it.”

Reinforcing the Brand Promise through Culture

Pandemic or not, times change and so do consumer needs. This means that your Brand Promise may continue to adapt and evolve over time. But it can’t be a moving target, so to speak, and employees must be along for the journey to remain engaged in what their brand stands for. Put the time into developing a Brand Promise that will weather trends and whims, and gather input from your front-line employees to make it meaningful to customers and staff. Recognize when change is more than a passing fad, and take steps to revisit your brand at that point.

Once defined in a deliberate way, communicate the Brand Promise loud and clear to everyone in the organization, and reinforce it and its associated implications regularly in written communications, presentations, and senior level behavior. Consistently use it as a guidepost for decision-making, and create an expectation that every employee will know it, understand it and use it to filter their own actions and decisions (by, among other things, incorporating it into performance reviews). These actions will help build an organizational culture that congruently and consistently reflects the brand.

Realizing the Brand Promise with every Customer Interaction

Now you’ve engaged your whole organization in the (re)definition of your Brand Promise, you’ve communicated it far, wide and often, and you’ve built it into your HR processes to boot. These steps are all necessary to deliver the desired customer experience.  However, that experience will only be realized if the same diligence is applied to all the touch-points in the customer journey. Remember that your customers are the intended audience for your Brand Promise, the ones that should really feel it.

To ensure your promise moves off paper and into real life, review your existing customer journey mapping to identify gaps and opportunities. Particularly in times like these, some steps in the journey may have become obsolete or, even worse, alienating for customers. As one example, efforts to shore up short term sales orders may actually alienate some customers in ways you did not imagine. Leverage employee feedback and make adjustments to ensure the customer experience reflects the desired (updated) Brand Promise. And of course, again ensure that any changes are communicated across your organization for consistent delivery of the brand.

Summary

Addressing all of the above elements can be challenging, especially during these unique and trying times. However, we believe the conscious, planned interaction of Brand Promise, Organizational Culture, and Customer Experience will set your business up for long term success. At Phase 5, we understand what it takes to tie these together.

Looking to hear more about how to adapt and optimize customer experience in a post-pandemic world? Be sure to check the Phase 5 website for new blogs and whitepapers on the subject.

Written by Stephan Sigaud

Stephan Sigaud, MBA, is Phase 5’s EVP of Marketing. Stephan is passionate about partnering with clients to address their challenges and opportunities around customer centricity. Stephan has more than 25 years’ experience in Market Research and Customer Loyalty and Experience and has been volunteering with both the Customer Experience Professionals Association (as Board member and past Chair of the CXPA Toronto Network) and the Canadian Marketing Association's (as past co-Chair of the CMA CX Council).