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Bridging the divide: From expectation to experience


exerpience equation CVV Inside ShopperEveryone is obsessed with NPS (Net Promoter Scores).

NPDS are the answer to a singular question that determines the success or failure of a brand’s ability to deliver customer satisfaction and underpins many executive’s KPIs. This article is not an argument for or against NPS. What we’re interested in is the expectation to experience equation we believe is a significant driver of NPS.

Marketing communications is an investment in consumer expectation. The advertising message, whether broadcast or direct, attempts to shape consumer perception of a brand. If CBA says ‘can’, then reasonably, the expectation is that CBA can (and will) deliver on its promise – the same way we can reasonably expect NAB to give more and take less. Can’t we?

The other part of the equation is the experience. The experience is what I actually see, hear, touch, and feel about my interactions with a brand along the path to purchase, and most important of all, actual use of the product or service. There are a lot of touch points that make up that path (customer journey), and for the majority of large businesses, these touch points are managed by different parts of the same organisation.

When the experience exceeds expectation, we gain customer advocacy. I had an interaction with a Government agency recently that fully exceeded my expectations. Admittedly, my expectations were pretty low to start with and when I rang to wait in a queue for more than five minutes, those low expectations were quickly being met.

But then something miraculous happened. My call was answered by a lovely gentleman who had the emotional intelligence to understand that being friendly and helpful does not mean asking how my day is, but is actually getting to the point and making the request as pain free as possible. And it was. Within three minutes he had actioned my request, given me advice of what to do in the wait period and bid me farewell. I’m now a fan.

On the flipside, when the experience fails expectations, the punishment can be brutal.

Again, a Government department interaction illustrates the point. I had multiple interactions with this department, mainly because each time I attempted to transact I was told something new about some other form I needed to comply with. After three visits in person and via phone I was not only frustrated, but had made up my mind that all Government departments were as deplorable as this one (I had written off the entire Government infrastructure not just the department).

Even though the people I dealt with were friendly and doing their best, the experience design was letting them down. The instructions weren’t clear. The required forms were not attached to the instructions. The forms looked like they were from different organisations and the form names weren’t crystal clear. The advice I got on the phone was not the same as the advice in person. All in all, it was glaringly obvious that every touch point was owned by a different business unit to the next because nothing connected.

Everyone will have similar stories. There are two points to be made here.

Firstly, marketing communications cannot be rogue in the hope that an organisation will catch up to the promise. The message must be achievable operationally and culturally, otherwise you break the cardinal rule of over promising and under delivering.

Secondly, the experience must be designed end to end and from the user’s perspective to deliver on the promise. Even if there are 10 touch points on the journey and nine are fantastic, if the one touch point that failed is the most significant to me, then the rest is null and void. You let me down.

A consumer does not care about organisational business units or departmental KPIs. We care about having our expectations met and hopefully exceeded before, during, and after purchase. As social beings, we are strongly motivated to share these positive and negative stories, and it has never been easier for us to have our voices heard, as advocates or detractors.

The most important way for organisations to reliably manage and improve advocacy is to design and manage the end to end customer experience to be user friendly and on brand.

Simple, if not necessarily easy.

Clair van Veen is strategist and acting GM at strategic design agency, Designworks.

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