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20. März 2017

Customer Experience: The central success factor in the digital transformation

What does it take to build and maintain a customer journey? And why is it more important than ever for a positive customer experience? Eight tips to make sure your brand touchpoints will thrill.

In a business and consumption environment that keeps spinning faster and faster, strong brands provide security and orientation. To employees, but especially to customers. They experience a brand not through individual media channels or one-dimensional brand messages – rather, they have a comprehensive communication, service, and product experience: the customer experience.

There is no such thing as a little bit of brand

Since 2012, the significance of Customer Experience Management has more than doubled to 75 %, according to the study "Customer Touchpoint Management" conducted by the magazine Absatzwirtschaft in 2016. Since digitalization consistently creates emotional distance and loss of customer closeness, it is becoming essential for brands to understand their customers better than ever so they can react appropriately to their needs. The professionality of Customer Experience Management and of the optimization of the Customer Journey, however, has increased only marginally to 35 percent. Unfortunately, only 15% of companies are successful in managing their touchpoints along the journeys (Brand Touchpoint Management Study, BrandTrust, 2015).

Apart from digitalization, the post-factual age is also responsible for this development. Data, facts, and figures receive less attention. What really counts are experience, feeling, and emotion, which for one elevate the needs of the customer and for another reduce the level of control the responsible parties can exert. The digital transformation ultimately influences not only customer behavior, but also contributes to changing the very essence of marketing and communication. It is no longer enough to just tell stories and underpin the product's added value with figures. The longings of customers are much more diverse and can no longer be satisfied with typical marketing activities.

The customer wants to have a positive experience with the brand at any time and at every touchpoint, and be thrilled. Amazon, for instance, is doing this successfully. The experience chain from the homepage to the ordering process and finally to the fast delivery is constantly being optimized – creating value for the customer.

The top touchpoint of the banking sector: the employee at the counter

Top touchpoints of a bank are not just the branch offices or consulting. It is primarily the advisor, the person receiving the client at the counter, the person closing the contracct – they all create brand experiences. This is confirmed by the largest Brand Touchpoint Management Study in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland, conducted by BrandTrust in 2015.

The brand must therefore be considered an overall added-value driver, so it must be lived in the entire organization and experienced at all touchpoints. Not merely in the marketing activities.

Particularly in markets plagued by information overload and increasingly interchangeable products, well-managed brand touchpoints are the attractiveness-drivers and differentiators in the constant battle for attention in our affluent society.

Most marketers and managers fail to answer the question which of the countless touchpoints are essential for the brand's success and which are less important. Some claim the analog touchpoints are the most crucial, others believe the digital ones are of the utmost importance.

Customers are like ping-pong balls

The discussion about big data leads managers to believe that data is the key to a thrilling brand experience. What is often forgotten: Customers are like ping-ping balls rushing back and forth between the real and the digital world in seconds. With big data, one can record a large portion of the digital touchpoints, but many brand experiences happen at analog touchpoints. These we cannot collect any information about, and we can exert only minimal influence on them.

Nearly all customer journeys happen in both worlds. They support one another and every touchpoint, digital or real, has to be optimized in keeping with the brand, so the brand can be experienced. Not every touchpoint has top priority for this optimization process. Which of the touchpoints really make a large contribution to success is revealed by the customer journey.

The five steps of the customer journey for a thrilling customer experience:

Steps 1 and 2: Definition of phases and brand touchpoints

After defining the individual phases a potential customer encounters during the journey with the brand – such as the information phase, the purchase phase, or the post-purchase phase –the most important touch points per phase are defined using personal experience and consumer surveys.

Step 3: Identification of moments of truth

Once five to ten touchpoints per phase are identified, the question to ask is which of those brand touchpoints will engender a "moment of truth" – a moment when the customer decides for or against the brand.

Let's look at the brand touchpoint website, for example that of a financial services provider: It can be located in the first phase, the information phase, and lead to a "moment of truth" – because if the website is not convincing, not authentic, and not designed in keeping with the brand, the potential customer does not have a thrilling brand experience – and starts looking for another provider. He decides against the brand.

The website is a top brand touchpoint where the consumer decides for or against the brand. This is why it should have a high level of priority and be optimized to reflect the brand. Determining the moments of truth automatically results in an initial prioritization of the most important brand touch points.

Step 4: Revealing the "pain points": the jewels of the customer journey

As a next step, those brand touchpoints where "moments of truth" happen are analyzed more closely. What experiences does the customer make at this touchpoint? More important than those touchpoints where the potential customer has positive experiences and decides for the brand ("gain points") are the negative experiences ("pain points").

Knowing your gain points is half the race – but knowing your pain points makes for a sure win. Because the focus of the customer journey is on identifying negative experiences: They are responsible for your customer being disgruntled, not using your products and services anymore, not recommending your brand and perhaps even speaking ill of you. If you know your customers' pain points, you also know which touchpoints have the highest priority.

However, customers don't become enthusiastic until they experience the brand at all touchpoints – even those where pain points lurk.

Step 5: Applying the brand rules

Only those who know their peak performances and know what they stand for can make these performances, compacted in the brand, tangible at the touchpoints and create a uniform customer experience in accordance with the brand. No strong brand without a clear attitude – this goes particularly for the inner attitude of employees, who ultimately are important touchpoints and contribute to the brand's character.

The brand core, based on corporate peak performances, with credible, attractive, differentiating, and sustainable brand values, provides the needed identification with the brand, leads to a clear inner attitude and points the brand in the right direction. The brand core gives internal orientation; the No. 1 position provides external orientation.
Whether we are indeed making the brand tangible and using it to provide orientation externally as well as internally is revealed by a BrandTrust instrument that helps us systematically optimize the brand touchpoints in keeping with the brand: the brand rules.

With the help of five to seven substantial brand rules, every employee can easily check whether each brand touchpoint is designed in accordance with the brand or not. If several rules are not fulfilled, it causes pain points for the customer and thus a negative brand experience. Once the touchpoint is optimized so that all brand rules are followed and the brand promise is kept, pain points turn into decisive gain points.

Innocent, the juice and smoothie producer, stands for sustainability. Sustainability is deeply rooted in Innocent's DNA as a brand core value. In fact, the value is dear to the smoothie-maker's heart throughout the entire value-add chain. Starting with the ingredients, through the production process, and all the way to the packaging, sustainability takes center stage. The company transmits this via its digital channels, using every single brand touchpoint. The brand core value, for instance, is reflected on the package with tips for healthy nutrition. The company's employees communicate their sustainable everyday activities in the company blog. In communities, customers can share their good deeds on various online platforms.
People remember being part of an experience for much longer and more vividly than a story that is merely told to them, and it is the key to a successful customer experience.

"Storyscaping" is better than Storytelling

What sells today are experiences and events – not products and services. Storyscaping makes sure that the customers are not merely told the brand story but can be a part of it. Linear storytelling structures must be dissolved and real experiences at the touchpoints, analog as well as digital, have to be created. Only when we link inventiveness with systematic thought and begin to use platforms, channels, and technologies that are closely interwoven with the lives of networked customers can we create highly relevant brand experiences. Whether in a TV spot, during a chat, or in the social media, storyscaping makes sure that in the multitude of possibilities of the "always-on" world, the brand is consistently present and the brand promise is kept at all touchpoints. Anytime, anywhere, online and offline.

A great example is Harry Potter: the books, films, and leisure parks have created a uniform brand experience that offers a place to encounter the brand not just to readers but other consumers as well. Regardless of when and where the customer or consumer enters or exits the story.

This knowledge is the foundation of a successfully designed customer journey and the building of a thrilling customer experience. Through it all, we must never take our eyes off the brand. Only when the brand core values and the positioning are reflected in all touchpoints can we ensure a uniform, positive brand experience.

Conclusion: When does the customer journey process become a success?

  1. Diversity rather than specifics: You have an excellence team consisting of internal employees of various business units and selected external customers.
  2. Depth rather than surface: You know not just the rough sequence of the customer journey, but its individual phases, moments of truth, and the associated brand touch points in great detail.
  3. Clarity rather than gut feeling: You actually know exactly what negative experiences customers are having at what touchpoints, and you don't just believe that you know.
  4. Quantity rather than quality: You have collected as many optimization ideas for your touchpoints as possible and have drawn inspiration from leading companies in your sector – without thinking about if, when, and how the ideas can be implemented.
  5. Prototypes rather than pipedreams: Together with your excellence team you have evaluated all optimization ideas in terms of feasibility and profit, have identified quick wins and have generated some initial prototypes using the brand rules.
  6. Standards rather than half-finished ideas: You have developed the prototypes into standards, communicated them within the company and established them uniformly.
  7. Events rather than stories: At your touchpoints you don't merely tell the brand story, but make it perceptible with all the senses.
  8. Sustainability rather than short-term: You have an employee or unit that is responsible for one or more optimized touchpoints and takes care of their sustainable, brand-centered evolution.

Only companies who create value for their customers at every touchpoint make a long-term contribution to their brand and secure sustained growth. Are you ready to orchestrate your key touchpoints?

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Stephanie Hofer

Executive Consultant

Quote: What is often forgotten: Customers are like ping-ping balls rushing back and forth between the real and the digital world in seconds.


Stephanie<br >Hofer


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