Grow a strong brand by setting the right expectations of your customer experience

The experience a customer has with a brand and a product can outweigh any of their preconceptions based on marketing. In the same way that a flawed checkout process in an ecommerce site can lose potential conversions wasting investment made higher up the funnel, a business that runs expensive brand and ATL campaigns then delivers a poor customer experience is working inefficiently. Any positive feelings they’d created are lost once someone converts and experiences a mixture of poor service / product and customer service. The business has created unhappy customers who dissuade others from buying and wastes money fire-fighting customer complaints.

The best model would be to offer a brilliant product and customer experience. But that’s not always possible. So what then?

The solution is to set appropriate expectations. Setting high expectations initially but failing to deliver is likely to create the most disappointment. A company like John Lewis has high prices and sets high expectations of service – but they also deliver on this and the result is a highly profitable and loved brand. By stark contrast, Ryanair sets both low prices and low expectations – the hard to use, unpleasant website experience and regular PR stories detailing how they planned to punish their customers next were profitably maintained for years until a recent turnaround in their approach. Perhaps they went too far.

Many start ups and new services need time to learn and develop and being honest about this sets appropriate expectations. Labelling a service as ‘beta’ suggests it may not work perfectly but it’ll get better. Virgin America recently ‘quietly’ launched a bold new website experience under a beta url – it gave them chance to test out something new and make improvements before publicising it heavily and over-promising. Giffgaff, the mobile service provider, increased its customer base quicker than the top 3 mobile providers in the UK in 2012 – quietly and steadily building on a simple, honest service and culling adverts when the quality of service started to suffer as a result of rapid growth.

Brands that can afford to pump out enough marketing without setting correct expectations of service can turn a profit on the back of unsuspecting new customers. But they’re obscuring inefficiencies and creating disloyal customers. It’s a cynical model with a limited shelf life and before long, a rebrand is needed. Taking a longer term approach that sets the correct expectations of a service may be slower getting started but should be more efficient and ultimately result in a stronger brand, happier customers and longer term profits.

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