Your inability to articulate a company’s brand promise could explain its CX failures

Metrics like Kantar's CX+ are exposing some glaring gaps that might not be closed for some time to come

I’m too grateful to be able to spend part of my summer at the cottage to complain too bitterly, but the customer experience of almost anything you might ask for up here is downright laughable.

Last year we had a guy out to potentially help us clear some trees. He walked all around our cottage, gave the vaguest of estimates and said he would be ready to do it in the fall. He has since ghosted us.

We bought a new oven and had it delivered, and when it didn’t work we were told it would be replaced but, if anything went wrong again, we could essentially go back to cooking over an open fire.

Then there was the guy who was supposed to build us a new dock. The last time my wife reached out, he said, “It’s on my list and I’m getting through it, but . . . well, that’s not true, I’m not really getting through it at all.”

I write this while occasionally looking out the window at my children, hoping they don’t cause our existing dock to sink entirely into the lake just by stepping on it.

These are interesting scenarios to consider in light of measurements such as CX Plus (or CX+), which was developed by market research firm Kantar. The idea is to assess the degree of a brand’s customer centricity by trying to identify the gap between what it promises and the experience it delivers.

In a study of the Indian retail sector I stumbled across recently, for example, only 37 per cent of the more than 6,000 consumers surveyed said they believed the retailers they buy from are customer centric.

This is despite the fact that, according to Kantar, retailers with a strong CX+ score are 1.6 times more likely to be recommended, customers are 2.2 times more likely to remain loyal and if the experience is excellent, the company is 1.3 times as likely to become a preferred vendor.

The Kantar study looked at major retailers such as Amazon and Flipkart, which outperformed the rest by a significant margin.

CX Pluses – And Minuses

When I compare non-digital brands — such as the small businesses that provide services to cottagers like me, I realize a CX+ score would be almost impossible to give.

These are businesses that either don’t make a brand promise (not necessarily even thinking of themselves as a brand) or make customer-specific promises where failing to keep them is almost treated as a given.

Customer expectations in cases like these are so low — probably because they are dealing with a captive market where there are few viable alternatives — that an outstanding experience would be delivering on a promise at all.

This may become a bigger issue as more people stuck of being quarantined in cities consider moving to a more rural environment (cottage sales here are exploding, I’m told) or simply as more people make efforts to buy locally as they continue to work from home. There is a cadre of mini-brands who simply aren’t focused on CX and aren’t terribly concerned about beating the Amazons of the world.

Putting that category of firms aside for a moment, the other challenge with CX+ scores is the relative lack of standardization of how a brand promise is made. If a company’s brand promise is to offer same-day delivery, for instance, how is that communicated? In its advertising? On its web site? What if it is something more complex?

I would love to see a market research project in which consumers are asked to articulate the brand promise of the top two or three vendors they buy from most often. Could they name it at all, and to what extent does it align with their expectations or desires? I think we would quickly see why CX has become such an important discipline.

Even if a brand promise has been clearly made and well-communicated, how that connects to the customer experience — the ways the experience over-delivers or makes it memorable, for instance — may not have been through out yet. This process of discovery and exploration is still in its early phases across many sectors, I suspect, and so we should probably expect the gaps reflected in Katar’s CX+ scores to remain for some time to come.

The word “promise” in brand promise is almost treated in these kinds off discussions as something static, like a mission statement that is put on a plaque in an office that employees never bother to read. We need to remember that promise is a verb, and brands aren’t simply making a single promise, but a series of promises that change and evolve based on what they learn from the feedback customers offer about the experiences they’ve had.

Your job as a company is not over just because you make a brand promise and then keep it by delivering a customer experience, in other words. The promise is provisional because it is necessarily general. Only if it’s truly possible to personalize experiences (and not just marketing) will companies able to make the kind of specific brand promises that a customer experience will support.

At this point, CX doesn’t just become a plus — it’s the reason the brand can continue to exist and keep promising. There should be more than enough market researchers, consultants and other vendors to help accelerate this journey. You could almost say it’s become a cottage industry.

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