If a brand is able to consistently connect with its customers on an emotional level, it is much more likely to achieve strong customer loyalty. So, how then does a brand create this emotional connection? We have created a process that enables organizations to understand how emotionally connected their customers are to their brands, and based on that insight, to develop ways to create stronger emotional connections. The first part of the process is research-based and seeks to understand the ways in which customers connect emotionally to the product or service category and then to the brand itself. The second part of the process generates hundreds of ideas for strengthening that emotional connection based on the insights from the research. Next, the ideas are culled down to those that can be implemented quickly and that have the highest potential for success at the lowest possible investment. Finally, we develop a plan to implement these ideas.
So, what have we learned from using this process with our clients? First and foremost, a brand must be trustworthy. It must consistently deliver on all of its promises. All customer touch points must be in alignment on this. Related to this, an organization should never oversell its capabilities. Set customer expectations realistically.
Next, organizations would do well to be customer-centric. That is, they should be driven by meeting and exceeding customer expectations rather than squeezing one more cent of profit out of each “transaction.” In a related manner, organizations should strive to treat every one of its customers as it would a beloved friend or family member, with that same level of caring and respect.
Organizations should try to be as transparent as possible in their interactions with customers so that customers don’t feel as though the organization is “hiding something from them,” or worse, lying to them or cheating them. It is always helpful for an organization’s managers and its other employees to “live the brand” with their customers or to at least “walk a day in their customer’s shoes.” The simplest way to do this is by monitoring customer service calls for at least one day each quarter. Better yet, people could experience the brand directly with their customers much as Harley-Davidson executives do as they ride and interact with their customers on H.O.G. (Harley Owners Group) rallies. Another strategy is to surprise and delight customers with extraordinary service as often as possible so that the customers themselves become the brand’s biggest evangelists. Create some brand legends. And the realization that happy employees make for happy customers cannot be overemphasized.
How does an organization achieve these ends? Through hiring criteria that includes ways of interacting with customers, balanced scorecards that include customer-centric measures, rewarding employees for treating customers well, designing specific brand proof points into each point of customer contact, developing new points of customer contact, simplifying and externally communicating customer processes and customer service policies, training customer facing employees in the art and science of superior customer service, designing ways for employees to experience the brand as their customers do, establishing a set of “guiding principles” by which employees should live and treating employees with the same caring and respect with which they should treat their organization’s customers.
These are just some of the insights from our “emotional connection” projects. We can help you create stronger emotional connections with your customers. Ask us about our Emotional Connection Workshop.