When It’s No Longer Who You Think It Is
Have you ever wondered why making dinner reservations on OpenTable is so easy while trying to get your cable company – like Optimum or Comcast – to answer billing questions is as painful as pulling a bad tooth?
Apples-to-oranges comparisons like this are quickly becoming the hallmark of how customers are judging brand experiences.
Case in point: we were recently asked to evaluate customer brand experiences for a leading financial software company. Typically, you’d expect these customers to rate their experiences against their encounters with similar software companies.
But that’s not what happened.
Most customers took a broader view in their ratings approach.
When asked about their brand experiences with our client, customers made comparisons to account monitoring programs at American Express and earning rewards benefits similar to Amazon Prime.
Customers have begun to expect the same high standard consumer experience across brands.
Grant it, this is a small snapshot.
But perhaps it offers us a glimpse into a larger movement underway, often referred to as liquid expectations, where customer experiences with one brand seep into their expectations of another. It’s experience based on a much broader view of how they spend their money.
The implication for your brand of such a radical shift in customer expectation is clear: customers will compare their experiences with your brand to their experiences with OpenTable, Amazon and Starbucks, even if you sell financial software, car insurance or commercial real estate.
In fact, it may no longer just be the direct competitor right in front of you that you should be most worried about.
But what can brands do to meet these evolving customer expectations?
A good start is to redefine your competition.
In our case, we helped our client to identify those companies outside of their direct competitors who are innovating in ways that could be adaptable to expanding their customer service programs.
The idea is not to provide a similar service, per se, but a similar experience which results in a positive brand response.
If you’re a CEO, COO, CMO or brand manager, here are few ways to navigate your customers’ liquid expectations and keep your brand competitive:
1) Expand your approach: when creating brand experiences, look beyond your industry to see where else your customers are engaging and adapt.
For instance, not only did Uber upend the personal transport industry, but through UberEats, it helped create the on-demand expectation for food from sit-down restaurants. Uber effectively created a more fast and convenient way of accessing this new category.
2) Innovate: customers are now judging brand experiences based on what they see as possible in other industries. As your brand’s manager, consider doing the same. Look to other industries and adapt their innovation as a way of increasing personalized brand experiences.
3) Don’t fear Disruption: it remains an effective competitive tool. Take charge to reshape these expectations so you can foster greater brand engagement and loyalty.
Consider Vans sneakers, a brand that had been struggling over the last few years. It recently made a pop culture comeback with new online offerings that allow customers to create their own designs.
The take-away: Customers now crave brands that offer products and services which combine the convenient and intuitive. If your brand is not evolving to meet this demand, you’re only frustrating would-be buyers.
To be more competitive, don’t simply focus on your industry. Instead, actively listen to your customers to determine what they are engaged in; remember, the real competition isn’t next door, it’s wherever your customers are spending the most time and money.
Optimum and Comcast, are you listening?