Brand and the customer experience

Brand is holistic. Much more than a name, logo, or tagline, brand involves people’s every experience and perception.

While brand is a business’s most important asset, your brand is for your audiences first. Ultimately, it lives (or dies) based on how those audiences feel.

So the customer experience today is vital to brand promotion and protection. Perhaps more so than ever before.

Stanford researchers recently confirmed empirically that social content which embodies and conveys “brand personality” (like humour and emotion) leads to higher engagement than content that is purely informative. (Given the shift of advertising resources from traditional media to social, the findings are reinforcement gold for marketers who have to fight for promotion dollars.)

But when it comes to customer experience writ large, putting all your customer experience eggs in the social basket can leave your customers feeling scrambled, and fry your brand protection efforts.

Recently, I have had two experiences as a customer that have driven this point home.

After an atrocious ordering experience to get the computer I am using to type this post, my two-week old hard drive decided to simply stop working.

After more than two hours of trans-oceanic telephonic ‘technical support,’ I was still no closer to a resolution. Out of pure frustration, I posted to Twitter:

A near-instant reply was followed by a flurry of direct messages from a Twitter handle called @DellCares. After a couple of minutes of private exchanges, a new hard drive was being overnight couriered with a promise it would be installed by midday the following day.

Props to the issues managers @DellCares. Their handling of my Tweet was textbook quality resolution.

But if my initial order and subsequent technical issue had been better handled along the way, there wouldn’t have been a social issue (or public hit to the Dell brand) to resolve.

If anything, the company’s apparent willingness to move heaven and earth the moment a customer complains on a social platform may be counterproductive. It may in fact encourage public brand bloodletting. (I certainly wouldn’t have wasted more than two billable hours of my workday on the phone had I known that I could get action with a well-worded, 140-character complaint.)

Now contrast that example with another company’s approach.

ReTrak makes portable tech accessories; I recently bought one of their selfie-sticks to make it easier to shoot videos. When I got it home and unpackaged, however, I found it was defective. I sent an email to an email address that I found in the instructions asking what could be done (selfishly to avoid a return trip to a big box store on a Saturday). Within a couple of hours, I received an email that apologized for my inconvenience, and an offer to ship me a replacement, no questions asked.

Okay, granted, we’re talking about a 25-dollar stick, not a 2500-dollar machine. But the approaches could not have been more different.

Quick, seamless and courteous resolution in private vs. a maddening, inefficient, and ineffective customer Hell-loop.

One of the Dell people I spoke to suggested at one point that his company treated technical support as separate and apart from customer service. They’re different departments, he told me. I reminded him that to customers every interaction with a company ought to be considered customer service.

In my case was a brand hit avoidable? Absolutely. Who knows how many others have had similar experiences to mine? Does Dell capture that data and/or measure brand impacts?

Clearly, Dell has chosen to devote resources to rapidly address complaints on social. The company can, and ultimately did, offer good service. Arguably, though, it was too little, too late.

It may be more cost-effective in the short term for Dell to organize itself as it has, but I am left wondering how brand effective that approach is long term. (Several people I’ve told this story to have wondered why I didn’t just go with an Apple laptop. I certainly wondered that myself at certain points.)

And that’s the bigger point: what is the price of undermining one’s brand by failing to keep the customer experience in mind at every step of a company’s process and during every interaction? That may sound easier said than done, and it is. Yet plenty of organizations manage to get it right. (We all have stories of our own, no?)

I will assuredly buy another ReTrak product given their swift, effective action. But I will seriously consider purchasing another brand of laptop next time.

These two experiences have certainly made me think about my own customer experience practices, and how I will organize Winston Wilmont to assess, meet, and surpass my customers’ needs. I will strive to make every customer experience a positive one, and to add real value at every interaction. That’s why clients opt for boutique consultancies, after all. (Early feedback has been positive on both fronts, thankfully.)

The intersection of brand and customer experience is fascinating to me. I genuinely believe that getting ‘CX’ right every time will ensure long-term success, and reduce brand promotion and protection costs long term, regardless of your organization’s size or sector. So…

How is your organization doing in serving your clients? Do you have a brand promise? If not, why not? If so, what are you doing to live it daily?

Feel free to get in touch to discuss further.

What’s in a name? A lot.

Brand is everything for a business.

It’s not only a business’s most fundamental asset – something to be protected at all costs. It is also expressed in, shaped by, and subject to every single interaction a business has with its customers.

Brand is a holistic thing. It’s how people feel about your products and services. And that’s why it’s so hard to get right. You can only control so much of it…the rest is up to the people who you hope will keep you afloat.

We will be sharing some thoughts about branding in the coming days and weeks.

But, to us, a great brand story starts with the name.

Here’s the story behind ours: https://www.linkedin.com/feed/update/urn:li:activity:6531188470604402688

The intersection of marketing communications, public relations, government relations, and more…and getting to success, however it’s defined.

Next steps in the journey

Anyone who’s travelled with me knows I love solo morning walks on the beach.

They are, for me, moments of quiet contemplation and deep introspection. In short, they are when I do some of my best thinking about life and living.

One recent walk confirmed for me a series of decisions that began with a jolt in February.

Courtesy: USGS

My partner JF and I were in Guayaquil, Ecuador having just scratched a visit to the Galapagos Islands off our travel bucket list. Early one morning, a powerful earthquake and several strong aftershocks rattled the city and sent us into the streets with shaken locals. (Ecuadorians experience frequent tremors so their concern was telling.)

While not a major event by any means, the quake did shake loose some thoughts that lead me to today.

As we left Guayaquil, I found myself thinking through a number of ‘what if’ questions. Ultimately, my answers to those questions over the days and weeks that followed compel me to make a professional change.

I started Winston Wilmont back in 2016 mainly as a side hustle. An opportunity to work with clients I like on projects of interest, here and there, where I could make a difference.

My main focus, though, was on my busy full-time gigs in senior leadership roles first in the health sector and most recently at Canada’s national housing agency. I loved both jobs, the people I worked with, and the purpose of each organization. I learned and grew professionally and personally. I was content.

That said, all those ‘what if’ questions of recent months have confirmed for me that I need to fuel my entrepreneurial passions. I need to stake out new ground.

Winston Wilmont will now be a full-time venture for me.

Whether it’s integrated marketing communications…public relations…government relations and regulatory affairs…issues management…events… I look forward to collaborating with great people and trailblazing organizations doing amazing things in their respective fields.

So, let’s chat…let’s explore what we can do together…and here’s to the journey ahead.

One year and counting…

Canada’s next federal election is now less than a year away.

Recent provincial writ periods saw some important undercurrents among electorates come to the fore. Federal politicos should be taking note.

Voters have shown themselves hungry for change, open to new ideas and ways of doing, and willing to consider new political options.

The result: more electoral volatility than we’ve seen in decades.

Demographic, socio-economic, and geopolitical developments – some of them underway for several years – favour neither incumbency, nor complacency, nor political expediency. 

Recent provincial polls seem to show voters are craving real solutions to the issues that matter most to them and their families. They crave authenticity. They assign no primacy to the status quo (least of all for its sake alone). They want action furthering their interests and respect for their values and beliefs.  

If that means putting the keys to power in new hands, even temporarily, so be it. Fake it and you’ll fail. Break faith at your peril. (Some may wonder why it took so long for us to get to this spot, yet here we are.)

Political parties of all stripes are looking to navigate the current reality.

For people and organizations with solutions to problems big and small, this is a time of real opportunity.

Giving voice to the needs and wants, concerns and preoccupations, of voters while at the same time connecting dots, filling gaps, offering solutions, can get you a seat at the table, and perhaps even a place in electoral platforms.

The clock is ticking. Make the most of every moment.

Winston Wilmont | The blog

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I am truly excited to officially launch Winston Wilmont and winstonwilmont.ca.

Not only am I looking forward to working with corporate clients to ensure their communications and public affairs needs are well met, I am also really stoked to welcome people to Ottawa – my hometown – as part of our visit and event management services business line.

I love our city. I can’t wait to share that passion with others.

If you’re coming to Ottawa on business, our Capital Concierge service is for you. We can help you plan and stage great events. We can help you ensure your corporate meetings really work. And we can take care of details big and small throughout your stay to give you a leg up with clients and decision-makers.

Regardless of whether your trip is for business or pleasure, our Live Local itinerary planning service will make your visit unforgettable. Canada’s Capital Region is more than stately buildings, great museums and poignant landmarks. It’s a thriving, multi-cultural urban centre made up of vibrant, accessible neighbourhoods. And, in Ottawa, spectacular, natural experiences are never far away. Let us help you experience both in a way no guide book or tourism website ever could – with personalized plans crafted just for you and your fellow travellers.

Winston Wilmont knows Ottawa. Let us help you get to know it, too!