Let’s play a little word association game. I’m going to share the names of a few companies for you to consider. Think about what word you would use to describe your opinion about their brand.
Example: Lifesavers = happy
OK, here we go:
- Virgin America
- Wells Fargo
The word (or words) that come to mind for everyone might be slightly different, given our unique interaction with these brands, but the biggest and most successful brands in the world have built a larger-than-life identity that is shared across a large percentage of their audience.
That’s the key, and as brand stakeholders we need to our company’s brand to resonate with the majority of our users.
Customer experience is a very real thing, and it plays a fundamental role in the success of any company. The brands mentioned above have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars analyzing their customer’s experience, looking for ways to improve everything from personal interactions and in-store experiences to their mobile app onboarding experience.
So, let’s take a few moments to consider the key attributes of your brand.
What are the top 10 attributes that you would use to describe your company? Consider words that reflect what your company stands for, and sum up the character and personality of your brand.
Here’s the thing. At the end of the day, we can’t MAKE someone feel a certain way. They have to believe all on their own. It’s our job to make it easy for them, right? Our job to inspire them. Our job to entice them. Our job to make it EASY for them to get what they want.
Which means we can’t stop with what we perceive our brand to be. We need to consider how our customers perceive us. So take that list of 10 attributes you just created, and identify the opposite word for each. This brief exercise should make it crystal clear just how far away from your perception your customer’s impression of your brand might be. (This also makes for a fun 10-minute icebreaker for teams!)
Brand perception is not black and white, as shown in the extremes identified above. Outlining the dream vs. reality is a good place to start when building your brand.
Consider the entire customer journey, across all channels
First-time user interactions may make a lasting impression, but we need to also consider what it’s like for someone who has used our product or service for weeks, months, or years—across all channels. Your users’ journey may weave through both online and real-world experiences, so be sure to consider them all.
First touch: Consider the very first interaction someone may have with our brand. Is it through social media, a walk-in off the street, or a forwarded email from a friend?
Decision making: When a prospect encounters your company, are they clear on where to go to research details or ask questions before making a purchase decision? Have you effectively explained everything they need to know about your product or service? This is a critical step in the buying process for many, remember that people absorb information differently, and may need to gain approval from others before buying.
Upgrades, renewals, refills: If someone is making a repeat purchase, what is that experience like? What happens if they need to upgrade their service? Thinking through these events means you won’t miss out on an opportunity to surprise and delight existing customers. This can be great for improving loyalty and increasing references!
Support: Even the very best products can’t be prepared for every scenario a user might encounter. Trace your customer’s experience with your support team from various origins, including social media, online chat, and in-person customer service desks.
As we move towards a more mobile-centric lifestyle (Forrester recently stated that 58% of web traffic is now driven through a mobile device) marketers need to embrace the new capabilities in technology that are driving innovation.
In our recently-published annual Industry Survey, respondents said that the most important trend affecting UX in the near future will be multi-device interaction.
Responses to the question, "What do you think will be the most important online trends affecting UX research in the next 5 years? (Select all that apply.)"
What are you doing to improve the perception of your brand?
There’s no doubt about it, UX plays a critical role in the way that customers perceive companies.
Every interaction, every mention, every moment that someone shares with your brand is a chance for you to improve their perception of your company. It’s not enough to want people to like your brand, trust in it, and buy. You’ll need to ask yourself (and your team) some tough questions about how to make a positive impact in brand perception.
My recommendation? You need to start with the basics:
- Have you effectively translated your brand into a meaningful experience?
- How would your customers describe you?
- How do you align your brand with your customer’s needs?
- What are your customers saying about your brand?
You can find out whether your assumed brand identity—the one you define in your brand guidelines—differs from actual customer perceptions through brand testing. It’ll take research, reflection, perseverance, and a maybe even a bit more buy-in from others in order to make sure your brand is where you want it to be. But the payoff will be well worth it.
Are there any companies that blow you away when it comes to exceeding your expectations? I’d love to hear about it!
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Stef Miller is a former marketer at UserTesting, where she spent most of her time connecting people with content. Miller has worked for global corporations and teeny tiny studios, and believes that true happiness comes from collaborating with creative people to make awesome things happen.