"Wow" Brands Versus "Now" Brands

Living up to brand promises and delivering exceptional experiences is the difference between "wow" and "now."

"Customer Experience Management is a business strategy leveraging customer-centric innovation and problem-solving that absolutely provokes smiles, certainly, but the biggest smiles come when companies examine bottom-line profits," says Lior Arussy in Customer Experience Strategy: The Complete Guide From Innovation to Execution. "Simply said: Customer experience is profitable."

In this excerpt from Customer Experience Strategy, Arussy explain the difference between "wow" brands and "now" brands, and shares seven elements of a profitable, "wow" customer experience framework:

Customer experience doesn't just happen. It isn't two people being nice to each other while one pays for a purchase at the point of sale. Customer experience is a discipline, and as such requires structure, governance and careful management.

By the same token, customer experience doesn't happen only here or there. It occurs everywhere. Experience isn't delivered in a few select channels, nor is it always delivered face-to-face. Customer experience comprises the entire customer journey, from first visit to a website to the last invoice. Customer experience is a manifestation of organizational culture, and as such requires nurturing, monitoring and formal company commitment.

As a discipline, CEM must be built upon an overall framework, creatively designed and carefully constructed. Without such discipline, your company will have difficulty becoming what we term a "WOW brand," and will instead remain mired along with the other companies that do no better than simply reach parity-and we term those companies "NOW brands."

WOW brands are those few, select organizations that truly live up to their brand promises and deliver exceptional customer experiences-wow experiences. To do so, WOW brands plan for the long haul, focusing on creating sustainable and credible value for customers. They align their organizations (from R&D to finance to customer service) to meet heightened customer expectations and to establish long-term, intimate customer relationships. WOW brands recognize that the key to establishing these relationships is not the promise, but the actual delivery.

NOW brands, on the other hand, rush to over-promise without establishing the infrastructure to deliver on those promises. Once when I was traveling in Europe, I spotted a bank's ad campaign reading "14,000 Branches-Each one a banking pit stop at your service" alongside a picture of a Formula 1 car. This is not only a rush to over-promise, but a rush at the speed of Formula racing. An average pit stop at Formula 1 is six seconds. Can the bank's service staff solve my problems at this speed? At a pit stop there is no manager-just the mechanics and their tasks. Should I expect a similar performance at the branch?

NOW brands focus on short-term gains and expect immediate rewards for very little investment. They plan for returns within the next 90 days (the typical horizon of today's senior management). These organizations use branding exercises as a quick fix, attempting to avoid the investments needed to create differentiated customer experiences that will command their asking price. NOW brands that hope that such quick fixes will solve their inherent problem: They're simply not that great.

Most companies fail to live up to their brand promises because they fail to define and understand how to own, create and deliver wow experiences. In other words, they fail to operationalize their brand promises.

NOW brands unwilling or unable to live up to their brand promises should never make these promises to begin with. No one, least of all customers, appreciates disappointment. Disappointment carries consequences-more often than not, painful financial consequences. Companies that deliver experiences that fail to meet and exceed the expectations created by their brand promise are forced to lower prices to compensate customers who believed the promises made by marketers fixated on such issues as brand recollection and conversion rates, and not promise fulfillment.

WOW brand organizations challenge their branding people to turn the process upside down and begin by guaranteeing organizational delivery capabilities and alignment through a brand performance platform first. Even if they aspire to create a new experience for customers, their design will start with capabilities in mind and will not remain in the domain of the aspiration. It's time to rethink brand strategy in the context of actual brand delivery through customer experiences. Are you willing and able to deliver the promised brand in the form of a wow customer experience?

What WOW brands successfully develop, and what's missing in NOW brands, is a customer experience framework-a brand performance platform that aligns the organization and enables employees to deliver branded customer experiences by:

  • Understanding the brand and its impact on the customer
  • Ensuring that the whole organization understands the performance required to fulfill the brand
  • Recognizing their mission and role in living up to the brand promise
  • Empowering their employees with the tools, information and authority to fulfill the brand promise performance
  • Aligns employee understanding of their role in the brand performance through customer experience delivery
  • Motivating their employees to execute the brand promise
  • Removing all obstacles to living by the brand promise and values to free employees to perform

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About the Author: Lior Arussy is president of Strativity Group.

Excerpted with permission from Customer Experience Strategy: The Complete Guide From Innovation to Execution. Copyright Lior Arussy, 2010.