Customer perception is a brand's reality

Modernize perspective.

By Sandy Sharma, Co-Founder and Managing Partner

A person holds a translucent glass sphere up towards a bridge.

In the past, innovation focused on a product or service. Teams came up with an idea, performed market research, and began to build. The philosophy was: If we build it, customers will come.

Fast-forward to now, and that philosophy no longer stands. In a world with 5 billion smartphones, today’s consumers have instant access to endless amounts of information. Before committing to buy, the average consumer researches prospective purchases on their phone, allowing them to form an opinion before they even try a product. In an instant, a consumer can develop a brand perception and then effortlessly evangelize a product or tear it down. Brands, products, or services can quickly become highly desirable or deeply hated.

Before the smartphone boom, companies could respond to brand perception issues by spending more time on marketing and sales. Today, perception prevails over truth. Consumer perception is a brand’s reality.

"In a world with 5 billion smartphones, today’s consumers have instant access to endless amounts of information."

Sandy Sharma

The importance of the customer experience journey

The customer experience is comprised of tangible and non-tangible pieces. It’s easy to detect the tangibles: the lights in a store are too bright, or the seats are uncomfortable. Those factors can be adjusted. It’s the non-tangibles—the subtle emotional elements—that are difficult to detect but crucial to adjust when needed.

Why? Because adjusting a customer’s negative response is only possible if the customer decides to give the brand a second chance. And in the current competitive landscape, second chances are hard to come by. That’s why thoughtfully managing the customer experience journey is vital for a brand to survive and thrive.

The customer experience journey has several phases.

Slide titled "Experience Journey - By Persona" displaying the journey mapping framework.

So, what?

Traditionally, a customer’s perception would be formed in the assessment phase. But today, any “interaction” with a brand at any phase can lead to a perception, necessitating thoughtful end-to-end experience design. The need to assess the customer experience journey now rivals the need for great marketing.

Take Starbucks, for instance. Recently, their mobile ordering service has stirred up frustration for both walk-in and mobile order customers. Due to the high volume of mobile orders, crowds waiting around the pick-up counter are larger and more prevalent. Walk-ins often enter the store, see the crowds, and walk back out, not wanting to contend with so many people or a long wait. Those who make mobile orders want coffee on-the-go but are encountering long wait times. While mobile ordering is an innovative approach to selling coffee, Starbucks failed to consider every touchpoint in the customer journey—and brand perception suffered because of it.

This story underscores how understanding the touchpoints for each phase of your customer’s journey is crucial to brand success. If there’s friction that prevents the customer from engaging with your brand as you intend, consumers will pick up their smartphones, take out their frustrations online, and a new brand perception will be born.

Let’s sit down for a 15-minute brainstorming session to figure out where your customer journey needs improvement!

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