Customer Experience may go down as the marketing buzzword of the decade. Yet, for all the talk of creating unique experiences for customers, it’s still tempting for brands to focus on the most visible points in the customer journey. Developing a new website or clever ad campaign can easily take priority over more subtle brand experiences. But it may just be these overlooked touchpoints that represent the biggest opportunities for brands.
So what are some of these touchpoints, and what can we learn from brands that focus on them?
A core value of Southwest Airlines is a “Fun-LUVing Attitude,” which they bring to life by encouraging employees to be their authentic selves at work. As their former CEO put it in a 2004 interview, “We’re not trying to train you to be anything different from what you really are. If singing buoys up your heart, makes you feel good, go ahead and do it.” This kind of approach pays off with customers; Southwest was ranked the top low-cost carrier J.D. Power’s 2017 North America Airline Satisfaction Study(™). Contrast this with United Airlines’ corporate culture, and you can see why investing in this overlooked touchpoint is so critical.
Product Development is another touchpoint that’s less obvious, but, when done well, presents a huge brand opportunity. Plum Organics is a baby food company with a mission to “nourish little ones with the very best food from the very first bite.” Although they are best known for pouches of pureed fruits and veggies, their mission and promise to customers led them to enter a new product category: infant formula. They put their own spin on the standard formulation and developed highly transparent messaging, including why every ingredient is in the product and how it helps and nourishes babies. With this new product, they are solidifying their brand in parents’ minds as one that stands for wellness and better nourishment, from infancy and beyond.
Apple is often revered as the gold standard in branding and advertising. But their true brilliance may be in transforming touchpoints that others disregard—and setting a new standard as a result. Before Apple launched the Genius Bar, tech support wasn’t really considered a key brand touchpoint. But as Ron Johnson, the Genius bar creator, put it in an HBR article: “the intuition there wasn’t simply ‘How do we best help people fix their computers?’ It was ‘How do we restore and enhance customer relationships that may have been damaged by problems with the iPod?’” In the beginning, the concept was so new that few people used the Genius Bar. But, recognizing the value of this touchpoint, the company stuck with it until it became so popular it needed a reservation system—and became a defining experience of the Apple brand.
The traditional PDF annual report, however well-designed, serves its purpose, but may represent a missed opportunity. GE beautifully demonstrated the potential of this with its interactive 2016 annual report, which is a perfect vehicle for showcasing the brand’s evolving positioning as a digital industrial company. An immersive experience, the annual report takes you inside (with 360 views and ambient sound) a range of GE businesses, from an Engine Assembly facility to the Capacity Command Center for the Johns Hopkins Health System. The experience gives investors—and anyone else who visits the site—a sense of the scale, physicality, innovation, and critical nature of GE’s business.
The Customer Experience buzz isn’t going away, and that’s a good thing. But hopefully more and more brands will start looking for untapped opportunities to create memorable brand experiences at the moments that count.