In this day and age, where customers have more choices and power than ever before, a company’s success hinges on delivering great customer experience.
And it doesn’t matter if you are in the business of retail, technology, or even processed driven industries like manufacturing or commodity - every company should have a strategy that focuses on customer experience. But not just any kind. It has to be one that is driven through emotional engagement.
This is because emotional connection drives brand loyalty. Brand building guru and author Scott Deming, has this to say:
“You live in Malaysia, I live in the U.S. There may be cultural differences. But we are both wired exactly the same way - we want relevance, we want something that is meaningful, we respond to emotion, we want to be part of something that could make a difference.”
Ninety-five percent of every choice, every decision and every relationship we enter into is based on emotions
“Ninety-five percent of every choice, every decision and every relationship we enter into is based on emotions. If a company gets too pragmatic, too technical, too much about processes, too much about (highlighting) benefits and features but fail to have a relationship with its customers - it is not a sustainable brand or business model.”
Deming was in Kuala Lumpur recently to speak at the Asian Disruptive Leadership Summit 2018.
Emotional connection not only builds customer loyalty, it delivers results too. Research suggests that customers do spend more when the brand resonates with their deepest emotional drives.
(Seventy percent of emotionally engaged consumers say they spend up to two times or more on brands they are loyal to)
But building that kind of connection - one that captures the hearts and minds - must start at the top, says Deming.
This is because employees can’t rally around the company’s mission if they themselves can’t feel it.
“The leadership has to create the passion on the inside. They all have to believe. If your own folks don’t understand what is the mission and purpose of they organisation, they will all run along a straight line, do the wrong things. Each will have their own agenda because they don’t understand the real agenda of the company.”
“But when a leader has the ability to impart the importance of a company’s purpose, value and mission, everyone gets on board with it. It then becomes a very strong company.”
No one knows your brand better than the employees, says Deming. And it comes down to the employees to become brand champions; they are your best storytellers.
“Part of being a good leader is to be able to create a culture that people want to belong to, a place where they want to tell people how awesome it is to work there.”
“And when customers feel the experience because of the (company’s) culture, they will want to keep coming back,” says Deming. “So it is really helping companies to create a culture that is beyond the brand promise.”
“You don’t have to be working for a company that is trying to find a cure for cancer - you work for a company that believes in a mission and get you to believe in the mission. That’s when you respond,” says Deming.
But how can industries which are more processed-driven or manufacturing-based companies build stronger emotional connection when they have less facetime opportunities with customers?
Deming relates his experience working American paint producer Benjamin Moore:
We Created Programs to Build Relationships
Deming, drawing over 30 years of experience in advertising, marketing and branding and training in corporate America, also talked about organisational changes.
Change is important to help companies stay relevant. Change is necessary so that companies can keep up with advances in technology or to stay ahead of competition.
If it is working and you are growing your business, why change it?
But change for the sake of change is disruptive and damaging to an organisation.
“Change for the sake of change, sometimes, is an ego thing. The CEO, the President or whoever, they want to make their mark and let everybody know that they are making a difference.”
Deming witnessed first hand the disruptive effects of making changes too often without a real need for it. He relates an experience working with a large air-conditioning and refrigeration corporation which had multiple changes at the helm over a few years.
“So instead of evaluating if the current (strategy) is working or beef up the status-quo, they rip it apart and start all over again. And often, they become disruptive, unprofitable and unsustainable.”
His advice, “If it is working and you are growing your business, why change it?”
Emotional Connection Drives Brand Loyalty
Organisational change, he says, are often uncomfortable and adapting to change can be messy and therefore, effective communication is the key to executing a smooth transition.
Deming says, start by asking what exactly is changing and identifying what the company is trying to achieve from each department or employee from the change.
Change should be exciting. But it is a very scary thing if you are in the dark
“If I work at a company with all these changes - be it change in technology, change in personality or anything - but I’m not even told why is this happening, I’ll be wondering what is going on? What am I doing here,” says Deming.
Clear communication is crucial. But what’s also important is for the management to allow people the opportunity to share their concerns, ask questions, follow up with answers and make continuous updates a top priority.
Here’s what leaders can say; “Here’s why you are part of this, here’s what you are going to do, don’t be afraid, I want you to be excited, this change is progress,” Deming elaborates. His point is, continuous discussion with employees is necessary to get them involved in the process.
Nothing makes walking out of the door easier than an employee who feels uncared and insecure. Afterall, people don’t leave jobs; they leave managers.
“The more the leadership can talk about that, changes can be exciting,” says Deming. “Change should be exciting. But it is a very scary thing if you are in the dark.”