Attracting customers. It was always the traditional focus for marketing.
By offering something that was useful, affordable and had meaning, the brand pulled customers towards it and earned the right to exist.
However, I learnt over time that even when you got this right, there were other aspects of the customer experience that could still push them away.
First, the employees a customer encountered. If they were courteous, and wanted to help, then this strengthened the pull of the brand. Indeed, I've often heard regular customers refer to particular employees by name. But if they were disinterested, then it would push customers away.
The issue here wasn't whether the customer need was successfully attended to. Rather, it was how the customers were made to feel. A caring voice or being recognized by name made customers feel valued, while bored or rude employees left customers feeling unappreciated, or even slighted.
Second, the basic expectations of service. If they weren't delivered, it just made the experience unnecessarily difficult. With supermarkets, for example, too many gaps on the shelves meant customers were never sure whether they could get what they wanted. Too much clutter made a store difficult to navigate. And lines at the checkout made the time the shopping trip would take unpredictable.
The issue here was not the individual interaction: one gap on the shelf was never a problem. It was the total of all the interactions that made up their experience. If it was too difficult overall, it pushed customers away, and they were unlikely to return.
Third, the sense of trust. From pretty much every element of the experience, customers were drawing conclusions about how the brand really felt about them, and whether it could be trusted. Even if it was delivering on all of its marketing promises, trust could still be an issue.
For example, if there were lines at the checkout, but every checkout was open, customers felt the brand was doing its best to cope with a busy store. But if some of the checkouts were closed, then they felt it cared more about money than it did about them, and couldn't be trusted.
The underlying lesson. While offering something useful, affordable and with meaning earned the right to be in the customer's life, it took being trusted to deliver an efficient and caring experience to keep the brand there. Together, the push and pull of the customer experience became the value the brand created.
Today, this is the reality for every brand. Thanks to technology, there are many more opportunities for interactions between customers and brand, and across an increasing variety of channels. And with customers so easily able to share their experiences, their collective opinion can influence potential new customers, even before they've seen anything from the brand.
Today, marketers need to be concerned with every aspect of the customer experience. However, much of this lies beyond their control, and can only be delivered by a company-wide effort.
As well as pulling customers towards the brand, they now need to inspire the company behind it...