Marketing Promises: Does Your Brand’s CX Add Up?

Customer experience (CX) is more critical than clever ads and interesting content for getting new sales, securing repeat sales, referrals and loyalty. And it’s been this way for more than a couple of years. So how is it, then, that we continue to get really bad service from some of the really big brands that have the resources to really know and do better?

Customer experience (CX) is more critical than clever ads and interesting content for getting new sales, securing repeat sales, referrals and loyalty. And it’s been this way for more than a couple of years. So how is it, then, that we continue to get really bad service from some of the really big brands that have the resources to really know and do better?

Bad customer experiences, including difficulties customers have getting information about your products, not only kill sales, but can wipe out all of your efforts and spend on marketing, and actually backfire. Take this next statement seriously if you want to keep your job.

If your marketing promises a happy, customer-first friendly experience through words, offers and images, but your sales and customer service are not lined up to deliver accordingly, change your marketing or don’t market at all!

Missed expectations don’t just miss the mark, they miss the ability to generate trust, loyalty and referrals from customers. Oftentimes, they create such bad impressions people go to the competition and tell everyone how bad your business was!

Case in Point: Here’s a rundown of the experience I had just this week with Lowe’s while shopping for new kitchen countertops.

  1. Visit website and find no information on pricing for options listed.
  2. Go to the store and look at samples.
  3. Salesperson tells me she can’t help me, but the guy tied up on the phone can.
  4. Wait and he never acknowledges us, so we leave.
  5. Go to website and look for granite and quartz styles.
  6. Again no prices, no measurement guide or cost estimator to guide selection.
  7. Call the store again.
  8. Told I have to call the store closest to my house, as prices change at each location. (What? Does this mean they mark up prices when they think they can get away with it?)
  9. Call the local store.
  10. Am told sales rep is out to lunch and will call back.
  11. Never does.
  12. Connect with online chat that tells me they don’t have prices.
  13. Call the store again.
  14. Get sales rep, who tells me she’s busy, but will call me back.
  15. Never does.
  16. Get an automated email from sales rep per the online chat I did.
  17. Sales rep has no idea I am the one she told she’d call back, but never did.
  18. Email sales rep asking for prices.
  19. She sends me category prices, which are of no help as they are not listed on website.
  20. I email back as to what styles are in the lower category.
  21. She emails me names of styles that are not on their website.
  22. I delete the email and get an estimate for various options from Home Depot in less than 10 minutes, using its online estimator based on actual prices listed on website.

That Lowe’s experience involved 21 touchpoints or actions on my part that went nowhere.

A friend of mine bought a microwave from Lowe’s and paid for installation, which was promised in 48 hours. Instead, he got a series of unreturned calls, and excuses from employees, which included, “It’s been a long day so I can’t help you; I’m going home early,” over eight days. He returned the microwave and shopped local, where he got the same microwave for less money and got it installed in 24 hours.

Its advertising promise is, “Never Stop Improving.” But perhaps Lowe’s needs to change it to “Never Will Be Improving” as this kind of service, and difficulty in getting information about products you are trying to buy, is unconscionable and has been for years in this decade of customer experience strategy and technology.

On the other hand, Home Depot’s promise, “More Saving. More Doing.” was right in line with my experience. It DOES provide information about products online and on the phone. It DOES provide guides to help you determine what you need and what your costs will be, and it DOES help you save by offering discounts frequently. Even though it, too, didn’t return phone calls. I totally don’t get that for any business.

The purpose of sharing this story is not to call out Lowe’s, even though it deserves it, but to make a critical point. Your ad copy, marketing promises, content offers and more, MUST align with the experience you offer at all touchpoints of a customer journey. You can’t just come up with a great slogan that promises unexpected, delightful service and products. You have to deliver!

When people see slogans like “never stop improving,” they call or chat or go to the store with an unconscious expectation that their experiences will be an “improvement” over what others offer. When this does not happen, the levels of disappointment and respect fall deeper than if they had not seen your promise in the first place.

Unfulfilled expectations from slogans are much like “fake news,” as they become fake marketing promises that can kill a brand as quickly as fake news can a politician.

Take inventory of your customer service protocols and see just how well they align with your promises. Here are some tips:

  • Mystery shop your own brand.
  • Pay a friend to mystery shop and give the friend some tough questions or situations to pose to your staff.
  • Find out what your NPS score is. Do your own NPS survey and, if you’re a big brand, go see what SatMatrix and others list it as. Is your experience worthy of referring others or not?
  • Survey customers immediately upon purchase and ask them to evaluate their experience in their words.
  • Ask customers to rate their experience by the words you currently use. If you promise, “friendly,” “extraordinary” and “best in class,” how much do they agree with you?
  • Make employees feel like they matter to you and they will make customers feel like they matter to them. A simple, yet critical and often overlooked concept that costs almost nothing.

Actionable Takeaway: Define how you want customers to feel after every touchpoint with your brand. Create an experience protocol for all to follow that supports that outcome. Train your employees on how to deliver on your marketing promises, and make sure they are promises you can keep! Every day, every customer.

Delivering on the Marketing Promise

We all know that promises are made to be kept. And let’s assume that most marketers are intent on delivering the promises they make, even if the promotional wording of those promises may be somewhat exaggerated.

marketing management
“community-manager,” Creative Commons license. | Credit: Flickr by Enrique Martinez Bermejo

We all know that promises are made to be kept.

And let’s assume that most marketers are intent on delivering the promises they make, even if the promotional wording of those promises may be somewhat exaggerated.

The problem is that unless we can truly control every step in the journey from the first promotional articulation through to the timely receipt of the goods or service and payment, Murphy’s law — “anything that can go wrong, will go wrong” — may come into play. I remember many years ago making a unique “Act Now: One Day Only” offer for a book club membership drive and being hit by the season’s worst snowstorm at the end of the “One Day Only.” We waited and waited for the response: one day, two days and only on the third day did the mailed orders begin to trickle in. Of course, it never caught up with expectation.

Not long ago, a Brazilian marketing company had launched a major campaign for magazine subscriptions using, as a medium, promotional inserts in a bank’s monthly credit card charges’ mailing. The bank promised that 100 percent of its invoices would have the insert. When response was well below tested expectations, it was discovered that only about 60 percent of the promotional pieces had been inserted: Someone in the lettershop had mislaid boxes of the printed inserts and never alerted anyone, lest it slow the tightly scheduled invoice mailing. Had the marketer endured the boredom and personally paid a visit to the facility when the job was being run, a significant and very expensive disaster could have been averted.

We have no way of managing the customer’s expectation other than scrupulously delivering what we have promised or even a little more than we have promised — just in case Murphy is hanging around. We all know that one of Amazon’s greatest strengths is its delivery follow-through. It doesn’t only “ask” for — it almost insists — on customer feedback. It carefully monitors every step of the process and listens and responds to comments, whether bouquets or brickbats.

Sadly, in my experience, not enough companies listen carefully to the recordings of telephone interactions the law requires them to announce and proactively respond to about customer complaints.

We are at a strange time in marketing’s history.

We have more tools than ever before, and these allow levels of sophistication not even dreamed of only a couple of decades ago in the age of Addressograph plates and before computers were on every desk. But it seems that the promise of the future — super technology to deal efficiently with all the minutiae of the selling, purchasing and payment processes — often falls short of keeping that promise.

The easy thing to do is to blame it on “those lazy, overpaid, long-haired techies” and software that “doesn’t do what they promised it would do.” But, as the saying is, “the fault lies not with the Gods but with ourselves.”

As managers of data-driven marketing enterprises or service companies, most of us have come a long way from the days when management by walking around (such as visiting the lettershop facility in the earlier example) was in vogue. That meant actually seeing if what was happening where the real work is done, away from our elegant offices, matches the promising PowerPoint presentations we see in the conference room.

Our customers want and need us. They applaud with their purchases, in the convenience and economy of the digital world where everything is immediately available and even better than promised.

But for those of us who have left the “reality” down on the shop floor and manage by keeping an eye on our ever-fancier dashboards, it might be good to remember the anecdote about a possible future airline flight whose passengers were told that the flight was historic, the first one to have no crew. The joke about that flight is the announcement promised: “This flight will be flown by a faultless new technology and nothing can go wrong … go wrong … go wrong.”

We would do well to make sure that our promises are being kept the old-fashioned way — walking around.

Emotion Through a Branding Statement

A branding statement is a marketing tool. It reflects your organization’s reputation: what you are known for, or would like to be known for. It articulates how you stand apart from competitors. And it should stir emotion. Today we’ll drill down into five steps to shed light on creating a solid branding statement, and how you can use this example branding statement to put a new glow on your organization’s image.

A branding statement is a marketing tool. It reflects your organization’s reputation: what you are known for, or would like to be known for. It articulates how you stand apart from competitors. And it should stir emotion. Today we’ll drill down into five steps to shed light on creating a solid branding statement, and how you can use this example branding statement to put a new glow on your organization’s image.

In my last column, Creating a One Word Brand Statement, you were given a road map of how to freshen your brand and organization’s image. It included how to research your audience, conduct a competitive analysis and interpret data, with the end result of identifying the one word that reflects your organization. The final step challenged you with a reality check to see if that one word was realistic.

Today we go on to the next level, outlining steps to identify your promise and benefits (both logical and emotional), validate your credibility and identify your uniqueness. Finally, I’ve included an example branding statement.

  1. Brand Promise and Benefits. What do you promise your customers will receive from your brand? Is there alignment in the promise of your brand and the actual benefit? One way to arrive at this is to write a list of your promises and benefits side-by-side on a document or whiteboard. See your brand features through their eyes. Then ask yourself, if you were the customer, what you would get out of your promise. Keep drilling down and asking “why?”
  2. Emotional Promise and Benefits. How does your customer feel when they see your brand? Ask yourself: “how does our brand make our customer feel?” Continue to ask the question, “why?” multiple times to get to a deeper emotional place. As a place to start a list of possible emotions, here are a few that your brand may mean to someone:
    • Trustable
    • Hopeful
    • Happiness
    • Sadness
    • Fear
    • Anger
    • Hatred
  3. Credibility. Your organization’s brand must be credible. The customer only cares up to a certain point about what you do, so you must be believable and the real deal. What can you learn from customers’ testimonials? Your customers can be an excellent resource for identifying your positioning through their testimonials.
  4. Find Uniqueness. You contrast yourself from your competition through quality, price, service, reputation, story, or something else notably distinct. If you aren’t positioned notably different on at least one of these, you will have a difficult time marketing your organization. It doesn’t have to be logical or rational. You need emotional differences. Your unique selling proposition paves the way to connect with your customers more deeply on an emotional level. Through positioning of your brand, or repositioning, you set yourself apart from your competitors. And importantly, you create an image that can be remembered more easily by your customers. It’s a point of differentiation that helps you stand apart.
  5. Branding Statement Template. By now you have pulled together a lot of information and you are ready to create a branding statement. Here’s a template to get you started:

(Organization or Individual Name) is (short description of who you are). The (Name of Organization or Individual) customer/patron is a person who (short description). They are (more description of customers) and (description of how product is purchased and consumed). The one word or words that our customers will cite most often about (Name of Organization or Individual) is (one word/sample of the top three words). We (promise and benefit you deliver) so they feel good about (themselves or other elements). Our customers believe in (name of organization) because (emotional promise or other reasons), and they differentiate us from (competitors or organizations in your category) because (testimonials or other customer feedback).

Remember: a Branding Statement is a marketing tool. It’s foundational to define your organization (or, if you’re creating this for you, as a personal Branding Statement). Below is an example for the organization referenced in last week’s blog that is creating a new logo and brand. It’s still a work in progress, but gives you an idea of how a Branding Statement might read:

Vocal Majority is an uplifting musical experience that stimulates the senses. It’s a non-profit whose performers are volunteers. The Vocal Majority patron is a person who has a deep love of family and harmony—both in the musical sense, and in the cultural sense. These are individuals across all ages that are loyal and return again and again to listen to our unique musical arrangements. They purchase tickets to experience us at live performances, and purchase recordings. The words that our customers will cite most often about Vocal Majority are harmony, excellence, and family. We transport our fans to feel good experiences about themselves, their families and our culture. Our customers believe in Vocal Majority because they tell us how we have touched their lives, and they differentiate us from other musical experiences because we perform not for money, but for the love of singing.”

With these steps, you’re ready to create your own branding statement. When it’s completed, distribute it to your staff, agency or creative partners, and by all means, make sure you consistently deliver what your branding statement says about you.