A few months ago, my 10-year-old daughter and I were traveling together when I overheard her say that Ford is a terrible car. Although I like cars and certainly have my preferences, our interaction regarding this subject had been non-existent. Naturally, I was curious what had shaped her mind to generate such a strong opinion. After some conversation, I learned that Chevy is the best car company because they display their logo on the jersey of her favorite soccer team, Manchester United. In addition, she once saw a decal of the comic strip character Calvin showing an obvious distaste for a competing company.
Chevy now has my daughter as a captive audience. But how do they transition her into a purchaser of products and services? More importantly, how do companies in general transition a captive audience into brand loyalty? Companies that are consistent, trustworthy and “get it right” create longer-lasting, more profitable customer relationships. These attributes correlate with customer expectations and brand loyalty.
Companies like Coca Cola, Apple and Nike have worked endlessly to make sure their products meet the expectations of customers, regardless of location, time, etc. The properties of a Coke are essentially the same anywhere in the world. All Apple stores have products that employees know and understand. When purchasing Nike apparel, one can expect quality, durability and perhaps an enhancement to your physical ability (“Be Like Mike”). When companies fail to provide a consistent product or expected experience, however, customers seek an alternative. In doing so, they may use multiple channels to convey the bad experience or product deficiency.
A customer’s brand trust—positive or negative—is determined by the characteristics of the products/services and behaviors of the organization. Interestingly, many brands have loyal customers that simultaneously exhibit both trust and distrust, which can be attributed to the complex nature of customer/company relationships. They may like a product, for example, but dislike other attributes of the organization. Customers will first decide if the products or services meet their expectations, then assess a company’s behaviors. As more information is gathered, they continuously evaluate the level of trust they place in a brand.
Getting it right
When customers make purchases, they don’t want problems. If problems do occur, they expect a timely solution. Telling a customer service agent one’s problem, only to be transferred three more times, can be maddening. To be competitive in today’s market, companies must get it right the first time.
Expectations regarding products or services are shaped by experiences. Companies that can meet customer expectations have a clear advantage in creating brand loyalty. Conversely, brand value is eroded when a company is not sensitive to customer expectations.
Customer expectations are constantly evolving, which requires companies to adapt with them. In this constantly changing, consumer-driven environment, the most successful companies have the vision to adapt products and services to what clients will want in the future. By doing this, they have the potential to penetrate new markets and create brand-loyal, repeat buyers.
Today, Chevy is the clear favorite for my daughter. With some consistency, trust and a commitment to getting things right the first time, they likely will have a future customer—and a fantastic marketing story. PM
Scott Souter is a senior vice president, commercial banking, for Hickory Point Bank & Trust in Peoria Heights.