Your Service Experience is Your Brand

Originally published in the Huffington Post

Unlike products, services require a user's participation throughout the journey. From on-boarding to invoicing, direct and consistent contact between the service provider and the service user means that there is enormous opportunity (and risk) to your brand at every touchpoint and even the spaces between them.

The Branded Service Journey

The impact of your brand experience is vast, and not only includes the experiences of existing customers, but also extends to interactions between brand evangelists, prospects, and other individuals or groups who come into contact with your brand through digital or in-person channels.

Understanding how this journey is unique for each of your markets and exactly how your markets should be segmented based on journey similarities is critical to creating a favourable brand experience in a dynamic digital world.

Research has consistently shown that brands tend to overestimate their effectiveness when it comes to delivering an exceptional experiences. Closing this expectation gap will have the single largest impact on how your brand is perceived.

Branded Touchpoints

The importance of managing touchpoints has received a lot of attention in recent years, as organizations and agencies attempt to untangle the increasingly complex relationships with their customers.

A touchpoint can be digital or physical, and encompasses any interaction that your market has with your brand. Identifying how people behave at these touchpoints can help you to better meet expectations when and where the service user wants.

Beyond providing a more effective and consistent brand experience, this also gives an organization insight into where their investments will have the most positive impact. Too often, assumptions about which touchpoints are the most important lead to ill-informed and costly decisions that may actually harm the brand in the long run.

Moving Beyond Marketing

While touchpoints are important, focusing exclusively on moments in time offers a fragmented view of your brand, at best. To effectively deliver a unique, memorable, and consistent brand experience, you must consider your brand holistically. Part of this can be done by examining the service journey. However, journeys typically only address ‘public facing’ components. A service blueprint on the other hand examines how this service journey overlaps with the behind-the-scenes components of service delivery.

Service blueprints go beyond marketing to examine how different departments, from sales to tech to support, all contribute to the overall brand experience. Gaps between departments are a major contributing factor to poor service experiences.

There has been a significant volume of literature on the enmeshment of both marketing and technology’s roles in organizations, and the need for greater communication between the two, but this is still a low-level view of a broader trend. All departments within an organization will need to work together to deliver a seamless brand experience, to both the public, and to employees.

The Strategy

It’s a messy problem. How can a service-based organization mobilize resources to effectively meet increasing expectations when the target is constantly shifting thanks to ever-evolving technology?

Fortunately, an interdisciplinary approach to innovation has evolved in recent decades. Call it what you want - business design, service design, design thinking – they all enable organizations to take a strategic approach to management and innovation in complex operating environments.

Some of the world’s most successful companies have been using design for years-  Apple, Nike, and Virgin Group are all great examples of companies that have used the power of design to better understand and meet the needs of their customers. And studies have shown that these companies are also more highly valued, on average beating the growth rate of the S&P by 228%.  

This approach to innovative problem solving has to come from the top. Commitment to the experiences of your employees and your service users is essential to maintaining the effectiveness of your investment, and the effectiveness of your brand.

In the end, the benefit is mutual, and you’ll be making people’s lives easier while establishing your brand as the one that ‘gets it’. What's not to like?