It’s Not a Customer Experience Gap, It’s an Emotional Connection Breach
This article is about the emotional connection inside of the customer experience, inside CX. There is a stage in the CX phases of the customer journey that the industry has coined the experience gap. It befuddles me, as the idea of an experience gap is ludicrous, and I’d like to explain why.
The mere fact that a brand is witnessing an experience gap, they’re viewing the entire experience from the brand side of the relationship. Their perspective is not customer experience-centric, it’s brand delivery-centric.
There’s this idea that there’s a gap for the customer between the point-of purchase, and the moment-of-delivery. That idea exists only because the brand is doing a really poor job at cultivating and nurturing the relationship during that phase and stage of time between logistical milestones. Experientially, that is not a gap, it’s a chasm. This chasm must urgently by addressed by emerging brands, if they want to scale, and is an area of expertise we specialize in to optimize the digital brand customer experience, for luxury and lifestyle brands, to really do a much, much better job at that, emotionally.
When a brand looks at the stage of a purchase logistically, as a package to be packed, shipped and delivered, in the phase we call the parcel-to-porch, that’s delivery. But if you flip it, and you look at it from the customer perspective, it’s about receiving what they purchase, what they’re really excited about. If there’s a gap in your communication with them as they are in that stage of experience, and we as humans are always having experience, 24/7, and in this particular case, the experience is alarming, and negative emotions are firing.
Triggering Negative Emotions
Emotions as simple as, “I thought you cared about me? Where did you go?” They customer feels “ghosted”, the term coined in the online dating realm. The customer starts to worry. They begin to question, “is it coming? Where is it?” They start checking into it, maybe tracking the package, checking their email. They start doing more work in the relationship, to make sure that something is happening.
The brand is absolutely at fault here. The brand is damaging the relationship, and they’re not just eroding the customer’s trust, the trust has been broken. The ability to earn back that trust in that stage is very difficult.
Some of the emotions that fire off are feelings of confusion, and of abandonment, and anger. “I thought you cared?” “We were in dialogue, but once I bought, then radio silence.” That is an experience, meaning that silence is experiential, emotionally charged. It’s a defining moment, as a breach the relationship.
It’s completely the brand’s fault, so it’s on you, as a brand, to avoid it in the beginning. You’re creating emotions such as feeling ghosted, generating worried thoughts of “where did you go”, and fears that maybe something’s going wrong. As a result, the customer starts investing time and energy into trying to understand, in their mind, as opposed to enjoying the experiencing of the purchase, trying to resolve what’s happening, is something still happening? “Are we still in relationship?” “Are we still dating here?” “What’s going on with my package?” Anger ensues.
The Emotional Connection Breach
They don’t think of it as a package. As a shopper then a buyer, they spent time browsing, searching, shopping, comparing, thinking about what they need. And then, they finally make a decision, and they invest in you, in your product or your service. So, to them it’s not a box, and it’s not a package that gets delivered. To them it’s a promise of solving a problem in their world. The brand sees it as delivery, and the customer is experiencing it as a milestone of waiting to receive it.
Leveraging Anticipation for a Better Brand Experience
If the brand is in touch with the customer experience, they would want to ensure how I felt in that process of waiting. This stage of CX is an incredible, incredible untapped opportunity for brands to really, really heighten, elevate, and advance the customer connection and relationship.
The customer is in the emotional state of anticipation, positive expectation. Because, there’s anticipation, there’s the opportunity to engage, for emotional “foreplay”, if you will. That is a provocative framework, but that is the opportunity to use that stage to enhance the customer experience. The customer is happy, excited, and looking forward to receiving “the bounty”.
At Inspire Fire, we have defined four distinct phases in digital brand customer experience, DBCX™, after the Point-Of-Purchase, to be optimized by brands to elevate the CX, by strengthening the customer emotional connection.
Our first stage is called “Boxing The Bounty”. We consult with brands on how to do a better job at packaging, messaging, protecting that precious purchase that the customer has emotionally and monetarily invested in. Working with the paperwork, there’s a whole strategy with what to do with that, and what not to do as well.
Our second stage is called “Parcel-To-Porch”. This is where the brand’s focus shifted from purchase, to behind the scenes logistics, called the final mile, or the last mile. From this place, they’re focusing on the systems, technology and carriers involved in getting the parcel to the porch, not on the customer experience, the focus is on delivering the box.
Now let’s look at that differently, Lets make that customer experience-centric, and look at all of the customer communication that can and should happen. Email communication, “We packed your box today. It’s on its way to you.” Or, if it’s back ordered, or if it’s delayed, that’s an incredible opportunity to employ a communications strategy to keep the anticipation alive and well.
For example, let’s say your customer purchases shoes from you. You make those shoes in Italy, and there is a delay on delivering them. A strategy to extend the customer anticipation, and create positive expectation, while thwarting off any negative feelings, would be to involve them in the process and journey of the shoes. A marketing automation could drip a sequence of, “Hey, we cut your leather today”, “Your shoes are being made today.” “Your shoes are coming to our warehouse today.” “Your shoes have shipped to you and they’ll be coming in the next few days.”
Transforming Logistics into Better Customer Connection
Shipping and delivery are logistics. They must be done, and done well. But it’s only one side of the coin. In our strategy development, we expand the brand vision and tactics to optimize the other side of the coin. To the customer, it’s not solely about executing the shipping and delivery, it’s even more about about communication and receiving, impacting the customer relationship with the brand. Installing many small touchpoints to these stages will result in sharp differences in customer emotion, that both elevate connection and transform customer experience.
In the Parcel-To-Porch phase, there are some brands that do a really great job with text messaging and email, it says, “Your package is on your porch.” “Your package has been delivered.” That’s phenomenal.
Our third stage is designing the experience strategy and all the various experiential components of “Unboxing-the-Bounty” so that the customer can savor the unboxing moments and the impeccable care you demonstrate to them. These strategies are highly positive, and highly emotional, eliciting auditory responses of feeling cared for. This is a goldmine.
Our fourth phase, where we help brands do a much better job at having that trial-buyer come back and purchase again, is called Stoking-The-Fire. The strategies and tactics in this phase activate engagement and further advance the emotional connection that fuels the brand relationship, progressively moving your customer toward loyalty.
Using Personas and Empathy in Your CX Strategies
In the customer’s experience of that phase, in the “gap”, to use that term, all this negative emotion is being fired off, and eroding the experience for your customer. What I’d like to suggest is that you flip your perspective to focus much more brain power toward your customer’s experience. First of, you can personify him or her. Let’s give him a name. Let’s say it’s Bob. Instantly you have a rough cut of the persona of who Bob is. Then activate empathy to evaluate what’s occurring for Bob, logistically and emotionally. This information can then be used to create better CX touch points, what we develop, coined Resonance Roadmaps™. In this process a brand can discover opportunities for creating and delivering “defining moments”, the wow and delight moments that truly make or break the relationship.
What is Bob experiencing between that stage of clicking to purchase, paying in full up front, with total trust by the way, and then there’s this space and time. What is he feeling? He’s excited, he’s telling his friends. He’s going from anticipation and excitement into confusion, worry, fear, anxiety, abandonment. And then, disappointment, anger, resentment. All of that is possible for Bob, depending on what exactly is going on with the specifics and brand communication.
Mine the Gap, Not Mind the Gap
So, there is no experience gap people. There is an experience. And it’s potentially awful. Flip your perspective from, packing a box and delivering a box. Logistics of the shipping and completion of arrival on the porch. It’s actually just the beginning of the delight. Flip it to Bob’s experience, emotional experience of purchasing and his excitement. Track the emotional journey, the Resonance Roadmap™ of what he’s feeling in that emotional connection inside the experience. Then when he receives that box, then what?
Kerri Konik is a seasoned brand strategist and leading expert in igniting emotional connection and optimizing customer experience to drive business growth. She is a consultant, advisor and speaker on catalyzing the emotional bonds between customers, brands, and leaders to increase value, progress, and accelerate the speed of change, growth and desired impact. An entrepreneur at heart, Kerri has launched five businesses, and is the CEO of InspireFire, a women-owned brand strategy and marketing consultancy based in Philadelphia.