We’ve all told stories about the things that happen to us in our lives. It’s part of how society works – the sharing of experiences. The telling of stories is part of how we learn. And our brains seem to be built to remember a story more readily than anything else. Most brains retain a story more easily than facts and figures, numbers and dates, names and addresses.
Naturally, there’s bound to be someone who flies in the face of this (they’re reading this, scoffing right now).
But my contention is that most people don’t think purely in binary, viewing the world as a series of ones and zeros floating on a computer screen (incidentally, if you do see things that way, please contact our R&D team – they’re always looking for people like you!)
And it’s because of our love of stories that companies focus so much on the importance of reviews and recommendations. There’s an inherent distrust of anything a brand says because – well – of course, they’re bound to say that, aren’t they? They want you to buy their stuff, so they have a vested interest. But if a customer says something is good and describes how – well, that’s something else entirely! That counts as evidence. Validation that you’re on the right track.
And we’ve all done it – diligently reading online reviews for products before we put anything in our basket. And it doesn’t matter a jot whether we know any of these people. In fact we know nothing about them! They might all be jabbering nutcases for all we know, but by virtue of being a ‘real customer’ (apparently) then there is a trust in their words. The counter to this is when stories of fake reviews arise and the trust in a platform plummets as a consequence – but that’s a story for another time.
Either way, word of mouth is so important. In this day and age, it’s probably far more important than many are prepared for, or comfortable with.
I’m not a marketing expert, so please forgive the simplicity (and doubtless faults!) of what follows – but I’ve often thought that a BRAND is something that should be designed with care and consideration. It goes way beyond names, logos and colours. It’s a statement of intent. More than that – it’s a promise. The brand is a representation of everything you want to be, how you want to be seen, what customers can expect and how they’ll feel when then engage with you.
So if a Brand is what you want, perhaps a REPUTATION is what you’ve got? This is what people say about you in the media, to each other. Customer to customer. Friend to friend. Word of mouth. And past a point, you’ve got little control over what is said or how to shape this – other than to ensure all your actions match the promise you made within the brand. You can try to stay ‘on message’ as much as you like, but if the experience doesn’t match the expectation, then reputation and brand will slide further apart.
So this is why the experience matters and why it grates with all of us when we have a bad experience. It’s not that we think we can all go through life and everything will be sunshine and roses every day – we’re adults, we know there will be good days and bad. And it’s great when it goes well. Everyone is happy. It’s all smiles and joy. We’re progressing. But when you make a choice based in part on the promise within a brand and the experience fails to deliver – it’s beyond annoying! At home it’s an inconvenience, a frustration. You’ve been let down. At work, it’s all of the above, but it’s also a rather public reflection of your professional choice of one vendor or product over another. Get it right and all’s well. Get it wrong…
Happiness, Progress, Joy. Inconvenience, Frustration, Embarrassment. These are all powerful elements in stories that others will relate too. We’ve all felt these things, so when someone tells a story that reignites these feelings within us, that’s when the story really sticks.
So to me, word of mouth and experience are interlinked. Obviously. One follows the other, so it’s important to ensure the experience remains finely tuned and ‘on brand’. This means listening to what’s going on. But more than that, it also means taking action when you see an opportunity to be even better, or course correct when something goes wrong. So as you know, there are some tools and techniques out there to help you keep on top of the how the customer experience is going. For my money, the trick is to take the time every so often to ensure the experience still matches up to your overall strategy and brand. Word of mouth will tell you when it doesn’t – but best not leave it that late to find out.
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