Organizations around the world are actively evaluating—and seeking to better understand—the decision-making and behavioral influence of employee and customer trust, the drivers of emotional bonding with a brand or company, and what is required to create and sustain a more valuable branded experience.

If these topics are on your company’s radar, you can get the answers you need here! In today’s post InMoment EX and EX-CX linkage expert Michael Lowenstein is sharing his thought-leading insights on just those subjects. Check out these must-read articles!

Top Articles on EX, Linking EX & CX, and Branded Experience

#1: The Future Role of Consumer Trust 

Stakeholder (customer and employee) trust is about performance consistency and reliability, active 360 degree communication, and emotional security on an individual level, and humanized processes which lead to desired outcomes. It’s based on perception of personal value delivery relative to expectations. Like a bank or investment account, employee and customer trust is earned; and it can build, or decline, over time as the totality of experience unfolds.

Learn more here!

#2: Trust as an Emotion  

Trust is considered to be a “feeder” emotion, actively contributing to an overall perception of experience value, which, to help assure success, must become part of how organizations design experiences for both customers and employees. It is evident in both b2b and b2c products and services, everywhere around the globe. In some industries, such as financial services, trust has particular importance, especially concerning brand image and optimized relationships.. 

Read the full article here!  

#3:  The Customer Behavior Consequences of Low and High Employee Trust

A high percentage of U.S. employees simply don’t trust their employer.  This has a direct impact on employees’ perceptions and behavior, on their level of commitment to the company and also its customers.  There are progressive organizations, such as Zappos, that focus on mutual trust between employer and employee.  At very high levels, trust can help produce a corps of employee advocates (aka ambassadors in the post), making them active, contributing partners in a shared destiny with their employer.

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#4:  What if Employees Don’t Support Brand and CX Initiatives? 

As organizations design brand and customer experience initiatives and programs, there is often tacit belief that employees will indirectly and directly support such efforts.  It has frequently been demonstrated, however, that neutral or uncommitted employees can withhold their support and/or participation, even being negative in this regard.  Without multi-level employee commitment (to the organization, its product/service value proposition, and its customers) these programs can be in jeopardy of not meeting business outcome goals

Learn more here!  

#5:  The Positive and Negative Emotions of Employees and Customers 

Going beyond traditional quality-related and tangible aspects of value to behavioral drivers, there are 20 stakeholder experience-related emotions, which can be applied to deeper understanding of decision dynamics.  Eight of the emotions are negative (stressed, frustrated, unhappy, etc.) and twelve are positive (safe, trusting, energetic, etc.).  At the pinnacle of positive emotions are ‘happy’ and ‘pleased’, and this can be expressed in experience through the concept of lagniappe, essentially purposeful overdelivery of value.

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#6:  Emotional Drivers Shared by Employees and Customers  

Getting at the “feelings”, drivers of underlying customer and employee emotions, has seen growing importance.  Though this has been slower to develop on the employee side, changes in consumer and marketing dynamics have resulted in significantly increased focus on how emotions shape, and are shaped by, experience.  For both groups of stakeholders, the key priorities are to create, support, and leverage trust and value, through several techniques:  transparent and frequent communication, understanding of behavioral influences, etc.

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#7:  The Importance of Brand Image in Shaping Perceived Value and CX 

Corporate and brand image is a key, though less studied, element of perceived stakeholder value and overall experience.  Research has demonstrated, for example, the strong correlation of brand and product reputation through online reviews and resultant sales.  On the employee side, this impacts recruitment and retention.  For both customers and employees, there is also evidence of downside performance due to impaired or poor reputation.  Proactive organizations, understanding this, have taken an array of steps to protect image and reputation.

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#8:  Creating Emotional Value for Customers and Employees

Many companies have tactically elected to apply traditional engagement approaches in the belief that these will enhance employee and customer behavior.  However, more progressive and advanced organizations have learned that stronger value and business outcomes, for both stakeholder groups, are realized by creating emotionally-based commitment and advocacy behavior.  The proof is that the most successful organizations reach higher levels of perceived value, performance, and financial results through such contemporary means.

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#9:  Customer Bonding and the Branded Experience 

There are organizations, such as IKEA, for example, where the experiences created for customers are meant to be personally bonding and immersive – through product design, employee interaction, and the overall store visit.  It is, in effect, a ‘branded customer experience’, distinctive and unique to this retailer.  Examples are offered of B2B and B2C companies that have transcended from transactional, commoditized experiences and now offer branded differentiation with higher perceived value—for both employees and customers.

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Brand Experience

Customer experience (CX) programs have been laser-focused on numbers ever since the experience space came into being. A lot of organizations consider achieving high scores in NPS, OSAT, and the like to be the holy grail of customer experience, and a goal that every program must be tuned to. After all, if scores are high, that must mean customers are consistently happy, right?

The truth is a bit more nuanced than that, which isn’t to say that metrics aren’t useful—they’re great for letting an organization know that a problem might be occurring at one touchpoint or another. Unfortunately, that’s about all they can telegraph. They’re good for letting brands know that a problem is occurring somewhere in the process, but there are two major brand experience factors beyond that that they can’t clue brands into: brand perception and shared values.

Key #1: Brand Perception

Numbers alone cannot tell you how customers perceive you. The only way to gather that insight is by allowing your customers to submit unstructured, open-ended feedback, then analyzing that feedback for intelligence that you can act upon. Understanding how your brand is perceived can be tricky, even frustrating if you’re contending with perceptions you feel are beyond your control. However, knowing how your customers perceive you is vital to building long-term relationships with them.

More directly, brand perception plays a huge part in individual customer transactions and product experience. In many respects, it may not seem like perception should impact individual interactions, but remember that how customers see you influences whether they want to do business with you in the first place! Understanding how your brand is perceived can give you an opportunity to achieve Experience Improvement (XI), so compare customers’ unstructured feedback to your own messaging goals and work on the gaps preventing a bridge between the two.

Key #2: Shared Values

Every brand has a perception it wants to achieve for both its target audience and the wider world. We’re sure you’ve seen how many companies strive for an environmentally friendly or ethical image. That idea of shared values is also tremendously important to customer relationships, customer experience, and brand experience, and it’s another factor that brands can’t account for with numbers alone.

Much of customers’ trust in your brand is built on the values and identity they feel they share with you, even in a product experience sense. So, similarly to brand perception, go beyond numbers by letting customers tell you why they feel that bond with you, or why they may not. You can then create experience initiatives that build upon what customers see, or want to see, in your organization and the values that you express in your brand mission. When customers feel that fundamental connection to a brand, they’ll continue to come to you even when competition and other market forces are intense.

Click here to read our full-length point of view paper on brand experience. Expert Simon Fraser takes a deep dive into how these forces impact everything from transactions to relationships, and how your organization can leverage them to create Experience Improvement!

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When it comes to customer experience (CX), it’s obvious that solicited customer feedback is vital. But what if we told you that, on its own, that feedback is not sufficient to give you a thorough understanding of how your brand is delivering on experience? In fact you need a lot more. You need to understand how your employees view the experience. You need unsolicited feedback from social media and other sources. Finally,, you need to understand the greater market’s perception by benchmarking your customer experience program against competitors.

In the latest episode of InMoment’s “XI Expert Take” series, InMoment VP of Customer Experience Consulting and Insights Jeremy Griffiths takes a deep dive into benchmarking and why it’s so important for customer experience initiatives. We’ll be providing a few of the best takeaways in our article today.

Thinking About Benchmarking Your Customer Experience Program?

Before we get into pitfalls and best practices, let’s talk about why you should be benchmarking your CX program in the first place. Primarily, those of us who lead and leverage experience programs have two overarching questions to answer: 

  • How am I doing?
  • What do I need to improve to drive successful business outcomes?

So, we search for the answers in our customer and employee data. But to answer these questions fully, we can’t just look at our own strengths and weaknesses. We need to be able to see the wider context of the market to get a sense of how we compare. Only when we have that big-picture view can we be certain that we have all the necessary information to make effective, strategic decisions.

However, you don’t want to set out on a benchmarking journey just to get it done. To do it well and get the intelligence you need, there are a few pitfalls you need to avoid along the way. Here are the three benchmarking pitfalls Jeremy has seen most often in his career:

Pitfall #1: Using Benchmarks as a “Big Stick”

When Jeremy works with brands to start up or refresh their benchmarking initiatives, he often has to help leaders shift their perspective about their benchmarking scores. He says one of the most common challenges he’s seen is leaders who use their results as “a big stick to tell their team to ‘do better.’” 

The imagery here is especially effective and accurate. It’s easy to imagine that if a brand’s scores are low in comparison to competitors, a leader might use those benchmarks as a weapon to spur their employees into action. However, this can be incredibly harmful to morale in the moment and to long-term success. 

How? Let’s take a look from the employee perspective. Let’s say that your leader has just given you a talking to, assuming that you and your team are doing something  to negatively impact the experience. But what if you feel as though you’re doing the best you can? What if the real issue is something beyond your control, yet you’re still being made to feel responsible? You’d feel incredibly frustrated, devalued, and helpless. 

This is just one example of how the wrong perspective on benchmarks can negatively affect your business. As we all know, disengaged employees can lead to an increase in employee churn, and therefore, additional costs in the millions!

Pitfall #2:  Using Experience Benchmarks as an Excuse

The next pitfall Jeremy describes is directly related to the first. In fact, it’s the other extreme in terms of leadership perspective: leaders who use their benchmarks as an excuse to do nothing.

In contrast to our previous example, let’s consider a brand whose benchmarking scores are good relative to its competitors. If the leadership sees the numbers and thinks, “well, we’re obviously doing well. Why would we need to do anything differently?” there’s potential for harm to the greater business.

The reason why is quite simple: you shouldn’t let success make you complacent. In our fast-paced world, you can be ahead of the pack one second, and fall behind the next. If there’s one thing we can promise you, it’s that your competitors are competing on experience. If you’re not actively working to provide your customers with the next greatest, more convenient, more memorable experience, then the competition will surpass you—and your customers will flock to the brand with the best experience.

Pitfall #3: Being Too Focused on the Number

The third pitfall is really a cause (and effect) of the first two. Leaders either use benchmarks as a big stick or a comfort blanket because they are too focused on the number. And at the same time, they are causing their employees to focus on the number. 

The issue with this number-based focus is that it only allows you to measure or manage your experience. It does not open the door to actually improving your experiences and boosting your bottom line. To inspire these major benefits, you have to look beyond metric scores and instead focus on the “why.” Why are you performing this way? Why are competitors performing well? Why do customers choose your brand over others?

When you shift your focus from the numbers to the context, you create a proactive, inspired, and positive Experience Improvement (XI) culture that is always pushing forward. This culture inspires your employees to be problem solvers, to strive for better experiences, and to keep your customers coming back. And isn’t that why you’re benchmarking in the first place?

Moving Forward

Now that we’ve chatted about what to avoid when benchmarking, are you curious about how you should execute your initiative? Click here to watch the full episode, “How to Win with Experience Improvement in Your Marketplace,” to learn how you should design your benchmarks (from the samples to take to the questions you should ask), popular use cases, and more directly from the experts!

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The experience world has seen a certain term crop up more and more in recent years: omnichannel. This word has gradually become a regular part of customer experience (CX) practitioners’ vocabulary, and indicates a grander shift in CX thinking from focusing on transactions to creating a more seamless journey for customers. This article will briefly introduce what customers have come to expect of brands, and how those organizations can begin to think about meeting that expectation.

The Sum of All Parts

The main reason why many CX practitioners have shifted their customer experience thinking from individual transactions to entire relationships is because, well, that’s how customers see things. Individual transactions and interactions are important, yes, but customers think about a brand relationship in its entirety. This trend has only become more prominent in recent years, and it’s key to designing a meaningfully improved experience.

One of the most important reasons why customers think this way, especially when it comes to expecting a seamless experience, is because they now interact with brands in many different ways: via an app, over the phone, in-person, on a website, etc. With this increase in touchpoints has come a customer expectation that brands will recognize and remember them no matter how they choose to transact. This expectation is at the core of creating a truly omnichannel experience.

The Problem with Legacy Systems

It’s reasonable to ask why more brands haven’t immediately created omnichannel experiences if customers have come to not just desire them, but expect them. Unfortunately, many organizations have legacy systems in place that rigidly silo experience data. Call center data stays with call center teams, website data stays with digital teams, so on and so forth. This setup makes it much more difficult for brands to even know where to start desiloing customer journeys, let alone to successfully execute that goal.

Another issue to consider here is how brands use CRM systems. Though many of these databases’ data isn’t all that divided, it’s common for too few people to have access to it. This reduces data democratization, which makes it harder for a brand to achieve the 360-degree customer view needed for desiloing journeys.

Where Brands Go from Here

It’s become clear that customers expect brands to recognize them at every touchpoint, and to use that recognition to enhance their experience. Customers also expect to be able to seamlessly jump from one channel to another in any given interaction. Many companies’ experience programs aren’t built to accommodate this trend, resulting in lost opportunities for both a better experience and a stronger bottom line.

How might brands circumvent these problems, desilo their customer journeys, and create a more seamless experience for all? Click here to learn more about how your organization can break these barriers down and achieve Experience Improvement (XI) in my Point of View on this subject.

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The Power of a Smile

You often hear of the positive power of a smile.  A recent business trip brought this to light to me, as well as the negative power that is portrayed when it is missing.  My colleague and I were on our way to see a client and we decided to stop and get a coffee. The first coffee shop we came upon is a nationally well-known one, and especially here in New England—and even especially more in Quincy, MA.  It was a long drive and we still had a way to go.  We were really looking forward to a nice coffee and having optimistic discussions about our upcoming meeting.

As we approached the counter, we were ignored for about minute while several employees chatted a bit amongst themselves.  Of course, one minute can feel like ten when you are standing there awkwardly waiting for someone to acknowledge your presence.  However, we patiently waited until the representative made eye contact with us.  With no smile or greeting whatsoever, and with a clearly visible “I hate my job” look and tone, she said to us “What would you like?” We ordered, and once we got back to the car with our coffees, both looked at each other and at the very same time said “Wow!”.  We could not believe the lack of customer service and left there feeling like we were a bother and not wanted.  Why would we ever go back there?  The answer is we wouldn’t, and we won’t.  While the coffee was decent, the service certainly wasn’t.

As we reached our destination, we again stopped for another coffee, this time at another equally and nationally well-known coffee shop.  That experience was the complete opposite.  We were greeted with a smile, asked how our day was going, and how they could help us.  We felt acknowledged, invited, appreciated, and left feeling quite pleased and positive.

This experience reminded me of a great article I read a few years back called, “4 Reasons Why Excellent Customer Service Should Start with a Smile,” by Kaan Turnali in Digitalist Magazine. In the article, Kann explains that what’s often missing is a smile, a key element of customer service and business interactions.

Here are four reasons why excellent customer service should start with a smile:

A Smile is More Than an Expression

Smiling isn’t just something your face does. It communicates your state of mind. A smile—or the nonvisual sense of a smile for telephone customer service representatives—can be the most significant part of a business transaction. In retail, it can influence people’s perception of a brand and their customer satisfaction.

It can enhance the exchange of a product, the sharing of knowledge, or the offer of a solution As Internet and mobile commerce take market share from traditional brick-and-mortar businesses, smiling as a state of mind is more important than ever.

A Smile is More About a Mindset

Smiling is as much a reflection of an organization as it is a validation of that organization’s promise. It helps form the customer’s first impression, an indication of a pledge to offer a satisfactory product or service. It plays a role in everything we do, in every transaction we touch, in our relationship with every customer we help. It starts before we first interact with our customers, and it certainly does not end when the transaction is complete.

A Smile is an Attitude

Smiling tells our story beyond first impressions. It is a personal touch that extends our customer service promise and reflects our passion. Smiling says that we want to be here serving our clients and customers. It says that we are ready and willing to go the extra mile. And we smile even when we are not face-to-face with clients or customers. Our tone of voice on the phone and style of our correspondence communicate a virtual smile—or the lack thereof.

We cannot control everything that unfolds during customer interactions, but we always control the attitude we convey, such as amiability, energy and excitement, as well as commitment to satisfying the customer’s wants or needs. Even though a smile can’t solve every problem, in many cases, our attitude can triumph over many complications that can occur during the transaction and our smile can become a competitive edge.

Most Important: A Smile is an Invitation

Smiling sets a tone. It establishes a rapport and initiates trust, the cornerstone of every business relationship. This last point is more relevant than ever as we struggle to retain that integral factor in our fast-paced, smartphone-addicted, multitask-driven culture. Technological advances, globalization and new business models have us spending more time working remotely on our devices, which also makes us more remote.

Bottom line: Whether the transaction is business-to-business (B2B) or business-to-consumer (B2C), a smile is one of the easiest components to get right. Omitting smiles from the equation leaves out the crucial ingredient in any business interaction.

So, as we learned from the experiences I shared above, it takes more than a good cup of coffee to keep customers coming back.  Good service is just as important as a good product, and it all should begin with a smile.


Certified Customer Experience Professional (CCXP) Joe Camirand along with HorizonCX, LLC aims to improve operational and financial results for small and medium-sized businesses through Voice of the Customer (VoC) strategies.  Learn more at www.horizoncx.com

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