Examining the Impact of Customer Experience in Large Companies (Who, What, When, Why)

How quickly can a bad customer experience become embedded in the minds of a large consumer base? How quickly does this mob mentality impact a brand? With social media being utilized more and more as a primary source of news for the average consumer, what would once have been an isolated incident that could be dealt with clandestinely via a brief chat with a store manager now has the capacity to become a nationwide incident:
costa coffee image
image via mirror.co.uk
As in the case with these things, almost instantly a bandwagon forms in which people vent their spleen whether the issue affected them or not, causing a conscious association between the issue in question and the brand (In this case, Costa= Blood coffee!):

          Negative Exposure 2 3  
This story, if we look at the above images shows us what a potential PR crisis this is. One bad customer experience has taken on a life of it’s own and through the medium of social media has been seen by potentially 2.6 million people. The fact that major UK newspapers have re-posted this story as well adds a degree of credibility to the news (Psychologically speaking, people are more likely to trust a story from a major newspaper than a small local press). Hypothetically, this could be 2.6 million people that will now have second thoughts about using Costa coffee, possibly sharing this sentiment offline with their peer groups (or indeed, boycotting entirely).
Could this exposure have been avoided? The below extract from the article in question seems to suggest as much:
A statement from Costa Coffee said: “Our area manager has spoken to Miss Hughes and apologised for the distress this obviously caused her. “This was an isolated incident and does not reflect our high standards of safety and hygiene.” A letter of apology which followed from the area manager said: “I will ensure that my entire team will revisit all necessary training as an absolute minimum.” Miss Hughes said she did not think it should have been the area manager who apologized but the company’s head office. 
She said: “I have had the worry of the blood tests. I don’t think I will ever go to Costa again. I will support my local coffee shops instead.”Arguably, the victim of this incident may have been less inclined to make this story public had it been Costa’s head office that had reached out to her. Clearly, she was dissatisfied with her customer experience and felt the issue wasn’t taken seriously by the higher authorities of Costa’s management.
Incidents like this show just how valuable customer experience is and how much it can influence brand perception and future purchasing behavior.
If we examine Lush cosmetics…            
If we examine the type of engagement they have with their customers it’s easy to discern that the proactive approach they have to their customer experience makes a significant impact on the perception of their brand: 

This kind of outward engagement (actively seeking consumer opinions) is a key contributor to overall customer experience: 4
It goes further than that though: the entire company ethos of Lush is heavily steeped in positive brand association (heavily against animal testing, personal service the moment you walk in store, all organic ingredients). If you had to identify one core difference between Lush and the vast majority of companies reported in the media, it’s that Lush, rather than operating in a reactive manner to a negative issue instead focus primarily on positive engagement, building their brand around these positive experiences and associations.

In an environment where a successful company has become the polar opposite of an ethical or socially conscious company in the minds of the general public, Lush has enough positive associations with their approach to animal testing, chemical-free products and exceptional customer experience to be consistently regarded in a positive manner.  We can use Crimson Hexagon’s BrightView algorithm to further drill into their customer experience categories for a strategic insight of what makes Lush so successful. So where the earlier screenshot showed us a large portion of positive experience over the last year, we can further analyze the real drivers of this positive experience as shown below. 6 
On close examination of the same dataset, we can accurately define that the majority of Lush’s positive engagement is a vocal intent to purchase (22%) with a further 68% of the remaining share of voice divided between advocacy & endorsement, positive reviews, and promotional activities. In fact, over an entire year there is only 9% of the conversation that can be qualified as negative (represented by sporadic & isolated cases such as a late delivery or malfunctioning online portal). This indicates that Lush’s proactive approach to their customers and brand ethos drives this highly vocal purchasing behavior and overwhelmingly positive coverage.

The simple truth is that customer experience, rather than being the sole domain of bricks & mortar stores, can actually begin from the first tweet the public sees. By examining corporate perception on social media, we can glean tangible insights into what our customers associate us with in comparison to what we as a company think they (or rather want them to) associate us with.

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