Strategies for developing sustainable Indian Brands through Customer Experience Management


By

V. Kalyani
P. Praveen Babu
Second Year MBA
School of Management
Sri Krishna College of Engineering & Technology
Kuniamuthur P.O., Coimbatore-8
 


INTRODUCTION

Today's market is very dynamic and increasingly competitive. In a market crowded with brands, models and multiple options, how could one create a difference this was a challenge faced by many companies in the Indian market.  The focus on brands and the importance of brands is a growing trend amongst business owners and business managers in India. This is hardly surprising, because a strong brand is an asset for any business generating income and creating business value.  The global market plays is littered with selection of brands that died too soon. The Indian market is no exception.  Management thinkers today strongly believe that the customer is the king.  The important job in the management is the job of creating and retaining a customer.  Many research studies have proven that the best way of creating and retaining the customers is by building strong brands. 

What is Brand?

Brand is the heart and soul of an organization.  It centers on uniqueness and dramatic difference.

A brand is more than just a logo or a name, it is a complex and dynamic set of consumer beliefs entrenched in consumers' hearts and minds. Building a strong brand requires understanding consumer needs and developing a point of difference that is meaningful and sustainable in generating customer loyalty.

A strong brand can take a lifetime to build. It can take moments to destroy. But properly executed, it helps build trust and a preference for a specific company. A customer who trusts and likes a certain brand is more likely to buy additional products or services based on loyalty alone.

IMPORTANT APPROACHES TO SUCCESS OF THE BRAND:

* Identifying product opportunities
* Influencing new product development
* Exploring the potential of partnerships
* Making credible external claims
* Using innovative approaches to serve consumer needs
* Building the employability of your customer base

CHALLENGES:

* creating competitive advantage through brand innovation
* Building trust with consumers, customers and society
* Developing market opportunities
* Maturing markets
* More sophisticated and increasing competition
* Difficulty in differentiating
* Decreasing brand loyalty  in many categories
* Fragmenting media coverage
* Eroding traditional media effectiveness
* Increasing cost of product introduction and support
* Increasing  job turnover

FACTORS INFLUENCING THE BRAND

The brand environment is an important factor that influences the brand. The brand environment consists of the brand itself-expression, perception and recognition- surrounded by internal and external factors that have an influence on the brand. The problems that the brand managers are facing is how to unravel all these elements and turn their insight into policies that will unlock the full potential of the brand in a particular market, and across particular markets at the same time.  This requires a common framework that explains about the influence of both internal and external factors on brand.

THE BRAND ENVIRONMENT


ESSENCE OF THE PAPER:

" EXPERIENCE
 IS THE KEY FOR
DIFFERENTIATION"
                                                                     - Dr Bernd Schmitt
                                                                     Founder of CEM

STRATEGY FOR BUILDING BRANDS THROUGH CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE MANAGEMENT (CEM)

In the present scenario, the success of the company depends on how it outperforms its competitors in a sustained manner. Everyday new products are entering the market, which face tough competition and to succeed in the competition they must differentiate their products from others. Today consumers need a product with good quality at a cheaper price.

Organizations follow different ways to attract customers and one such way is creating a strong brand name, i.e. the brand name should be remembered by customers at any time.

A company can succeed in the business if it creates a memorable brand name in the minds of the consumer. A great deal of thought needs to go into developing a name that will allow the target market to recognize it as a leader.

However, the ultimate aim of any business is to gain the customer satisfaction and retain the customers lifelong, i.e. it has to establish better relations to the customers.  In the competitive world, each company must give more priority to customer experience management. It reflects in the number of loyal customers to the company. However, gaining customer satisfaction is a tough task in any business. 

"CEM is about understanding the lifestyle of customers. It's about broadening your marketing view from the product to the consumption situation"

Ultimately, the entire benefits of  the brand is enjoyed  by the customer, so managing the customers is the only best solution to sustain the brand since they  are the true profit centre of the company. 

Having this into consideration, we have framed  one model  for sustaining the brand  takind CEM as the soul for brand sustainability.

A NEW MODEL TO SUSTAIN ANY BRAND


The strategic planning for a brand starts with the understanding of an organisation's business strategy.  Business strategy is aimed at achieving particular consumer behavior.  Only if consumers actually purchase, use goods (more often), pay a high price or donate (more), will the objectives of a business strategy be met.  Brands are designed to persuade consumers to exhibit the behavior that will make the objectives come true for the organisation.  Thus the influence of business strategy upon brand strategy is direct uncompelling.

Brand expression is a result of brand strategy and it is a promise to consumers, providing them with expectations that need to be met.  Brand expression consists of three elements

* Brand positioning
* Brand identity
* Brand personality

Many of the beliefs and the assumptions about the brand expression are rooted in the local conventions. The role of marketing is to define and deliver the actual products and services. The important area of responsibility of marketing is the marketing mix. The marketing mix involves formulating the policies for new product and service developments, distribution channel choice, pricing strategy and marketing communications. 

The three important influencing local conventions that circumscribe the opportunities for a brand to reach its full potential in various markets and societies include

* Category conventions
* Need conventions
* Cultural conventions

In every product or service category there are customs and unwritten rules that mostly all players abide by. These conventions generally have a particular value to the players and in many cases even to customers.  The three types of category conventions are

* Conventions of representation - which surround how and where a brand portrays itself.  These consist of such factors as advertising, packaging, brand name and logo.
* Conventions of medium - which concern the way a brand is delivered, both physically and emotionally.  This includes distribution as well as message delivery.
* Conventions of product experience - which have to do with the product offered and the surrounding experience it delivers. 

Customers sift through their brand experience with an eye to their personal needs.  These needs are also governed by conventions which describe how needs are manifested.  This means that, although a particular need may be common to all people, this same need may be satisfied in a different manner in different societies. 

The culture is a system of shared beliefs, values, customs and symbols that the members of a society used to cope with one another.  Each society develops specific cultural conventions, which influence the way in which the members are supposed to think and behave. 

A brand reputation consists of  certain qualities that consumers ascribe to the brand. There  are three types of reputation qualities  namely

* Contextual to the brand
* Intrinsic to the brand
* Associative to the brand

Customer experience management (CEM) is "the process of strategically managing a customer's entire experience with a product or a company". CEM is a methodology that tries to overcome the gap between the company and the customer.

CEM helps to achieve a truly customer focused management concept by strategically managing the customer's experience with a brand.


There are two steps involved in CEM:

* CEM integration
* CEM organisation 

The CEM Technique

CEM stresses four aspects of marketing management :

* CEM focuses on all sorts of customer-related issues
* CEM combines the analytical and the creative
* CEM considers both, strategy and implementation
* CEM operates internally and externally

The  following five steps help us to understand and manage the "customer experience":

Step 1: Analyzing the Experiential world of the customer
Step 2: Building the Experiential platform
Step 3: Designing the Brand experience
Step 4: Structuring the Customer interface
Step 5: Engaging in Continuous Experiential innovation

CEM organization

Organizing for customer experience management includes three tasks:

* Financial planning of CEM in terms of customers
* Allocation of organizational resources
* Enhancement of the employee experience

MERITS OF CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE MANAGEMENT

The CEM approach go beyond the emotional marketing tactics

CEM is not about smiling faces in advertising. Or putting up a retail store in which people feel good because it's got such a wonderful atmosphere. CEM is about understanding the essence of the brand, and the essence of what customers want from that particular brand and then managing everything surrounding that. So it's about understanding the lifestyle of customers. It's about broadening your marketing view from the product to the consumption situation.

SUITABILITY OF CEM approach for India

The Indian Market is really different in many ways from other markets. Price sensitivity is one of the issues. It has very different distribution channels. Retailing is also very different. But most experts in India agree that experience is the next step. Service is already an important issue in this market, and now experience will be the next.

Service is a part of the experience. But experience also includes things like packaging, how the company website is designed and many other things.

Since India is very heterogeneous country, people here and their consumption patterns differ from one region to another. So how one must go about customizing the CEM programme to suit the different regional preferences is given below

It  is important to localize in the global market, it is important to localize within the broad based market like India to deal with different preferences, cultural lifestyles and even different languages. To do so, certain things must be kept constant and customize other things. Basically the brand identity should be the same - name, visual appeal etc. But the way certain experiential outreach are done - whether it's an event or promotional activities or even communications and advertising - there it has to be localized in order to relate to the customer more closely. How to do that, how to localize - well that's how the experiential world of the customer comes in. it can be used for different market segments and those segments could be different regions. The way it works is that the company will get a broad-based, in-depth understanding of how customers are living their lives. E.g. "funnelling."  i.e., following the customer around and understanding the broad based consumption patterns, and how they are relevant for a particular product category or a particular brand. So it really starts from the broad-based assessment - from the outside in. CEM  is concerned with perceptions, feelings and interactions that are harder to quantify but so valuable. Instead of just looking at how valuable the customer is to the enterprise, CEM requires an inspection of the enterprise's value to the customer.

So, providing a valuable experience to the customer will make them to remain permanently loyal to the particular without switching over to any other brand. 

APPLYING THE NEW MODEL TO SOME EXAMPLES TO HAVE A SUSTAINED BRAND

* COMPARISON OF KINGFISHER AIRLINES AND INDIAN AIRLINES

* "Best New Airline Of The Year Award 2005" Kingfisher airlines

Given by Centre for Asia Pacific Aviation for its significant innovation and outstanding customer experience For the first time in the Indian skies, Kingfisher Airlines offers world-class in-flight entertainment with personal video screens for every seat. There's a wide selection of 5 video channels and 10 audio channels available on-board. Also on offer are extra-wide seats and spacious legroom, delicious gourmet meals, international-class cabin crew and a whole host of  comforts and delights. Kingfisher Airlines also facilitates doorstep delivery of tickets on guest request.

Whereas, In case of INDIAN Airlines,

No such experience is provided. They mainly concentrate on profitability rather than providing valuable service to the customers. This is the reason why customers are switching over to other airline providers.

So, here comes the need for a tool which is much more effective than the normal customer service practices. This can be done using CEM which widely focuses on providing a value based experience to the customers which will help in sustaining the brand and brand image of INDIAN Airlines.

* COMPARISON OF AIRTEL AND AIRCEL

* Airtel customers in Mumbai are given a special feature " Airtel Vpuja 51" along with their connection which helps them to perform the famous Vinayagar pooja by simply sending an sms. Apart from that they also provide some entertainment facilities like GPRS(wap  browser) which helps them to download cool stuffs. These facilities  gives its customers a  Sense of relaxation and enjoyment which provides a vital experience for them.

Whereas, In case of Aircel

Apart from providing the normal mobile services it does not provide any 'fizz' to its customers. Even the introduction of 'SMS BOX' has not been well received by its customers. Also they are not able to maintain the exact pace with the customers needs. 

So, inorder to shine well CEM can be the only solution because it well help Aircel to understand its customer and then propogate its plans and actions which will provide emotional benefits to its customers both for retaining them and also sustaining 'their brand'

Examples OF COMPANIES THAT HAVE IMPLEMENTED CEM

* Blue Dart Express Limited, South Asia's largest integrated air express, courier and logistics company

Their focus was on providing customers with quality service and an  enhanced customer experience, they continued to upgrade and expand  their infrastructure, by adding new facilities in Lucknow, Mumbai,  Pune,  Ahmedabad, Meerut and Jaipur, and moving to a new, state-of-the-art warehouse facility in Delhi.

* Pizza hut

It recognizes frequent callers and the context of their call enabling the customer to be routed to the agent who can best fulfill their requirements, whether its a new order, changes to an existing order or a status inquiry on an existing order.

Pizza Hut operators can access up-to-date information on its outlets in the catchment area, enabling them to select the Pizza Hut store that can fulfill the customer order quickest, thereby meeting its commitment to deliver hot pizza quickly.

* Hindustan Lever an IT project

The new service was intended to be friendly and personal. For this, an  innovative communication route was adopted. The entire service was branded as Infra Jini to give users an idea of the friendly and personal nature of the service." This little "infrastructure genie" gave the service a personal touch and was popularized by means of posters and mailers. The Infra Jini is also present on the desktops as a clickable icon, which took  the user to the website from where he can log a call online.

* Taj group of hotels

Providing the 'frequent customer' with much higher luxury facilities at no  extra cost.

* Crossword bookstall

This bookstall allows its customers to go through any book without any compulsion to purchase the book.

Customers  are the company's only true profit centre.The main aim of the CEM is to maximise the customer value i.e. cultivating long term  relationships with the customer and making them permanently loyal to the brand.Nowadays the whole indian urban market is highly saturated, the best solution is to adopt CEM to sustain the brand in this highly saturated market. , India as a country has not been very successful (at this point in time) to promote itself very well. It has not been able to market its products successfully in the international markets simply because we are yet to realize the importance of providing a 'brand experience' to customers. Therefore, customer experience management can be used as a powerful stimulator to create and sustain an Indian brand.
 


V. Kalyani
P. Praveen Babu
Second Year MBA
School of Management
Sri Krishna College of Engineering & Technology
Kuniamuthur P.O., Coimbatore-8
 

Source : E-mail September 4, 2006

 

     

 

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