Creating a Branded Customer Experience

Good anecdotes stand the test of time. In their 1995 book, The Discipline of Market Leaders, Michael Treacy and Fred Wiersema ask:

“Why does it take only a few minutes and no paperwork to pick up or drop off a rental car at Hertz’s #1 Club Gold, but twice that time and an annoying name/address form to check into a Hilton hotel? Are they afraid you’ll steal the room?

Why is it that Federal Express can “absolutely, positively” deliver a package overnight, but Delta, American, and United Airlines have trouble keeping your bags on your plane? Do they think you don’t care?

Why does Lands’ End remember your last order and your family members’ sizes, but after ten years of membership you are still being solicited by American Express to join? Don’t the people at Amex know you’re a customer?

Why can you get patient help from a Home Depot clerk when selecting a $2.70 package of screws, but you can’t get any advice when purchasing a $2,700 personal computer from IBM’s direct-ordering service? Doesn’t IBM think customer service is worth the time?”

There are exceptional companies in every market—including the Life Science market—with which it is a pleasure to do business. There are others who seem to go out of their way to make life as difficult as possible for those who purchase their products. The latter companies are not purposely intending to fail, but for all practical purposes, this is the course they have chosen.

Other companies—the market leaders—have set out to understand what their customers’ value most, and set about meeting those expectations at a level of excellence that puts all competitors to shame.

From the customer’s perspective, even the most ordinary interaction with these vendors carries with it an aura of the wonderful and extraordinary. Some analysts refer to this as a “branded customer experience.” A company’s brand embodies its reputation, image and identity. It is the expression of both the values for which the company stands, and the value it offers its customers. Convenient ordering, timely delivery, accurate billing, superb technical support and friendly, knowledgeable employees enhance a company’s brand. Vendors should express the value and promise of a brand not just in the product, but at every point of contact with its customers as well.

There is absolutely no reason why life science vendors cannot create a branded customer experience similar to that enjoyed by Hertz, Federal Express, Land’s End and Home Depot. Unfortunately, some senior managers are deflected by the deep-rooted belief that a more profound mystique attaches to making the “tools of science” than to renting cars, delivering packages, or selling clothing or hardware. Worse, there appears to be an underlying assumption that this “mystique” somehow insulates their market, their company, and especially their customers, from the brand strategies and service practices that have revolutionized other industries.

In terms of their motivations and needs, however, scientists are little different from general consumers. Or, as Treacy and Wiersema put it:

“Customers today want more of those things they value. If they value low cost, they want it lower. If they value convenience or speed when they buy, they want it easier and faster. If they look for state-of-the-art design, they want to see the art pushed forward. If they need expert advice, they want companies to give them more depth, more time, and more of a feeling that they’re the only customer.”

Substitute the word “scientists” for the word “customers” in the passage above, and these words could have been spoken in the boardroom of any life science supplier.

Creating a branded customer experience builds satisfaction, trust and loyalty. It is upon these emotional factors that the leaders of the Life Science market will elevate themselves above those companies destined to languish in the “also-ran” category.