In theory, all the new channels we have for contacting companies should make us happier with customer service. But for customer experience practitioners, it has made the job of delivering a functionally and emotionally fulfilling experience which delivers on a ‘brand promise’ inestimably harder.

These days, not only do you need to ensure that every part of your business unites to deliver a good experience, you also need to ensure they meet your customers’ expectations of what ‘good’ is. British businesses do not excel here. Only 27% of Britain’s ‘Captains of Industry’ rate their own organisation as good at understanding their customers’ needs.40

However, brand promises need not be complicated. The least a customer can expect from their bank is to be able to access their money, but TSB’s major IT glitch in 2018 made that impossible. It then didn’t fix it quickly enough – or apologise – and the CEO was forced to step down. The saga cost the bank £330 million in total, and customer churn was up 60% on the year before – a huge dent to its brand credibility.

Then, in November 2019, the bank was struck by another calamity when an IT error meant incoming payments weren’t processed, leaving thousands of customers unable to pay rent, bills and other outgoings. On the day, some customers even received automatic warning messages from the bank saying that they needed to pay in additional funds to meet the expenditures, or face a penalty.

This time, however, TSB resolved it quickly and apologised both publicly and profusely. The full financial and churn impact at the time of going to press is still unknown, but it is clear the reputational damage has been done, again. Indeed, to have one catastrophic IT failure may be regarded as a misfortune; to have two looks like carelessness.

This shows how misalignment between the actual experience and the brand promise has the potential to seriously damage customer-supplier relationships. In recent R&D, we found that 17% of people who felt ‘unfairly’ treated because of the experience being worse than the promise.41

A sense of unfairness is just the tip of the iceberg when there is a promise-experience misalignment, though. When we look at customers who say their experience is worse than or unrelated to the brand promise, they are less likely to be emotionally connected to their supplier than others. Their resultant key performance indicators, the likes of Net Promoter Score (NPS), satisfaction, likelihood to continue using, etc. are also lower.

This should be enough to make businesses sit up and consider how they can unite brand experience and messaging so that they positively reinforce one another.

The bad news doesn’t stop at key metrics for organisations who fail to align the promise and the experience. Ipsos found a tangible impact on the bottom line of these businesses both in terms of increased volumes of complaints handling and potential lost customers. We estimate almost 10,000 lost customers across a customer base of 750,000 if just 14% report that their experience is worse than the brand promise.

What does this tell us? Well, it serves as a reminder that good customer experience delivery is not just about performance or operational metrics, it’s also about understanding customer expectations, how they are formed, and how to meet them along the customer journey. This is no easy task, and for many organisations it requires closer collaboration of brand and customer experience teams than ever before.