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Look at the couples in a restaurant on a Saturday night, and you can have a lot of fun trying to guess how long they’ve been together. New couples on their first dates behave in a particular way. Each half of the couple is still trying to impress the other. The conversation never drags because a silence might indicate a lack of interest—or a lack of being interesting. Laughter is loud enough to show that they really do find the other person funny. Fingers often intertwine over the wine glasses and next to the candlelight.
Couples that have been married for a while are often more focused on their food than on each other. Conversation may come in bursts, and laughter is short and natural. They know each other and trust each other. But because they have been together for so long they also struggle to impress each other. As each partner ages and changes, the other has to be able to adapt and grow with them. They may each be accepted into the other’s life, but they’ve never stopped challenging their partner to change with them.
The same process happens in the relationship between brands and markets.
Users are not the same as customers. In a digital environment, they’re unattached singles hoping to find something that will make their life better but they still need convincing that what they’ve found will improve them. Brands have to build a user experience that allows those users to understand who they are, what they have to offer and show them that a relationship with them will enhance their life. Like dating, it’s a process that can take time. It can happen gradually as familiarity and trust are built before each side comes to understand that they’re well-matched.
As People Change So Must The Customer Experience
At that point, the relationship changes. Once a user has become a customer, the customer experience needs to be about maintaining the relationship and continuing to enhance the customer’s life. With time, as each side comes to know each other more, that gets easier. In a personal relationship that happens as each partner sees the other in different situations. In a business relationship it happens through the steady build-up of activity and data that allow the brand to develop a targeted content strategy. In the same way that couples who have been together for some time can order each other’s dishes and know what to buy them for their birthdays, that content strategy creates exactly the customer experience that that customer will enjoy the most.
A user experience can be defined as making a promise and proving that that promise will be met. The customer experience is about delivering on that promise and fitting the brand into a life that becomes clearer as the relationship develops.
And just as people change over the years so the relationship and the experience required to keep it interesting have to change too. Brands that fail to keep their customers engaged and their experience appreciated can look to some of the other tables at the restaurant. They’re the ones where divorcees sit alone wondering where it all went wrong.
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