‘The customer is always right’ is still a mantra for many. But neither consumers nor employees should be the very core of a business’ operations, argues Patti Alderman of Zone and Cognizant. Instead, brand purpose needs to be the driving force behind everything that a company does.
Consumers are holding businesses accountable on social issues and want to engage with brands that reflect their values transparently. Deloitte reports that almost one in three consumers stopped buying from brands due to sustainability-related issues.
That purpose must be reflected inside and out, which means investing in your workforce. While most brands aspire to be customer-centric, many fail to appreciate that engaged, empowered and productive employees are the key to unlocking their customer experience (CX) ambitions.
That brings us full circle: a clear brand purpose and vision drives business culture as well as employee and customer attraction.
The great reset
Pressure is mounting on brands to establish their purpose to attract leading talent.
Employees are no longer willing to sacrifice a satisfying work life for a bigger pay check, and the pandemic has accelerated this behavioral shift. McKinsey research uncovered that almost two-thirds of US employees were reflecting on their life’s purpose post-Covid.
Purpose is quickly becoming the new currency in this economy. The ‘great reset,’ which saw kitchen tables transformed into desks and Zoom becoming the new meeting room, blurred the lines between work and personal lives.
From CX to EX
To improve CX, brands need to ensure that they have the best people for the job. The ongoing talent crunch means that competition is rife.
But there’s a lacuna in how business leaders see their employee experience (EX) journeys progressing. Zone’s whitepaper Shout Out To My Ex posed the question: “To what extent do you live your brand through each interaction with your employees and customers?”
Responses demonstrated a distinct divide between those concocting new EX initiatives and those actioning them day-to-day. More than 70% of middle managers felt that the journey was only just beginning, compared to less than half for business owners.
Take away the rose-tinted glasses and it’s clear that, despite leaders’ optimism, more needs to be done to promote EX. Only 8% of the business leaders Zone spoke to agreed that EX was embedded in all operations.
Business leaders need to get much closer to the day-to-day of employees’ lives and prioritize activities that truly drive value, not just marketing campaigns.
The purpose-driven life
There are countless benefits that stem from achieving a clear brand purpose. Just ask Patagonia.
Purpose should be more than just a set of values that you put on your website and incorporate into your logo. It needs to be at the heart of how you run your business. Patagonia epitomizes this philosophy; its decision to donate Black Friday earnings to charity showcases a willingness to follow through on promises.
This sense of alignment is crucial during the internet age that we live in. Trustpilot reports that 89% of global consumers read reviews prior to making a purchase. Prospective employees and consumers alike scrutinize brands’ every move – Patagonia’s ability to demonstrate a spotless reputation alongside a clear purpose has enabled it to develop a generation of long-term brand advocates.
Consumers and employees are exerting pressure on brands to develop their purpose. Before long, partnerships will follow suit. The modern world is increasingly conscious of social and political issues – and the concept of ‘purpose washing’ is quickly gaining traction.
The TV sensation Euphoria drew attention to Nike’s decision to involve itself in the BLM movement by supporting Colin Kaepernick – while the brand continues to be accused of using sweatshops. A similar issue in 2019 led to them removing Houston Rockets’ merchandise from China following backlash from sponsors about support for Hong Kong protestors.
Brands do not want this type of exposure. It’s crucial to get on the front foot, or sustainability issues will only serve to alienate brands from consumers, employees and partners.
Keeping your eyes on the prize
Purpose used to be a glossy buzzword. Brands weren’t worried about people looking under the covers. But the world is changing, and so are consumers.
Brands don’t want to be exposed. Nike’s past faux pas reinforce the need to keep purpose at the core of operations.
It’s time for brands to look inward. Putting the customer first is all well and good, but this can only be achieved through a workforce that is engaged and has bought into the purpose. Establishing your brand as a powerhouse in this new CX economy requires true organizational purpose. Nothing less will do.