What I enjoy most about consulting is helping clients step outside of their day-to-day routine and take a fresh look at their brand experience. We all get so wrapped up in our daily activities that we lose sight of the broader customer journey — how our audience discovers, engages, transacts with, and ultimately advocates for us.

I’ll admit to falling into this trap myself. On a whim, I recently called my own company’s 1-800 number and was disappointed to learn that we’d not updated our address on our automated phone prompt following a recent move. Small in the grand scheme of things, but a good reminder that we must keep a constant and watchful eye on our various customer touchpoints.

When was the last time you tried engaging your brand not as an employee but as a prospect, customer, or partner?

… I thought so.

With that in mind, here are some examples — pulled from a variety of clients — of where you can make improvements. They span all phases of the journey, and hopefully they’ll encourage you to step back and take a fresh look at your brand experience.

Discover

Here’s the hard truth: Just because you’ve built it doesn’t mean they’re going to come.

I’ll start by sharing an example from a recent client. For context, this particular client has a great value proposition around nightlife and had built a strong digital presence focused on making a memorable night. The challenge was that consumers weren’t naturally associating their evening activities with the brand and, as a result, the rich content the client had created online was not getting the exposure it deserved.

With few exceptions (I’m looking at you Apple and Tesla), I’ve never jumped out of bed in the morning wondering what a particular brand was up to. Sure, you can create a media strategy that drops your content into my news feed on a variety of channels, but that’s more like a commercial break. In that moment, you’re not on my radar, and I likely don’t care.

When I do care is when I, as a consumer, am trying to solve a problem you can help me with. I may not even know you exist as a brand yet, but I’m likely to be seeking opinions from people like me through online conversations where you’re not present.

Conducting your own diagnostics:

To do a little research here, start by taking off your brand hat and putting on your consumer hat. Now go search the web using the expressions consumers are most likely to use regarding your products or services. If you’re using product names here, you’re getting it wrong.

You’re going to encounter blogs, forums, tweets, etc. where conversations related to your business are taking place.

Is your brand present in these conversations?

In my experience, usually not. If you want to help your target find you, stretch beyond the confines of your channels and engage where consumers are. This is a huge step in driving brand awareness.

Engage

We recently helped a consumer technology company audit its post-sale experience with a focus on customer service. At the onset of the engagement, the company was quite confident that the experience was bullet-proof, but — to its credit — it was looking for an outside perspective.

The findings were amazing.

We tried to engage the company through branded online customer support channels like Twitter but couldn’t get a response. We ultimately discovered that the brand wasn’t even managing these channels. Rather, they’d been created by unscrupulous individuals who were looking to take advantage of unsuspecting consumers by gathering their login credentials as part of a perceived support experience.

Imagine the potential risk here from a brand perspective.

Also, through this work we learned that over half of the support-related conversations were taking place beyond “owned” support channels. As consumers were craving far more than the brand was offering, a myriad of destinations cropped up to fill the void.

Ultimately, the brand was on the verge of losing control of the post-sale experience. Armed with this observation, it was able to quickly reinvent its strategy.

Conducting your own diagnostics:

Again search is your friend. But instead of searching for more ambiguous terms like we did in the discovery phase, focus instead on product names. If you’re looking through the support lens as we did in our example, add in terms like “Help”, “Broken”, “Hate”, etc. to find the right discussions.

Hopefully, you’ll find the majority of discussions are taking place where you’d expect them to and that consumers are getting the response they deserve. If not, congratulations, you just found an opportunity to improve the customer experience.

Transact

One of my favorite examples: We helped a B2B technology company conduct a “secret shopper” exercise. This included trying to engage the company as a prospect via online channels.

We started subtly by asking for additional information on a particular product.

Nothing.

We upped our urgency by asking to be connected to a local salesperson for additional discussion. Afterall, nothing sends a buying signal like actually asking to talk to someone in sales.

Nada.

By this point, we’re two weeks into the test without a response. Time to get extreme. Our messaging turned to “Dear (brand), we are trying like hell to give you our money but you don’t seem to want it. Please call us.”

Nope.

We never did get a response, and suffice it to say the client wasn’t thrilled when we shared our findings.

Digging in a bit, we ultimately learned that some channels had been abandoned and were no longer monitored, while others focused more on broadcasting marketing messaging rather than paying attention to inbound requests. In the worst scenario, where a human did receive our response, the internal handoffs were so unclear that our requests were never routed to the right person for response.

Conducting your own diagnostics:

This one is straightforward. Simply try to engage your brand through external channels. You don’t even have to play the secret shopper game, you can simply advise that you’re working to ensure your customer experience is water-tight and are curious as to where this message (or phone call) lands.

Surprisingly simple — but it often exposes some big gaps.

Advocate

A recent financial services client was looking to grow a particular portion of its business. We started out by discussing typical marketing and sales strategies but then quickly immersed ourselves into the most important piece of our research — the voice of the customer.

Where most brands have to work to build advocates, this client was SO good at what it did that customers were simply gushing about it online. However, without a comprehensive approach to social listening and digital insights, the company was unaware of the amount of organic advocacy that was taking place online.

We ultimately helped this client develop an influencer and advocate strategy designed to systemically enable its best marketers to do what they were already doing naturally, celebrating the brand.

Conducting your own diagnostics:

Back to your favorite search engine. Experiment with different permutations of your brand name and key products, but add search terms like “Love”, “Best”, “Recommend”, etc.

If you don’t find anything, you have a different set of problems. But hopefully you do find your most passionate customers out there celebrating their affinity. Now look to see if your brand is engaged in the activity. Are you recognizing them? Are you giving them a big online hug? Are you hoisting them up for the heros that they are?

While these actions all might feel woefully simple, you’ll be surprised at how many brands lose sight of the fundamental customer experience. So do yourself, and your company, a favor. Step outside of the norm and see what you look like from the outside. I guarantee you’ll identify at least one opportunity to improve your customer experience, and that’s a winning proposition for you, your company, and your customers.

Len Devanna is president of Trepoint and has worked in digital marketing for 25 years.