The Key to the Customer Experience? Kill Confusion

Jul 19, 2023 | At Work

By: Michael McQueen

There is no faster way to kill the customer experience than with confusion.

Overcomplicated systems, unnecessary friction and brand inconsistency are some of the fastest ways to erode trust and rapport. With customers looking for integrity in their brands, there are few goals more key to the customer experience than maintaining simplicity and consistency.

Simplicity is one of the most underrated virtues of modern companies. Striving for simplicity does not mean you need to naively ignore the complex realities of life, but rather to aim to make things as simple and streamlined as humanly possible, and once you do, to stay the path.

The Simplicity Index

For many years, brand consulting giant Siegel+Gale have produced an annual Global Brand Simplicity Index that evaluates how streamlined, accessible and simple a business is to engage with. One of the most consistent top performers in this index is the well-loved Google. This should come as no surprise when you consider that the company’s primary search gateway has remained extraordinarily and intentionally simple — a clean, white home page featuring no more than 30 words along with a cheery, six-character, primary-coloured logo.[1]

Beyond keeping a brand simple, eliminating the confusion of customers is also about keeping a brand consistent across time and across each facet of the organisation.

Interestingly, the very concept of modern branding was born out of the need to do just this.

The Birth of Branding

In 1777, William Bass founded a beer company, Bass Brewery, which quickly grew to become one of the largest and most popular beers in England. The problem for the business as it grew was that beer was a product that could easily be watered down and this posed a significant risk to Bass’ popularity.

In an effort to ensure the integrity, reliability and quality of their beer’s reputation, in 1876 Bass Brewery registered its distinctive ale’s red triangle symbol and brand name. This was the very first trademark to be registered under the United Kingdom’s Trade Marks Registration Act. As Rachel Botsman observes, this is generally seen as the birth of the modern notion of branding.[2]

According to marketing icon Douglas Rushkoff, the whole concept of brand protection and trademarking arose as a way to “compensate for the dehumanizing effects of the Industrial Age. The more people had previously needed to trust the person behind a product, the more important the brand became as a symbol of origin and authenticity.”[3]

Eliminating Confusion Builds Trust

For Bass Brewery, it was the very goal of eliminating confusion for consumers that led to their forward-thinking branding moves. The impact of this mission was the establishment of trust in their customers and their differentiation from other organisations – all of a result of their commitment to consistency.

Kaitlin Somerville of the Rand Group points to Nike as a brilliant example of brand consistency over time. “Since Nike’s inception in 1971, their brand and core message has never changed. The only change they have made through the years is how they market their message. They have unrelenting brand consistency, which has gained them great brand recognition and trust with millions of customers,” she said. [4]

Consistency Isn’t Easy

According to digital marketing specialist Stacy Jackson, while consistency of brand messaging may be more important than ever, it’s also increasingly difficult to achieve. As Jackson observes, “Almost any employee has the opportunity to create content that contains their version of the brand look or message. Many employees will do just that, even with the best of intentions.” Jackson continues, “Don’t leave your brand open to a variety of interpretations and customizations. Your brand should build awareness and develop trust and loyalty with customers. A constantly changing brand personality just doesn’t do the job. That’s why it’s so important to develop standards for brand consistency on and offline.”[5]

Regardless of your business or organization’s size, it’s hard to overstate the importance of having clear style guides for your brand. These will go a long way to ensuring consistency of the look, feel, tone and language of messages you share with the marketplace. Having a confused and chaotic brand will slowly but surely erode the trust and confidence of those you are looking to engage.

It Applies to Customer Service Too

This principle does not just apply to the stylistic elements of a brand, but the nature of customer service, the ethics of the company and the quality of the products. For a consumer to be encouraged to trust in the reliability, consistency and simplicity of a brand, each facet of an organisation needs to be oriented in the same direction.

In a May 2018 article for Forbes, Jacob Drucker made a powerful case for consistency in any brand today. He suggested that the ultimate way to build trust over time is to have top-tier products and industry-leading customer service. “People like the iPhone because it’s a good phone. People love Trader Joe’s because the staff at the grocery chain are so eager to help. Consistency here is crucial. A single defective product or memorably bad customer experience can be far more impactful than 100 amazing products and 1,000 customer interactions.”[6]

Drucker is spot on. The stakes are high for any brand today. Trust is more valuable than ever, but it can be hard to win and is easily lost. In a world of constant noise and a market of endless competition, customers are looking for brands that eliminate confusion, rather than exacerbate it. There is no faster way to build their trust than to do just this.