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Allen Adamson

Co-Founder & Managing Partner

What Verizon Can Learn From Apple About The Power Of A Single Customer Experience

I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but Verizon stores have become somewhat similar in look and feel to Apple stores. Open, contemporary and clean architectural elements, product placement that invites interaction, and sales associates dressed to play the role of digital genius.

I recently had two opportunities to go into two NYC Verizon stores. Each was in a different location in the city, and each visit was to make a simple, specific accessory purchase, one for my iPhone and the other for my daughter’s. Shouldn’t be a problem, right? Wrong.


On both occasions, after listening to my request, the sales associate went into a back room for what I thought was an inordinate amount of time, and finally returned with the desired accessory. However, they also returned with a hand written sheet of paper outlining a promotional offer to lower my monthly wireless rates if I purchased their new Hum roadside assistance or an iPad.

Two separate stores. Same annoying experience. One powerful example of how quickly a single interaction can damage a brand reputation when employees are trained to focus on sales goals vs. customer satisfaction.

While many smart businesspeople have said it, perhaps Warren Buffett said it best. “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently.” As a brand, Verizon should pay heed. We live in an experience economy. In our transparent culture, “Customer Experience,” as a discipline, is an increasingly important factor in brand value proposition.

Brands build value by solving problems. Customers trust one brand over another because their problems get solved.  But, also, because the aggregate experience they have from one branded interaction to another is consistent, and consistently superior. This means ensuring that every touchpoint is in alignment with what the brand wants to communicate about itself – what it wants to stands for.  Brand touch points are the brand’s opportunity to differentiate itself and make a lasting impression.

My long-standing, relatively positive impression of the Verizon brand was tarnished by a single branding touchpoint. What should have been a common, somewhat benign experience left me feeling incredibly frustrated and downright touchy. While I eventually got the accessories I needed, it was only after problems were created. My time had been wasted. I was subjected to a sales pitch for something I didn’t want or need. And, I began to think that maybe I’ve been paying too much for my Verizon service. The episode underscored for me that the company was not so much interested in meeting its customers’ needs but, rather, its own revenue needs.

Despite all its other branding touchpoints - the clean retail design, the snappy in-store ads, the LED lighting, the general demeanor of the employees – this single customer experience breached my trust in the Verizon brand.  I couldn’t help but compare it to my experiences in the Apple stores.

Apple does everything required to seamlessly combine innovative products, retail space, and customer service to meet the criteria of an experience economy, key among them solving customers’ problems. When I go to the Genius Bar at Apple, they do what’s essential to fix my problem. They don’t waste my time, or attempt to upsell me. Apple appropriately sees its retail spaces, and all the experiences therein, as part and parcel of its brand value proposition.

When it comes to the relationship between Customer Experience and brand value, it’s an all or nothing game. One single negative interaction across the entirety of branding touchpoints has the power to undo everything else. It can break the bond of trust and devalue the overall brand proposition. And, as for Mr. Buffett’s five minutes, in my case, it was more like ten.

This article originally appeared in Forbes.

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