Customer experience optimization is the most recent marketing issue keeping C-suite executives up at night.

It is estimated that negative feedback from poor customer experiences accounted for $62 billion in lost business in 2017. For this very reason, the most recognizable companies in the world are investing millions in customer experiences that deliver on their brand promise.

In fact, a study from Gartner found that 81 percent of marketers expect to compete mostly or completely on the basis of customer experience by 2019. There is no longer room in the customer journey for false advertising and empty promises.

The Story of Sea-Monkeys

This is a 1970s Sea-Monkeys advertisement
Source: Mental Floss

Have you ever bought a packet of Sea-Monkeys?

The promise of raising a prehistoric species in your very own fishbowl is a compelling sell. Past advertisements, usually found in the back of a comic book, illustrated a mermaid-type family and promised that customers would adore these magnificent creatures. Forget a new puppy—let’s get sea monkeys!

Personally, my sea monkey eggs never grew into the aquatic primates so artistically portrayed on the package. Instead, I raised a cloud of jetsam that confused my adolescent understanding of biology. In short, the package did not deliver the promised product, and my experience with sea monkeys was a poor one.

Before social media, unhappy consumers vented their frustration to friends and family, and the conversation ended there. Today, a bad customer experience is no longer a private conversation. Now, it is far more likely that a bad customer experience will end up on social media or Yelp or in the blogosphere, which would make it a very public problem for the sea monkey brand.

While the sea monkeys may be an extreme case study, the truth is that every company will have a dissatisfied customer at some point. Typically, customer experience solutions have focused on technologies and processes to mitigate dissatisfaction, as well as enhancing the purchase experience. But are companies missing an opportunity by not using their heritage and stories from their past to add credibility to and enhance the customer experience?

Adding Heritage to the Customer Experience

In 2016, Wells Fargo suffered from its own sea monkey syndrome. The company had lost its way and was in the midst of a massive fake-accounts scandal. In the shadow of bad publicity, the company was desperate to restore the faith of loyal constituents. Instead of doing a complete 180, Wells Fargo leaned on its 166-year heritage to earn back trust.

Wells Fargo: Established 1852. Re-established 2018.

Wells Fargo saw an opportunity to use its heritage as a way to return to its core principles. The result? A new tagline: Established 1852. Re-established 2018.

On a campaign microsite for the repositioning, Wells Fargo pledged to return its focus to the customer and improve all aspects of the customer experience. And what better way to lead the Wells Fargo brand forward than with its iconic stagecoach?

In the ad aptly titled “Earning Back Your Trust,” Wells Fargo time-travels back to the Wild West, long before online banking, and reminds us what the company braved in order to deliver on its promises. Images of horseback riders, old-fashioned cars and of course the stagecoach flash across the screen as the narrator promises change.

Fast-forward a few seconds, in this case a few hundred years, and the company offers a broad look at how it makes wealth management easier for customers, with highly professionalized customer service and the state-of-the-art self-serve teller. At the conclusion of the ad, “Established 1852” is superseded by “Re-established 2018,” completing the tagline. It’s a nod to the past that also promises a better future.

Because of Wells Fargo’s long track record of follow-through, the bank may yet have a chance to gain back favor. The same cannot be said for younger brands using similar methods.

Uber is another company that is in a similar predicament. The company has faced bad publicity and internal turmoil going all the way to the top. Following leadership transition, including the removal of Uber founder and CEO Travis Kalanick, the company is focused on “Moving Forward.

In a recent video, Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi makes a promise that’s similar to Wells Fargo’s: The company is ready to move forward with the customers in mind. Khosrowshahi reminds the world of the good that Uber has done and the new opportunities it has created for both riders and drivers.

What the video lacks is proof. Unlike Wells Fargo, Uber is missing 166 years of it. Because the video is all about moving forward, there is no tangible reason to believe the future-first tech company. Uber lacks the authentic content distilled from its heritage that can validate its claim.

On the other side of the spectrum, Wells Fargo has devoted pages of its website to its heritage. Wells Fargo Stories point to the company’s rich history of creating good customer experiences. This is just one touchpoint. Wells Fargo has 12 free museums in cities around the country offering a unique user experience for those interested in learning more about the history of the banking industry.

Heritage is not the only secret agent behind an exemplary customer experience, but it is a differentiating factor. As Wells Fargo shows, it is a way to think differently when it comes to producing content that resonates with valued customers, and it can be useful when creating authentic content that has a lasting impact. If you’re curious about how heritage can improve your customer experience initiatives, let’s get in touch.

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