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Recently, I tried to book a romantic weekend away for my boyfriend and me; ‘tried’ being the operative word. I had searched for weeks for a suitable place before deciding on a popular hotel group that offered activities that I knew we would both enjoy. Excitedly I went onto the website and started the process of checking the availability of rooms. After a few attempts I was not able to select the dates I wanted or view the prices, so I called the hotel for assistance. The less-than-helpful lady at reception told me that I should try again. So I tried again, but I eventually gave up.

This situation was not only a huge inconvenience and a waste of time, but the whole experience has left a bad taste in my mouth (which was probably from all the foul words I was shouting at my phone). The point is that, despite the hotel’s fancy website design and exciting pictures and adherence to certain group standards, all I remember when I think of this hotel group is my unpleasant experience, and so, this led me to think of other service areas that the hotel would fault on.

Brand perception is not black and white

One definition of UXD is the “process of enhancing user satisfaction by improving the usability, accessibility, and pleasure provided in the interaction between the user and the product.” Today customers are spoilt for choice, and I think more importance should be placed on user experience and the design of it. Frankly, it doesn’t matter what your site or app looks like if it isn’t user-friendly. When it comes to digital products, the experience can be just as important as design. Customer experience is a very real thing and it plays a role in the success of any company. Every interaction with a brand adds to your customers’ perception of your brand.

Here are some basic questions to ask about how to make a positive impact on brand perception according to Tom Kenny @tkenny:Have you effectively translated your brand into a meaningful experience? How would your customers describe you? How do you align your brand with your customer’s needs? What are your customers saying about your brand?

User experience always wins

Apple‘s focus on user experience changed the game. One of Steve Job’s most famous quotes is: “You‘ve got to start with the customer experience and work back toward the technology, not the other way around.” Apple emphasises user experience over many other things. The company prides itself on elements of design and interactivity; even their packaging gives users an experience that reinforces the brand, which is one of the reasons they are the leader in their field.

Perception is 9/10ths of the law

Fly Safair was trending on social media recently, but for all the wrong reasons. In Fly Safair’s case, their R2 sale left the majority of customers exploding with anger, me being one of them, due to the fact we weren’t able to get “our share of the tickets.” Customers feel a sense of entitlement, even if they are getting the product for free. This just proves how fickle brand relationships can be. It also didn’t help their case at all that their community manager was trying to be quirky, but unfortunately crossed the line and came across as insensitive.

And, how can we forget the irate customer of a certain network provider who spent almost R100 000 on a billboard to express his displeasure with their service!

The user experience becomes the brand, and the users do the marketing. A brand is not just a logo, and at the end of the day we can’t make someone feel a certain way; they have to believe it on their own. As alarming as this is, companies should pay more attention to how their brand identity is being created by the experiences of their users. This is part and parcel of the threat and promise of UX.

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