Customer experience drives brand success in today’s world. Angered by the outdated methods from the Mad Men era, Brand Vista created the Brand Alignment Monitor (BAM). The BAM ushers companies into a new age of brand measurement, combining customer experience with brand tracking.
Gary Moss, chairman and co-founder of Brand Vista, explains how the BAM came about - and why it really was a eureka moment…
Q. How did the Brand Alignment Monitor (BAM) take shape?
A management consultant once said to me ‘if it doesn’t get measured, it doesn’t get done’. So I have always wanted to measure what we do.
We handle a lot of tracking for a number of our clients...
One day we were coming out of a lengthy meeting where we had been presented with about 130 slides of massive complexity. Our client tapped me on the shoulder as we walked out and said, ‘It’s all very good Gary, but have we done well?’ Something had to be done.
Until now, measurements have been based on the old ‘Mad Men’ era. It was very much around ad awareness and ad recall, which are the traditional measures of brand success. They are metrics that people in the marketing world understand but people from around the business don’t even know exist.
It was always in the back of our minds that these trackers needed to change to measure the right things. It was genuinely born of a desire to do this properly for our clients.
A few of us got together and thought about what we needed to do to measure this...
We knew we needed to take measures from the whole customer experience - that was the first thing.
Secondly, we knew we needed to do it in a simple and easy way that didn’t use the jargon and convoluted black box methodology that a lot of big tracking companies deploy (sometimes it has to be seen to be believed…).
We wanted to gather data in the right place and provide measurements that were meaningful across the business. After all, the Operations Director has to understand these measures as much as the Marketing Director.
So that is what we set out to do - to put this together in a way that was also cost-effective, because traditional tracking costs a fortune.
Q. How did you go about creating the BAM?
Seven years ago, after a competitive pitch, we selected Mustard as our quantitative research partners. Four years ago they moved in with us, working in the same open plan office (we share the kettle).
Together we tried to work out how to achieve our aim, and we got talking about the Net Promoter Score (NPS) .
As most people know, NPS uses a scale of 0-10 to track how likely a customer is to recommend the company or its product or service to friends and family. Nine or ten out of ten counts as positive, six and below counts as negative, while scores of seven and eight are ignored. The six and below score is subtracted from the positive score to give a company its NPS.
When we began exploring the idea of a new metric, about half of FTSE 100 companies were using NPS to track the health of their company. When it was launched in 2003, its creator, business strategist, Frank Reichheld claimed that it was the “one number you need to grow.”
And then we had a lightbulb moment... ‘Why don’t we apply that method to everything?’
Enter the BAM. The Brand Alignment Monitor works by creating statements about each element of the Customer Experience. Quite simply, all we do is ask the level of agreement with each statement and apply the NPS methodology of calculating the score.
The key thing is that it gives us a consistent metric based on whether customers agree or disagree. If a statement scores +50 we know we have very high agreement (or world class in pure NPS terms), 30-50 is good, 10-29 average and below that is poor.
Q. How exactly is this applied to measuring the customer experience in real terms?
There are three elements to the BAM.
The ‘standing’. This is whether your brand is moving towards your vision or away from it - are you progressing or going backwards?
The ‘diagnosis’. Whatever your direction, you need to know why. This helps you lift the lid and find the reasons why you are moving in the direction you are.
The ‘action’. This is what people say they will do as a result.
We take these measures from three samples - current customers, prospects and the brand’s own employees. We know from research that a company’s own team will know what is happening six months ahead of its customers.
Q. Can you share a real example?
Take Alton Towers. It is aiming to be Britain’s greatest escape - that is its brand vision.
All of its product development is aligned to this. They have a number of values that go with this, and a brand personality which guides the way they do things.
Working with the team at Alton Towers, we created a number of statements for each element of the customer experience which align with the vision for the brand.
By taking measures around the whole experience, we can see what is aligned and what isn’t and apply resources accordingly to the elements that need improving or re-aligning. As such, it is a tool that gets used outside of the marketing department too as it is used across all the business functions (HR, food provision, customer services, entertainments… the whole company!).
Q. How do the surveys correlate with different aspects of the brand?
They can relate to people or processes, for example.
For one retail client, we reported back people scores that came to about +28, which is average. But when we entered the ‘diagnosis’ stage, the feedback around the professionalism of the staff – wearing uniform, politeness, product knowledge - scored in the +40s which was pretty good. But the metrics relating to ‘customer empathy’ sat at around +4 or 5.
It alerted the brand to a problem with the way it was delivering its service style. It was coming across as too officious, so its training needed to concentrate on how to empathise instead.
This is just one of many examples, but shows how the BAM helped focus resources on the parts of the service that needed improving. It is very directive.
If the BAM reveals that the company is moving away from its vision, it can direct the appropriate resources to reverse this. If is moving towards its vision, it can share that knowledge and capitalise on what is working well.
Q. How frequently is BAM data collected?
Data is collected as many times as a client needs to do it; this may coincide with a particular initiative, but it tends to be every quarter. For example David Lloyd carried out five surveys last year because they carried out lots of activities and they wanted to see the impact of these. It is historical, but it is a strategic tool.
Q. What has been brands’ response to the BAM so far?
It is very early days, but brands like the fact that it has one simple method of calculating scores that is based on a method that people are often familiar with and trust anyway. They also appreciate that it draws upon around 35 -40 measures from all around the entire customer experience and that it is very sensitive to change.
It is very practical and gives companies a much more accurate understanding of where they are sitting. It is more usable than pure ‘old age’ trackers because everyone gets it - so it helps break down silos and unites a company with a common goal and a universal understanding.
Q. Why hasn’t an all encompassing metric like the BAM been thought of before now?
I can’t fathom why no-one has come up with it, apart from perhaps a vested interest from some people to make things complicated.
Also, a lot of companies are still stuck in this ‘brands get built through communications alone’ mindset. So unless your mind is open to the fact that ‘brands get built through customer experience’ and you fundamentally agree, you will stick with the old tracking methodologies.
It was a real eureka moment for us. It resonates because it is simple and it measures how brands are built.
Q. How important is the fact the BAM includes the employee voice?
Very important, because staff are ahead of the game when it comes to taking a company’s pulse. Nowhere is this better illustrated than with the Co-operative Bank…
In 2011 we were presenting at a large finance conference in London. We had been asked to speak about some research we had conducted amongst financial services brands using the BAM.
I pointed out that the Co-operative Bank was one of the few that had done well, boasting the top alignment scores among customers and competitor’s customers. But the organisation had the worst scores from people working in the sector - including its own staff. It prompted us to predict that The Co-op would soon be in trouble. People laughed at us.
Two years later, it was accused of serious and wide ranging failures of risk management, a poor culture and inadequate systems which left it with a £1.5 billion financial black hole. Case proven m’laud.
Such an example proves how predictive a brand’s own team can be, yet companies very rarely use their staff in market research. The BAM brings the two together.
Q. Brand Vista have also developed BAM Live - how does that work?
BAM Live takes readings from the standing, diagnosis and action stages based on just a few questions (6 -10) which it pushes to people’s mobile phones. It can do this on a daily basis if required, but it doesn’t have the depth of the BAM. It is still in its infancy.
There are different aspects to research - practical research that you can do and action quickly, and strategic research, and there will always be a difference between the two.
BAM is 35- 40 questions which cover the whole of the customer experience. BAM Live will see people answer between 6 and 10 questions live, so it will never be able to go into the depth of the BAM, which draws on a large controlled sample.
Q. How do you see BAM evolving?
It is not so much technology or methodology driven, but usage driven.
We are using BAM data alongside business data and establishing correlations between the two. It is very powerful - if we move this dial here it affects this dial here - but we need to work out exactly how they influence each other and why, and I am sure our analysis of this will grow more sophisticated.