Usability Equals Satisfaction.
I've written often and often scathingly about faux personalisation, the lip-service ascribed to the customer experience and other attempts at differentiation. However, another bizarre interaction with an insurance company (which chose to place more complete customer instructions on the back of an envelope than on their application has reminded me that this is all superfluous. It's usability that matters above all else.
Whether it's making a wine bottle easier to find on the shelf, the website easier to navigate or the form fit the supplied envelope, it's usability that is at the heart of differentiating yourself from the mass of mediocrity and the downright dumb. It's not expensive to do, but nor is it sexy and that's why it's so often overlooked by the marketing mavens who are all too often looking to impress their peers rather than their customers.
Make things run smoothly for your customer and you'll be so far ahead of the competition you won't need to contemplate the vagaries of branding, identity and image. Because the best way to fail to engage with your prospective customer is to piss them off, yet day in, day out that's what businesses do. They take refuge in their meaningless customer satisfaction surveys while failing to realise that the dissatisfied customer isn't talking to them, but sure as hell is bitching about them to anyone who'll listen.