Who’s calling the shots on your brand?
Now, brands can be tricky things, but you should basically think of them as the promise you make to your customers. A way to help manage their expectations about what they’re about to buy. The fact I can shop at both Waitrose and Aldi and leave each store perfectly happy, despite having a totally different experience, is precisely because their brand and reputation has successfully helped manage my expectations.
So what makes the difference between one brand experience and another? Very often it’s your people. Let’s face it, you might have the very best business strategy going, but if you don’t include and involve your people, you may as well not bother at all. Unless they’re able to deliver your brand promise, your customers won’t get what they’re expecting and you’re probably in for a rough ride.
So what’s your role in all this? Simple. Beyond making sure you have a sound strategy in place and that everyone in the business understands it, you need to be listening to and acting on their feedback. Afterall they’re more likely to help solve the challenges you’re grappling with than any management consultant could, because it’s so often the small everyday details that can make the biggest difference.
A recent trip with a leading airline really brought this into focus for me. I chose them because they flew out of my local airport – convenient; I was after a bit of luxury - premium brand, and wanted it to be a hassle free holiday.
Once on the plane I was treated to exactly what I’d bought into - a first class service. It was professional, friendly and it ran like clock work. Nothing was too much trouble. The cabin crew were that good, I happily overlooked the ailing state of their aircraft, the pitiful inflight entertainment and the fact they ran out of food options halfway up the cabin! In a word, it was fab; and even from my cattle class seat, I felt like a king. So how come they failed to deliver on their brand promise?
Well it’s because every other aspect of the experience was dire - from the booking system, to the call centre team, ground staff to check in agents. Don’t get me wrong, everyone I came into contact with was polite and courteous, for example, they persistently smiled and referred to me as “sir” as they explained why my problem was exactly that.
It was a classic example of a business out of touch with their people and their customers. Their back of house systems were clearly lashed together with gaffer tape which made everything feel a bit over complicated and troublesome. Nothing made any sense to me as their customer, and so the poor guys at the sharp end were left to fight the daily battles whilst their generals were in retreat smoking cigars and drinking Brandy - a safe distance from the action.
All the people I met were doing their very best to deliver a convenient, premium and hassle-free customer experience, but things behind the scenes were so badly broken that in the end, all they could do was to listen sympathetically and remember to call me Sir.
Whatever your brand is all about, logos, ads and promotions are all pretty pointless investments if you don’t support your people to deliver what you have promised.
So whatever your plans look like, remember to look after your people, they’ll look after your customers and your customers will look after your business.