I recently called my auto insurance company to discuss a potential claim. Keep in mind their brand promise is all about, “being easy to work with”. Well, after three attempts at getting through a maze of voicemail prompts before I got a live voice, I was feeling a bit frustrated. After discussing my questions with two employees and a supervisor who made me feel I was the 100th customer they reluctantly had to help that day, I felt I was being “processed” and their brand promise was a joke. The employees were not necessarily to blame. Very often, management creates a brand but doesn’t do enough to show staff how to “live the brand”. The question I suggest you ask yourself is, “Are your customers having the experience your brand promises them?”
You may have a great product or service, a great logo and tagline, competitive pricing and beautiful brochures or packaging but that’s not the brand – your employees are the brand! It’s your staff who truly impacts the customer experience and brings the brand alive. So whether you are a hospital with patients, a hotel with guests, a bank with customers or a professional with clients, your brand sets an expectation. Does your staff meet that expectation?
One of our clients, The Pechanga Resort & Casino is an excellent example of an organization that consistently delivers on their brand promise. Their leaders are inspired to engage staff and deliver a memorable guest experience by delivering on their brand promise: We take a proactive approach in solving challenges and guest requests and delivering consistent quality service. Each time I and my husband, Bob Romano, stay at the resort, we’re given first class service even by staff who would not have known we’re their consulting partner. Their focus has resulted in their being awarded the AAA Four Diamond rating for the seventh year in a row!
How does The Pechanga Resort & Casino get 4000 employees to buy into and commit to their philosophy? Of course you must have service standards, training, high expectations and accountability built into your service culture. However, you cannot possibly deliver on your brand promise if you let these two pitfalls trip you up.
PITFALL #1: Support departments are disconnected from the customer experience.
SUGGESTION: There are many things that can be done to engage your front line staff. However, non-customer contact staff can feel isolated, undervalued or complacent. They must understand this basic service concept: the level of external service will never get much better than the level of internal service. To help support departments internalize this, we recommend two actions: 1) develop measurement and verifiable internal service standards and 2) give support staff as much exposure to the front line environment as possible.
For the second recommendation, we suggest you schedule administrative and support staff to visit customer contact areas, go on client calls with sales reps, listen in on incoming customer calls, serve on teams and visit their internal customers. In addition, invite customers to speak at both support and front-line staff meetings or conferences. For example, for a bank or credit union, ask John your IT guru to visit a branch and sit with a new accounts representative for an hour. Ask Bill your operations manager to go on a client sales call with your account manager. In a medical environment, ask Nancy in accounting to make rounds with a nurse and listen to the patients.
PITFALL #2: Lack of staff recognition for “living the brand”. Too often employees, including those in less visible positions, feel unappreciated and uninvolved. Once that happens, apathy and disengagement begins setting in.
SUGGESTION: Give your customers the opportunity to recognize your staff for excellent service. At one time, United Airlines sent their frequent flyers coupons to thank any of their staff that provided them with outstanding service. Although I don’t expect to see United do that again, I really enjoyed handing out recognition coupons to deserving employees. Why not include coupons like these on your website, in your customer newsletter or when mailing statements and invoices? One of our health care clients gives praising coupons to patients when they are admitted to the hospital. What a great way to be sure your staff gets the recognition they deserve.
So at your next meeting ask, “Is our service brand dead or alive?” You may want to take a few steps back and invest the time to get your staff involved, committed and engaged in understanding the brand promise and how vital they are to making it a reality. And remember, asking your staff to Be Vivid! Be Vibrant! Be Valued!TM is an excellent way of encouraging them to “live the brand”.
Need help with developing internal service standards?
Click on Service Standards tab in the navigation bar on the top of this webpage for more information.
Comments or questions for my blog?
Best Practices – What thoughts do you have about engaging employees to deliver on your service promise? Can you share a success or challenge with us?
Thanks for your comments and please pass this email and blog along. Share the short video with your staff and managers.
Great blog Barb. As you know I’ve been talking about “living the brand” for several years and am glad that you are emphasizing this now in your business. The key is to market to your internal audience before ever going to the market with your branding messages. if the people are involved in the brand development, they will live it much more passionately.
You are absolutely right: employees must live the brand. In fact, I think employees must be the brand. For example, at Neighborhood Credit Union our tagline is “world class service, neighborhood convenience.” But let’s be honest: what does that really mean to a front-line teller or new accounts officer?
We created 3×5 laminated cards with our slogan on the front and an acrconmym on the back that says, “Do you KNOW your members?” K = know the members name; N = Discover the member’s needs; O = offer our products and services; W = give the member a wow experience!
When I speak on the topic “Got Brand? Advanced Branding for your Organization” I use a brand triangle: leaders must manage the brand, customers must experience the brand and employees must live the brand.
Your brand is only as strong as your employees.