Dear CEOs, this is why you need to care about every touch point

age of customer

‘Not my job’, one of the most irritating statements, especially if you’re a customer.

As a CEO you probably dread the idea that this is the kind of response that your customers might get from any of your employees, but is there really anything you can do about it? And if so, what can you do? Certainly a company cannot be accountable for the behaviour of each of its employees, yet a satisfied customer is critifcal to the success of your business, so how can you ensure that customers get the best experience when dealing with your brand?

As never before, the customer experience is critical to the sales cycle. While before, companies were in complete control of the information that was provided to potential clients, now the web is filled with user generate content (UGC), aka reviews, comments, posts written by users for other users. Nowadays the customers are those that initiate the sales cycle by searching online for products and services that can address their needs. So positive reviews, good management of negative experiences, transparent communications are essential.

customer age

Jim Blasingame, The age of the customer

 

What prompted me to reflect on this is the recent experiences that I’ve been having with online delivery. Actual delivery of a product is the very last touch point in the sales cycle: the product has been bought, the transaction has been completed, so why should CEOs worry about it? Because it could also be the very first moment when your customers interact with your brand in person. It’s no secret that if the delivery is delayed, if the product is not in order, if the delivery person is not helpful, the customer won’t have a great impression of your brand. The problem is that this in turn will make them less forgiving of any dissatisfaction they might encounter with your products, and more verbal in their disappointment.

However, if the employees that manage the delivery are proud of the company they work for, if they understand the importance of their role in achieving the overall goals of the company, if they themselves and the business realise that they not only deliver the goods, but that they represent the company, then they will be more likely to go the extra mile to deliver a delightful experience to your customers. What you promise to your customers is delivered by your people. This is true for delivery, as much as for customer service, marketing campaigns, and even HR recruitment (think of Glassdoor). At every single touch point your customer needs the same level of positive brand experience that is in line with your strategy, that delivers on the promises you make to your customers, and that creates the perception you want them to have about your business. This is what you get when your internal and external brand are aligned.

Those of you who already read some of my previous articles know that I’m strongly passionate about the critical role of branding in any organisation, and in particular about the importance of internal and external brand alignment. This is a topic that is often over-looked or not fully understood, in fact, every time I discuss it the initial reaction is ‘Here comes some blah blah on branding, values, promises etc…’. Yet, once we start digging a bit deeper it’s easy to understand that brand alignment is not about ticking boxes and making sure that your values are printed on posters hanging in the cafeteria. Internal and external brand alignment is about ensuring that the business strategies that the C-suite is working so hard to define and implement don’t get lost at the most crucial of times: when your customers engage with your brand. And how do you achieve this? By ensuring that your employees understand, believe in, and deliver the brand and what it stands for.

So how do you get brand alignment? These are the 3 main steps in building a strong brand, internally and externally:

1) Define you brand

As mentioned before, this is not just about stating unrealistic visions, bland values, and one-size fits all mission statements. This is about truly extrapolating what your brand is about, what it is that makes you unique, why people should want to work for you, what makes them proud about their job.

While the C-suite has certainly an idea of what the company’s brand (read: heart & soul) should be, this first step cannot be dictated by the top level. You will need to sit down with your employees, find venues to listen to them, get their views and then act accordingly. Is your vision aligned with theirs? If so, great. Go ahead and just make sure that everybody shares it and embraces it. If it isn’t, then you will need to decide which parts of what they see and value can become part of your brand, and thereby help drive your business strategy, and which parts are not aligned and therefore need to be dealt with. In this last case you will need to understand why employees perceive the brand in a certain way, and decide what you can change to make them live your brand the way you see it.

2) Engage your people, for real.

Employees are tired of being told what to feel and how to feel about the company they work for. Are the values printed on the cafeteria wall really relevant for them or are they just empty words? To get people engaged, you need to have venues for them to learn about the company, to understand what the company wants to achieve and how, and see how their work impacts on the success of the company.  You should also institute effective internal communications, once again not top-down but two-way communications, where employees get the chance to express ideas and suggestions and ultimately to get their voice heard. Nowadays with all the technology available and the ability to introduce internal platforms that mirror social media, boosting collaboration and communication has never been easier.

3) Make your brand inspirational

For your customers to prefer you over your competitors, and for your employees to deliver on your promises to your customers, they all need to connect with your brand. Your brand has to stand out, to inspire them. But being inspirational doesn’t necessarily mean being the good guys at all cost. Think of Harley Davidson or Red Bull, they made not being the good guys their trademark. At every touch point they deliver the same brand experience, and people who associate themselves with a rebel spirit or extreme sports buy their products. What they managed to do is create a strong brand based on their own values and to attract the audience that shares the same beliefs. Obviously, their own employees need to share the same values too because how believable would it be if a Harley Davidson dealer doesn’t fit the rebel image?

Once you manage to create a strong brand that engages customers as well as your own employees, then you will be able to deliver your brand at every touch point of the customer journey, creating a base of loyal customers and genuine brand ambassadors.

About the author: Giulia Iannucci is a strategic branding and marketing consultant, and founder of KnowThyBrand. From brand identity to logo design, from website creation to digital marketing strategy, KnowThyBrand offers a range of solutions for businesses that are starting their journey and those that are looking to find a new way. www.knowthybrand.com

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