Do your teams embody your brand?
With the holiday season now in full flow (or lack thereof), passengers have been reporting chaos at numerous airports, making national headlines. The ‘chaos’ isn’t limited to one country, highlighting the widespread fragility of the customer experience within the travel sector.
When the strain upon the operations of a company is too much for the system itself, what hope is there for a brand to inspire or maintain customer loyalty? The last line of defence for the brand, when the systems fail, is the relationship between the staff and the customer. When ‘push comes to shove’ your people are your brand.
Our book ‘On Purpose: Delivering a Branded Customer Experience People Love’ emphasizes the fundamental role that staff play in the good, bad and ugly side of the customer experience. Purposeful brands hire for attitude, train for skill and motivate for performance.
Customer experience starts with hiring the right people
Brand leaders look outside their markets and hire for fit with their ‘DNA’. Market-leading high-street name ‘Timpson’, proudly says its purpose is to provide ‘great service by great people’ and looks beyond its market by hiring people from prisons based on their fit with the brand. It is renowned for its ‘upside-down management’ philosophy that pushes as much control as possible to the people running the shops. It champions a culture in which store managers set prices, order the stock and have huge scope to provide excellent customer service. They have created a level of employee engagement that has made Timpson one of the best companies to work for again and again – placed in the Top 10 of the Sunday Times 100 Best Companies to Work For awards every year they have entered.
Then train them to be brand ambassadors
Brand leaders also prioritise engaging and inspiring their people to deliver a purposeful customer experience. This starts with ‘branded experience training’ as explained by Vanessa Hamilton who has worked with Smith+co for over 15 years designing branded experience training for many of the world’s leading brands:
Generic service training doesn’t connect your people to your brand. It doesn’t help them to understand what your brand stands for – and why that matters. It doesn’t help them to explore how they can really bring your brand to life for customers through their actions and behaviours. If you want your people to deliver a meaningful and valuable experience for your customers – one that differentiates your brand from your competitors and drives customer loyalty – you have to create a branded experience for them too. At the heart of every brand is a compelling story that people want to be part of. That’s why every customer experience communication or training that you deliver should be able to answer – and keep answering – these three questions:
- Why is this important?
- How will it benefit our company and me?
- What do I need to do additionally or differently in my role?
Keeping these questions in mind throughout your training ensures everyone in your organization hears a clear, simple and joined-up message, and knows where and how they can play a valuable part. If you want to create a differentiated experience, create differentiated training.
Trust them to deliver
Branded experience training is not about creating scripts for your people or prescribing exact behaviours for every single customer interaction. It is about freedom within a framework. Being ‘tight’ on what your brand stands for, and the customer experience you wish to create, but ‘loose’ in execution. It is about trusting individual staff members to use their initiative and do what it takes to satisfy each individual customer.
Your front-line teams should be engaged in defining and designing the skills and knowledge needed to deliver your brand – they are closest to the customer in every sense and best placed to know what exactly your customers want. If new behaviours are to stick and become ‘how we do things here’, your people need to have a voice and a role in defining them. Purposeful brands empower their people with the skills, information, authority and time to serve the customer well and then let them prove they can. When you demonstrate that you trust people – and equip and support them to do their jobs – they usually surprise you by just how much they can do, especially when things go wrong, which they invariably will at some stage.
One of our favourite Ted Talks is Dan Pink’s brilliant 18-minute speech, ‘The Puzzle of Motivation’. Dan Pink makes the point that the three most powerful elements of staff motivation are: autonomy, mastery and purpose. Autonomy is the desire to direct our own actions; mastery is the desire to become better at what we do, and purpose is doing whatever it is because it matters. How does this apply to brands currently facing operational crisis? A good indicator is when after the chaos, a customer says things like “The staff were brilliant, despite the situation”. That’s what autonomy, mastery and purpose can achieve loyalty and praise even when the systems fail.
This article was based on chapter 7 of the book On Purpose.