A lot of companies are spending big money to ‘leverage’ their brands. Big-name advertising firms charge their clients big bucks to create an image and spread it everywhere, in order to make it pervasive in the minds of consumers.
It’s been said that perception is reality. And that, my friends, is especially true when it comes to companies and brands.
So for a moment, think of two companies. One is Company A, that you LOVE, perhaps your favorite restaurant or retailer. The other, Company B, is a place that you remember for the terrible customer service you received, or the negative experience you had when you tried to purchase something or use their product or service – unsuccessfully.
Company A treats you like a special friend, appreciates and pays attention to you, tends to your needs, cares about your personal preferences – and has people who are nice to deal with, who serve you professionally, who smile and say ‘thanks.’ They go the extra mile without being asked. This company’s employees deliver the service or product for you in a way that reflects the fact that they actually enjoy their job and are good at doing it. They like people and they enjoy serving you, their customer. If something is not right, they want to make it right for you, not grudgingly, but out of concern for you and because it’s just the right thing to do. When you think of company A, you get a warm, friendly feeling. You’ve probably told someone about them, right?
The other place, Company B…well, that’s a different story. You visited them or purchased their product or service because they had perfectly good products and services, or you wouldn’t have gone there, right? But then things went a little haywire. The product you purchased failed or didn’t meet your expectations, the food was cold or tasteless, the service was slow (or non-existent), and you raised your hand to tell them that you weren’t happy. And this is where the difference between company A and company B starts to become really clear.
For company A, this was just an opportunity to make you happy again. They routinely handle it well when you’re not happy. They just fix things so that you’re happy. ‘We’re very sorry this happened, and we hope this will take care of the problem. Let us know if we can do anything else for you, OK? We appreciate your business!’ Problems have happened but they take care of it and you still love them.
With company B, your problem wasn’t solved, the return or complaint wasn’t handled well. No one paid attention or cared. The person (or series of persons) you had to deal with on the way to getting so frustrated that you will NEVER work with them again all had something in common: a lack of care for YOU and bad attitudes.
What the people at Company B cared about was company policy, or getting off at the end of their shift, or just hanging on to their job to earn a paycheck until they could get another job somewhere else. ‘Sorry, but our policy doesn’t allow for refunds or returns after X days…we don’t allow substitutions on daily specials…management won’t allow us to make exceptions…this is not my responsibility/I can’t help you, etc.’ You gave them an opportunity to make things right, but they blew it. You’ve probably told someone about them, too, right? And you’ll NEVER return as a customer.
Organizations like Company B usually have two employee problems: absentee-ism and presentee-ism. Absentee-ism is where people who you’d like to come to work don’t. Presentee-ism is where people who shouldn’t show up for work do. Company B is plagued by presentee-ism, from top to bottom. Their corporate mantra: ‘The firings will continue until attitudes improve.’
Each of these company’s policies and attitudes have consequences and an impact on their bottom lines.
Company B hires ‘human resources.’ To their leadership, people are similar to machinery, with useful lives, but somewhat ‘disposable’ if things don’t work out. High turnover, conflicts, poor attitudes, communication problems and low employee retention are considered normal, part of doing business. In these economic times or in a competitive marketplace, Company B is struggling to just keep its head above water, to stem the losses.
Company A is different. It hires, develops and retains great people who love what they do, excel in their roles, stay engaged and stick with it for the long run. To them, people are their greatest asset. They know what makes their people tick, why their best people perform well, and how to hire more just like them. When someone does leave, another great person is trained to take their place. Leaders are leading, workers are working, teams are producing results, customers are happy. It’s a fairly pretty picture, all in all.
The result for both companies is that, despite any amount of money spent on image, websites, pretty pictures and compelling copy in ads, their people created the lasting impression in your mind. The employees of both companies created an image in the mind of their customer that is permanent and unshakeable. You love one and hate the other.
If you aren’t paying attention to this, it’s only a matter of time until the reputation of your company which is being created by your people every time they interact with a customer, vendor, partner, stakeholder (and even fellow employees), the REAL point of brand delivery, catches up with you. And no amount of money spent on advertising, marketing or ‘brand strategy’ will reverse it. Think not? Go back, re-read this blog and use yourself as the example of ‘everyman.’ Do you still do business with your Company B?
People ARE YOUR BRAND. Company leaders who internalize this truth and act upon it will dominate their markets, regardless of economic or competitive marketplace conditions. Need help? Call me for a free consultation.