A Brand Promise.
A brand promise is the value or experience you expect from a company as a customer. This promise is expected to be kept every time you interact with that company.
When things go wrong your brand promise is broken. That break has an impact on your customer. As brands get bigger and bigger the brand promise needs to be reinforced. I have witnessed brands countless times who have appeared to no longer care when things go wrong. This is a poor reflection on the brand and an absence of guidelines may be to blame. Anyone who works for an organization represents that organization and acts as the face of the company every time they interact with a customer. If an employee treats me badly at Jiffy Lube, I feel betrayed by the brand that employee is meant to represent.
Like any promise, a brand promise isn’t always easy to pass on to people beyond yourself. If I pass on something to you, I want you to respect it and care for it the way I do. This is increasingly difficult as your company grows.
Brand values can be protected by either hiring people who share the save values, or by having clear guidelines.
[Relationships and] trust is earned in drops and lost in buckets.”
Kevin A. Plank
Steps to keep your brand promise. Your guidelines should clearly articulate:
- What the brand stands for and why employees should care about the brand.
- What the brand doesn’t stand for (actions that are simply not acceptable).
- How you are supposed to treat customers so things go right.
- How you are supposed to treat customers when things go wrong.
When guidelines kick in they should make sense as they align with your brand values. If guidelines sound bureaucratic, the individual employee will have a hard time finding purpose. This can be as dangerous as not having guidelines at all. Statements such as “I’m just doing my job” are a good indication of a problem in this condition.
When things go wrong, a promise is broken. If reparations aren’t being made, the perception is that the brand has become too big to care. Some employees might be perceived to pretend to care and that is exactly what they are doing—just what they’ve been told.
Go beyond just “doing the right thing”.
I was once at a chain restaurant with my lovely wife. When we got our drinks, the ginger ale with a lemon I ordered was flat (by the way ginger ale with a lemon is the only way to really enjoy ginger ale in my opinion). The drink barely had any fizz in it at all. This usually an indication that the soda machine is under carbonated somewhere in the back. Lucky for us, the manager was having a conversation nearby and walked over as we flagged him down to find out what was wrong. As we began to explain the situation, he quickly took the drink and walked away while I was still mid sentence only to come back with a new drink and a big smile. The manager then went back to his conversation. The new drink no longer had a lemon in it, and it was as flat as the previous one.
The manager’s lack of tact only made our experience worse. It was a clear oversight on how customers should be treated on his part. He was pretending to care, by addressing the situation swiftly. His automatic response lacked humanity and empathy. He didn’t listen, and he didn’t do the right thing. He acted like a robot. “Drink not good… Replace Drink!” (in a robot voice).
Through this whole situation, the manager appeared to set things right, but he really didn’t care. The only way to really care is to have human beings who care. In oder to get this, you need to equip yourself and your employees with the tools and authority to make things right. The right resources and authority to do things right make it easy to show that you do care.
Good customer service is a pleasure to give because you can make things right for someone. It makes everyone feel that they are in the right place at the right time. Taking the opportunity to listen to someone when things go wrong, so you can formulate the instructions you need to make things go right allows you to make something memorable.
I once heard Seth Godin talk about being in line at the airport. The story was that there were many delays and he and other passengers were being put on a new flight. The new plane was a small puddle jumper with about 20 seats. He was in line behind a very irritated businessman who barked at the woman at the counter “I hope my seat is first class on this plane!” To the businessman’s delight, she replied “Of course sir, all the seats on this plane are first class.” This airline employee did the right thing by doing something that clearly isn’t spelled out in the employee manual.
Not all good reviews and feedback happen because everything was hunky-dory, but rather because the opportunity to make things right was taken and value was restored. Ahhhhh….