Monday, August 10, 2009

Today, Good Service Is Just as Important as Brand Image

By Matt Cassem

You can find many businesses that do a great job of branding their organization. They have a great web site, great advertising, and if you were to walk into their offices or stores you would be just as impressed. But how does a customer’s interaction with a company via traditional channels reflect on the company brand?

What I’m talking about is the customer interaction lifecycle (from pre-purchase to post-purchase). When you think in terms of your brand, you’ve gone to great lengths to make sure customers perceive you in exactly the way you planned. You make sure your website looks a certain way. You’ve made sure your logo and identity match the product or service you’re selling and you make sure your advertising is spot on. But how many customer touch points, where your customers or prospects have a chance to make a decision about your brand, have you not thought of?

In today’s world, we have to think about our brand’s introduction, how our customers make purchases, how satisfied they are with their purchase, how we market to them after that purchase, and how we maintain that relationship with them over that lifetime. To be more specific, how have we positioned our brand when a sales representative interacts with our customers? How are our customer service representatives interacting and upholding our companies’ brand when there is a problem? What is our brand’s message every time our customers or prospects interact with our employees? Customer experiences include maintaining our brand at every touch point so that those interactions don’t minimize the message that we’ve been trying so hard to spread.

There are numerous ways in which we can communicate and continue carrying our company’s message; but so too can our customers. All of our marketing efforts may not be reaching their peak value, if we’re not managing every touch point because of negative experiences. If we’re doing a great job at managing our customers’ interactions online but forgotten about the traditional channels in which our employees interact with our customers, now might be a good time, thanks to social media.

In today’s world, every interaction whether on the phone or in person, helps to either strengthen or weaken our message. Good service can be a great advertising channel, while bad service can be spread ten times further. With today’s Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube communities, people are increasingly telling their friends about their bad experiences (just try searching Twitter). How we’re using these interactions will hopefully reinforce the messages we do want carried out versus ones we don’t.

Every interaction is a chance to tell our story and communicate our company’s personality, character, service, and brand. How our sales team or staff communicates in the beginning, to customer service, to how we’re enabling our customers to explain their experiences online may all contribute to the success of future marketing campaigns. One recent negative example from YouTube is “United Breaks Guitars.”

Each interaction creates a story in the customer’s mind and either creates believers in our marketing or creates people who don’t believe in our message. If you’ve taken the time to create a company message and identity, than you will most likely want to take some time and see how well all of your customers’ interactions align with that message. It may only take one person to spread the word about your organization and I hope that that message is positive. Take some time now to see how your staff is carrying out your message through each step, so you won’t have to repair your brand and reputation later on.

Matt Cassem is a creative marketing manager with a focus on the customer experience for small to mid-size companies. You can follow him on Twitter @mcassem.

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