Creating and maintaining a brand is not a one size fits all exercise. It’s not a “here’s your logo, brand guides and that’s it…”, and it’s not about a single experience, it is of course about many. A big part of a brand is how it’s perceived by a customer not just on one occasion or one environment, but many. There are so many facets to a brand that gives it its overall identity in the market against that of its competitors.
Creating a good rapport with your audience is vital to ensure any equity you have built in your brand is maintained. With this in mind, looking at how your brand behaves in certain circumstances and how it reacts will also be scrutinised. For every cause, there is an effect! With the power of social media and it’s so-called ‘keyboard warriors’, well this too can have an impact on your brand in minutes.
There are many ways a brand can build its advocates as well as destroy them.
Let’s take for example ‘the restaurant/coffee shop’ experience.
When a customer arrives, it’s not just about the food or the service…it’s the whole brand experience. How does your customer feel when he/she enters the car park? Is the place newly painted, the signage well done? In fact, maybe this whole brand experience started with the phone booking, or even an online booking? Was that good too? Or did some stroppy person answer the phone and the website take an age to load?
When your customer entered the restaurant/coffee shop, did they feel welcome? Was it clean? Were the staff friendly?
When they were seated, did someone take their drinks order quickly? Talk them through the specials? How was the atmosphere? Even the lighting has an impact on the experience!
After they placed their order, did the food/drink arrive timely, did it taste amazing?
All good so far, you would think … but then they went to the loo and found that they were dirty and there was no toilet roll or soap? How did that make them feel about their visit? Did they then question the cleanliness elsewhere in the establishment?
Good examples of where this goes wrong are high-end coffee shops and fast food establishments such as McDonalds. In coffee shops, drinks and food are a relatively expensive treat and the brand personality is to create a relaxed atmosphere within which to enjoy beverages and snacks. On many occasions in my experience, the toilets have not been of a standard that matches the expectation of the brand.
With McDonalds, on the other hand, in my view there is no expectation of a clean toilet, or toilet paper. The expectation is low, yet every occasion has been acceptable to say the least.
I recently went to a top end hotel chain and whilst half way through eating my sandwich, I found a blue plaster off of someone’s finger in my food, how do you think I felt? It didn’t help when they decided to offer me a meal as compensation! “Seriously, you are offering me food from that kitchen again?”
I run a business with a talented team and customer service is important to me. As a business we want to treat people the way we wish to be treated ourselves. We too have some great clients that also put customer service high on the agenda. Not only that, they treat their clients, internal staff and suppliers with the utmost respect. So part of their brand management is ensuring the customer is dealt with respectfully and in a way that is appropriate to the issue (should it arise) in hand.
It’s important to remember people’s personalities and behaviours vary in types. According to NLP (Neuro Linguistic programming) there are 3 key types. ‘Visual’ (like to see things) type people, ‘Auditory’ (excited by sounds) type people and ‘Kinaesthetic’ (are a bit touchy feely) However, in a restaurant/coffee shop the following will also apply: ‘Olfactory’ (smell) and ‘Gustatory’ (taste). You have to consider the emotional side of your brand and that of the people that will engage with it. Even their moods!
As a brand, if you cater (pardon the pun) for all these types of people and then cover all of the above points, which amounts to the whole brand experience, you are doing the right thing. If you apply these principles to any brand touch point, by this I mean looking at the entire customer journey and at every channel the customer uses in that journey, then you truly are looking after your customers. This will influence how they feel about your brand. After all, a brand is about people’s perceptions and you have the power to shape this.
Now don’t get me wrong, people’s tolerance levels and expectations of a brand or brand experience can vary. There will always be a person who feels a brand can do better and as mentioned will dive into a customer service battle on-line (our keyboard warriors). However this should be seen as an opportunity and not a threat for a brand to turn any issue into a positive customer service experience. How a brand deals with its customer(s) and what it says can also influence the perception of a brand. Customers with complaints, when dealt with well, can very easily be turned into brand advocates.
That said, never be frightened of the odd poor rating on social media or review on your website. It is nigh-on impossible to get it right 100% of the time, and it makes a brand more ‘human’. The odd bad review is not deal breaker, if it’s the other way around then you do definitely need to look at things quickly.
The best thing to do is to take any criticism on the chin and do the best you can to manage your touch points (well, the bits you can control) and you will deliver a good overall brand experience. So whether this is via social media, online or just answering a phone, take everything into consideration.
Remember, for every ten good things you do, it’s often the one bad thing that gets remembered first. You’ve heard it ‘”You are only as good as your last job”. Therefore, keep looking at your brand’s journey. You are not just a logo, a tone of voice document, a shop or a factory. Be proud, check your toilets, it will help you ensure you don’t end up clearing up a lot of sh!t in the long run…hahaha and you’re adding positively to your brand’s ‘bottom’ line!
Have a look at our infographic below on exactly how important customer service really is:
Written by Julie Hayes