Today we’re looking at people management through the lense of branding and how marketing and HR can work together to create a seamless customer experience, and ultimately long term business success.
It’s happened to all of us. We’ve come to know and love a brand over time, and then one day we have an experience as a customer that completely goes against our expectations.
You excitedly booked a flight on an airline with a fun and upbeat image, only to be met with a not-so-friendly flight crew on board.
You test-drive a car at a premium dealership and the person assisting you uses sales tactics more characteristic of a used car salesman.
You go to your favourite cafe excited to take advantage of the latest promotion, but the staff don’t know it’s happening. And then they burn your coffee…
If you’ve experienced something like this personally, you’ll know it can really damage your relationship with that airline, car brand or cafe chain.
Businesses take note: even if your customers have a rock-solid relationship with your brand, one negative experience can be off-putting enough to make them start exploring competitors, or even abandon you completely.
When you consider the value of a customer over their lifetime, it’s easy to see how damaged relationships can be devastating to a business.
Think about your average customer lifetime value (LTV), can you really afford to lose a loyal customer (or thousands?), simply because frontline staff couldn’t align with management expectations?
An individual who uses one telecommunications provider for 75 years could be worth $100,000.
A shopper who spends $200 a week at the same grocery chain for 70 years is worth $728,000 over their lifetime.
A motor enthusiast who collects cars from one automaker for 40 years could be worth $2 million over their lifetime (or much more!).
Despite the allure of high LTVs, many organisations struggle to maintain consistency between the brand image they’ve created, and the frontline service experience provided by staff on the ground.
Why? Well first we need to acknowledge this is hardly a simple task, and the bigger a company gets, the harder it becomes.
Getting alignment through every touchpoint in the customer journey (including face to face experiences) takes a long-term solution, but it largely starts with workplace culture and communication.
Have you ever been so excited to work for a company whose brand you love, only to find out life on the inside is so dramatically different from the brand’s exterior? A strong brand will help you attract the right talent, but if your organisational culture isn’t fit to match, it will be a struggle to retain great staff.
Richard Branson is known for saying “if you look after your staff, they’ll look after your customers”. It’s a severely overused quote but for good reason. We simply can’t expect people to do their best work if they are miserable in their job.
By fostering a healthy company culture, consistent with the brand your customers know, love and expect, you can take the first step towards a more consistent experience for customers.
So how can this be achieved?
In his research for Deloitte, HR Analyst Josh Bersin pinpointed 5 key elements that create an organisation people love to work for.
Here’s what desirable employers had in common:
What motivation do your customer-facing employees have to do their best work? According to the University of California, motivated employees are 31% more productive, sell 37% more and are three times more creative compared to those who lack motivation in their role. So it (literally) pays to make work meaningful.
What makes work meaningful will mean something different to everyone, but a good starting point is having a continuous feedback process to learn what staff want to do more of, where they would like to develop further and where they might be facing problems. By listening to frontline employees we can determine what they find valuable and tailor their experience where possible to provide greater satisfaction in their role.
When the management team is hands on and aware of what’s happening on the ground, communication can flow more easily and planning can remain realistic and achievable. Using continuous feedback, the HR team can get an insight into what’s happening on the ground and the marketing team can also receive feedback on how their directives are being implemented and subsequent results. Most importantly, a continuous feedback process can be implemented 100% online, so this feedback loops remains intact even when employees are physically disparate.
Expanding on making work meaningful, having growth opportunities on the horizon gives staff something to strive for and provides incentive to keep making a solid effort at work. It’s vital to be keeping track of training completed within your organisation to identify skills gaps and ensure employees are developing.
Not all jobs can be fun, per say. We’re not suggesting you start playing party anthems in a hospital lobby, but a fun and inclusive environment is especially important if this is reflected in your brand values. If your brand is approachable, friendly and warm then this needs to be the vibe between staff in your store, the crew on your aircraft fleet or the customer service representatives in your call centre. If there is a disconnect, customers will sense the lack of authenticity a mile away, jeopardising their loyalty and trust in your brand.
Building trust and credibility at a leadership level requires managers to be consistent in their expectations, developing mutual understanding between leaders and frontline staff. By making an effort to be across what’s happening on the ground, leaders can set more realistic expectations and tailor decisions to be as actionable as possible.
By working closely together, marketing and HR teams can collaborate to ensure maximum alignment between workplace culture and branding. Over time, these efforts will improve employee engagement, customer relationships and subsequently contribute to better bottom line outcomes.
About the Author
Kaitlyn Gillies BBus(Marketing) is a marketing practitioner and Sessional Academic at Queensland University of Technology teaching Integrated Marketing Communication.