Brand Strategy: If You Get Employees on Board, Customers Are Easy

When I checked the bill, all they charged me for was the tire. No labor or anything — just the cost of the tire.

I called them back and the guy on the phone said, “You and your family are such good customers that this was on us.”

My wife was driving home last week and had a slow flat on the interstate. She was able to creep into Meinke where we get all of our cars serviced. They promptly came out and took all her worries away. Long story short, the work was done and in a short time, she was on her way home.

Moral of the story? We’re now a confirmed customer for LIFE.

This highlights something you should know: everyone that works in your business is a brand ambassador, from the lowest rung on the org chart to the top executive. We sometimes falsely assume that it’s only when you get higher up in the organization that branding matters. However branding has a lot more effect when it is contagious down to the street level.

The importance of touch points

How many times have we gone into retail establishments and the employees went above and beyond for you? Those encounters always tend to chisel an impression into our psyche. On the other hand, when the opposite happens and we are rudely treated as if we are bothering them, that also has an effect. Studies however, have shown that the later experience is shared amongst friends more so than the former.

Companies spend enormous amounts of time and money developing, strategizing, and implementing marketing campaigns about who they are to their target audience and anyone else who will listen.

A companies brand is not just a cute marketing statement or some logo. Regardless of what your advertising campaign is, if your employees do not embody your message, as the say in The Sopranos, “fuhgeddaboudit. “ It’s just not happening.

Yes, but do your employees get it?

Companies can ignore employees at their own peril, however, they are the best advertisement you could ever have. If they live the brand that syncs to your marketing message, you are at the intersection of nirvana.

I had an experience at a local chain here in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia the other day (where I am working as an HR leader). I bought an extension card, took it home, and it was the wrong type. So I put it back in the container and on my way home from work, I stopped by not for a refund but an exchange.

When I went to customer service, you would have thought that I was asking for double my money back. Because I had opened the package, the clerk adamantly refused to exchange it and basically walked away.

I asked for the manger and he apologized and gave me one that was already opened. My suggestion to him was that his customer service reps need a lot of training and I would not be coming back to shop there at all. So, customer lost and the story was repeated at work the next day.

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Branding means starting with employees first

The customer experience is paramount, whether in a retail environment or inside a call center. If that touch point with the customer is not a branding experience, you have lost.

Each one of your employees is responsible for delivering what your brand promises. And if the employees don’t get it, their attitudes and behavioral patterns towards clients, colleagues, partners, suppliers means that the branding effort will have been in vain.

Your entire organization is constantly at risk because in this age of social media. Yes, bad news travels especially fast!

As part of your “brand strategy” you have got to get your employees to live it. An engaged workforce goes a long way in upholding that strategy. One the other hand, regardless of the campaign you devise if your employees don’t get it, it is not going to matter.

So before you go into that conference room to start talking brand, make a detour into your workforce.

That is an important first step. The process must begin by explaining to all employees the essence of the brand and what it is all about. The company must clearly define and elaborate the desirable traits and behaviors that they want their employees to exhibit. Most importantly, they should solicit feedback from those very same employees

And if that key component of your branding effort — your employees — do not know what the brand stands for, it is hardly reasonable to expect that they will be able to “live it.”

One day smart companies will spend the money getting more insight into their employees before they start the journey of getting to know their customers. They just might find that if you get the former right, the latter is a piece of cake.

Ron Thomas is Managing Director, Strategy Focused Group DWC LLC, based in Dubai. He is also a senior faculty member and representative of the Human Capital Institute covering the MENA/Asia Pacific region.

He was formerly CEO of Great Place to Work-Gulf and former CHRO based in Riyadh. He holds certifications from the Human Capital Institute as Global Human Capital Strategist, Master Human Capital Strategist, and Strategic Workforce Planner.

He's been cited by CIPD as one of the top 5 HR Thinkers in the Middle East. He received the Outstanding Leadership Award for Global HR Excellence at the World Human Resources Development Congress in Mumbai, and was named as one of the 50 Most Talented Global HR Leaders in Asia

Ron's prior roles included senior HR positions with Xerox HR services, IBM, and Martha Stewart Living.

Board memberships include the Harvard Business Review Advisory Council, McKinsey Quarterly's Executive Online Panel, and HCI's Expert Advisory Council on Talent Management Strategy.

His work has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, Inc. Magazine, Workforce Management and numerous international HR magazines covering Africa, India and the Middle East.


2 Comments on “Brand Strategy: If You Get Employees on Board, Customers Are Easy

  1. My wife had a slow leak (i.e., nail) in her tire and went to a local tire stor to fix it. They pulled the tire, patched the nail hole, remounted it and sent her on her way… no charge. When she asked why no charge, they responded, “Your treads real low and you’ll need to replace these tires within the next year or so. When you do, we want you to think of us.” Yep… went back there for all new tires that fall. That’s what employees as Brand Ambassadors can do!

  2. Excellent article Ron. If your employees don’t know how to deliver the Brand Promise their employers spends huge sums of money on developing and communicating, you end up just becoming better at disappointing (soon to be former) customers.

    Besides knowing how to hire the right people, knowing how to translate your Brand Promise into specific behaviors and responses is central to delivering a brand-building, loyalty-creating customer experience.
    Thanks again Ron for a great article. Will be sharing it.

    Best regards,
    David Lee

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