I have witnessed a prominent local corporation—one that will remain anonymous for obvious reasons—execute its brand promise flawlessly at one location and fumble it ridiculously at another. For years, face-to-face, phone and online experiences fell far short of perfection for this company. Its tagline—meant to imprint a positive message in the minds of community members—made me smirk more than smile.
Because of the company’s domination in my local market, I repeatedly found myself in the undesirable position of having to access its services. On one occasion, rather than search for another source, I resigned myself to one of the company's neighboring locations. However, I was pleasantly surprised by the genuine care that I received and the effective execution of the company's universal promise.
Having seen what works (and what does not), my starkly different experiences made me think about what businesses need to do in order to keep their customer promise. Successful execution starts with the mindset that the promise is meaningful and relevant for the long haul, not empty words that keep shareholders happy for a fleeting moment. After that foundation has been laid, be sure to take these actions to keep your brand's promise alive.
1. Determine the effect of your brand's promise on your day-to-day activities
Relate the promise to common interactions and scenarios. Let everyone, customers and employees alike, know what to expect when they initiate transactions, respond to requests and perform certain tasks. Design protocols for these customer touch-points, and communicate them widely via your website, in-store signage, employee manual, etc.
Specific areas to cover might include the following.
- Response times for certain types of inquiries
- Lead times for order processing, product deliveries and project completions
- Product return policies
- Timing and frequency of communication alerts
Having highly visible operating standards can be scary, but such communication helps customers and employees discern between unreasonable and reasonable expectations. Plus, managers can readily distinguish an actual service failure from a perceived sleight, and take appropriate action quickly.
2. Embed the promise in employee documents
Make sure the brand promise appears in key employee documents—job descriptions, training materials, performance reviews. Trust that employees will commit to memory each of the specific deliverables that the brand promise encompasses. But don’t stop with statements posted on the website or engraved on a plaque in the office. Integrate actionable items into communications with employees about their job duties.
Spell out the promise in ways that employees can apply on a daily basis using these methods.
Develop job descriptions that detail position requirements and performance standards consistent with your tagline. As a result, employees can focus on doing their work tasks correctly, rather than trying to remember and follow brand-promise guidelines that may not seem relevant to their job functions.
Train employees to interact with customers, vendors and colleagues. Conduct role-play sessions to illustrate how you would like your promise to be interpreted and applied in various situations.
- Design performance evaluations to measure adherence to work standards, which should be synced with your promise.
3. Hire smart, dedicated and genuine people
Hire people who have the credentials and capabilities needed to excel at your company. But don’t extend offers to those who merely pass your screening hurdles. Search for candidates who are enthusiastic about executing your brand's promise. (Get more tips on hiring.)
Look for people who have demonstrated the following characteristics in previous positions.
Awareness: She intuitively understands your business model and brand promise and has clarity about what they mean for complex problems. (Nevertheless, you should detail requirements to ensure consistency among all employees and adherence to expectations in murky situations.)
Adaptability: He is eager to grow professionally and personally, not just at the start of his career but throughout his working years. Though confident in his abilities, he is willing to consider and learn new ways of doing business, particularly as technology and mindsets change.
- Creativity: She brings new, innovative ideas to the organization that fulfill the brand promise with personable and fresh—rather than robotic—approaches to managing customer relationships.
4. Listen, ponder and act appropriately
Encourage your customers and employees to express both appreciation and concerns. Make contacting your business really easy, whether someone wants to give a positive review, ask a question or lodge a complaint. Then, listen.
Don’t react quickly just to quiet a concern. Consider complaints from the customer’s perspective and your employee’s point of view. Evaluate whatever information is presented in order to determine whether your company has lived up to its promise or failed to deliver.
Craft and execute your response to include the following.
- An explanation to the customer of what actions you intend to take
- An acknowledgment of any shortfalls in the behavior of your employees
- Assurance that you'll bring any broken promises to the attention of your staff
- Recognition of the need for adjustments to your operations, policies and communication styles that will allow your organization to stay true to its brand messaging.
Acting appropriately rather than reacting to momentary pressures allows you to advocate for those who want to do the right thing, not just anything the customer wants. If your employees know that you will protect them, then they will be doubly committed to executing your brand promise in each and every customer interaction.
Julie Rains is a senior writer at Wise Bread, a leading personal finance community dedicated to helping people get the most out of their money. Get daily money tips by following Wise Bread on Facebook or Twitter.