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“Talk Your Walk” with Branded Customer Service

Martha Brooke | Jan 16, 2016 295 views 8 Comments

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Your company’s brand: it represents the qualities and values of your products and services.

So shouldn’t your customer service showcase your brand? Branded customer service gives your brand substance and depth. While your competitors are busy showing their brand simply through advertising, you’ll be cementing your brand through the lived customer experience. This is critical in a time when authentic communication is a priority.interaction-brand-score

But branded customer service isn’t easy. Sometimes customer service reps do everything “right,” but don’t demonstrate the key aspects of your brand. You work hard to define your brand, but if you ignore the potential of customer service to reinforce it, you miss a crucial opportunity to show customers that your brand is more than a logo—it’s a set of real practices and values that set your company apart.

That’s why what you say needs to reflect what you do: in other words, you need to “talk your walk,” to twist a familiar phrase. For example, if your brand is about caring, your customer service should consistently demonstrate caring. Likewise, if your brand is about technical products, your associates should provide clear, detailed information.

While performing a Customer Experience Evaluation for a LASIK practice, Interaction Metrics analysts discovered our client was missing a huge opportunity to communicate the unique attributes of their brand—in this case, safety and expertise.

Here’s what happened before the evaluation:

Customer: “How does the procedure work?”
Associate: “We cut your eye and zap your cornea with a laser.”
Customer: “Yow! That sounds scary.”

The associate used volatile, casual language, with no regard to supporting the company’s brand pillars of safety and expertise—top priorities for any surgery. So, we showed our client how to improve their customer service by anticipating the customer’s concerns and providing reassuring information: “Before I get into the details of our laser, let me tell you that the procedure is FDA approved and has been around for many years. Over time it’s gotten safer than ever…Our practice also has a 99% success rate…”

While optimizing one moment might seem easy, the fact is, customer service consists of thousands of interactions. We’re often asked how to reduce the many to a manageable number. The solution is to create model answers for each unique type of interaction. The LASIK example above is a great model answer because it did more than the bare minimum—it created value for the company and value for the customer. But clearly, companies require a complete knowledge base of model answers if their goal is to brand customer service.

To create branded customer service at all touchpoints, you need a Customer Experience Plan based on rigorous analysis of your brand goals, customers, and touchpoints. Your plan should incorporate precise metrics like Interaction Brand Score to measure and track how well you “talk your walk.”

So don’t let your customer service just be a cost, and don’t let your brand stop at your logo. Instead, use branded customer service and actionable customer experience metrics to bring your brand to life through each and every customer interaction.

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8 Responses to “Talk Your Walk” with Branded Customer Service

  1. Graham Hill January 18, 2016 at 10:13 am (992 comments) #

    Hi Marthy

    Your post raises an uncomfortable paradox.

    Many companies talk about ‘Branded Experiences’. What they usually mean is the experience that marketers believe the company provides. As though the brand was something created by marketers! Unfortunately, as the research suggests, what customers actually get is usually not at all what was promised.

    Reality is somewhat different. As Tom Asacker suggests in his book ‘A Clear Eye for Branding’, a brand is not created by marketers, but by a company’s customers. It is the feelings and expectations they have about a company, gained through their interactions with it, its people and its products. In other words, the brand is the experience.

    Companies should be developing Experiential Brands, where what customers see (marketed) is what they actually get, not about Branded Experiences where what they get is nowhere near what was promised.

    Graham Hill
    @grahamhill

  2. Martha Brooke January 18, 2016 at 10:46 am (12 comments) #

    Hi Graham,
    Marketers can and should be at the helm of their company’s brand as branding is an enormous investment. My point is that to win on that investment it’s crucial for marketers to expand their role into operations and operations people need to actively bring marketing into the conversation. If branding stops at the ‘look and feel’ of the website, print ads, etc, it misses the greatest opportunity of all, branded customer service.
    -Martha

  3. Graham Hill January 18, 2016 at 11:33 am (992 comments) #

    Hi Martha

    I agree with you in principle, but not in practice.

    Today’s marketers are little more than glorified salesmen. Their job is to peddle the products already sitting on the shelf, rather than to identify out what customers really want, work out how to give it to them profitably and then to tell them about it, as Ted Levitt so memorably described. They are focused almost entirely on the company and not at all on customers. Who but a company marketer would implement programatic retargeting (which customers dislike intensely) as a mainstay of their digital marketing strategy?

    It is because of this lack of interest in customers and lack of credibility in their organisations that we see an increasing number of market-driven organisation replacing their Chief Marketing Officer with a Chief Experience Officer, or in some cases a Chief Customer Officer. It is the only way to put the customer at the heart of the business.

    Graham Hill
    @grahamhill

  4. Martha Brooke January 18, 2016 at 11:50 am (12 comments) #

    I know. I agree.
    But just because marketers have not been involved with operations historically does not mean they can’t be. Owning the customer experience is clearly the future of advertising (because of social, web, the community/reviews culture, etc.) so perhaps with the right guidance, marketers will begin to embrace a more complete sense of their responsibilities, afterall, extinction is a powerful motivator.

  5. Graham Hill January 19, 2016 at 3:55 am (992 comments) #

    Hi Martha

    Although I have been a professional marketer for almost 20 years, I no longer believe that marketing is the natural or rightful owner of the customer or their experience. Because of what Ted Levitt describes as ‘marketing’s myopia’, I believe that the CMO should either report to or be replaced by a CCO or CExO. If companies are to compete based on the quality of their ongoing relationships with customers, largely built on the quality of their downstream experiences, this is much too important to be left to upstream marketers. A growing number of major retail companies, including Asda, Bird’s Eye, British Airways, John Lewis and Tesco, amongst others, appear to agree with me.

    The CMO is dead. Long live the CCO or CExO!

    Graham Hill
    @grahamhill

  6. Graham Hill January 20, 2016 at 5:20 am (992 comments) #

    Hi Martha

    Another day, another company replaces their CMO with a CCO or CExO. As an article on ‘Notonthehighstreet is the latest brand to replace marketing director role with customer director’s’ in the Drum highlights, today’s is UK retailer Notonthehighstree.com.

    Further evidence that marketing’s crude focus on products, sales and volume is no longer enough, and that the CCO must in addition focus on customers, service and value.

    Graham Hill
    @grahamhill

  7. Andrew Rudin January 21, 2016 at 8:21 am (861 comments) #

    I agree with Graham. I’ve witnessed companies who have canned their marketing and sales executives for “not making their number.” That number, of course, is revenue.

    An unfortunate outcome in some of those cases, because the executives took fabulous care of their customers, servicing their accounts, when it meant that short-term revenue took a hit. That didn’t amount to squat in the eyes of senior management. No accolades, no ‘high-fives’ at the annual marketing and sales kickoff. A perverse arrangement, because I’ve seen it so different when it’s the other way around. Revenue means everything.

    Not to say marketing and sales executives are bad, they just march to a different set of objectives than those who are tasked with the strategic challenge of ensuring customer retention, providing quality service, and consistently high value.

  8. Martha Brooke January 21, 2016 at 9:44 am (12 comments) #

    Sure, at present marketing “marches to a different set of objectives” but customer experience continues to be the future of marketing so marketers who adopt will survive (and thrive); those who don’t, will perish.

    But change is afoot and marketers know this. Some are challenging themselves with operations and customer service improvement concerns. However, regardless of which title takes on customer service branding, they are to be applauded for their direction and leadership!

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