Any business needs to consider its branding regardless of its niche, offering or brand recognition (if you happen to enjoy a monopoly on supplying oxygen to the planet, you can skip this… otherwise, pay attention).
It doesn’t matter if you’re business is Don’s Trading Post in tiny Buford, WY, or Google… if you expect to keep the customers you have or gain any new ones, you need to nurture your brand’s reputation. Virtually every business has some brand identity – even if it’s only established in the mind of one customer. It’s important to remember, though, that a brand identity can be either negative or positive.
Coca Cola probably enjoys a positive brand image with lovers of their iconic cola. But it’s likely less positive with Pepsi lovers. That’s no fault of the company, of course. Every consumer has his preferences, and as much as you try, you can never please everyone in all regards.
However, if you consider customer service to be a major portion of your branding effort, you can come mighty close.
Customer Service as Branding
We’ve all heard some of the horror stories of amazingly stupid decisions or actions that had seriously negative repercussions, such as United Airlines refusing to accept responsibility for negligently destroying a musician’s guitar or Vitaly Borker’s brainbusting idea of using threats of rape, murder, and dismemberment to boost his Google rankings.
On the flip side of that coin, there are instances of businesses going far beyond reasonable expectations to ensure their customers are aware of how important they are. Such stories can be inspiring to consumers and employees alike and just like with negative occurrences, one such incident can yield results that last years.
Setting the Company Culture
Whether a business is a one-man operation or has thousands of employees, an attitude of providing exemplary customer service starts at the top. The CEO and Board of Directors need to stress the importance of taking care of customers, and every level of management, supervision and production, right down to the night watchman (that poor lonely fellow that never gets to see anyone), needs to live by it.
Companies that go the extra mile to take care of their customers reap benefits, sometimes in big ways. Employees that display such willingness to go the extra mile should be rewarded, too. It doesn’t have to be a huge cash award or a trip to the Bahamas. Sometimes recognition alone can be enough to make it clear to others that customer service isn’t just a buzz-word to the company’s management – it’s a mission.
Recognizing and rewarding the sort of behavior you want to see from your employees is just common sense. It encourages more of the same from others, and it definitely discourages less favorable attitudes from any that haven’t “seen the light”. Nobody wants to be the one seen as guilty of dropping the ball on an important company value.
Brand is EVERYTHING, especially when you don’t have it yet – and even more so when what you have is negative. The perception that consumers (and potential consumers) have of your company’s brand is centered around your reputation. Whether it deals with quality, price, service or delivery, it all boils down to value. And of those four, service is the one that involves the least cost and is the most easily implemented and maintained.
It’s also the one that can trump all the others. If you’re not focusing on building your brand, you’re missing the boat. And if you’re trying it do it without focusing on service, you are missing a great business opportunity – one you may not get another shot at.