Expending the majority of your effort and marketing budget on building your company brand, at the expense of ignoring how your company is judged, is regarded by some marketing experts as a very damaging exercise these days.
Because consumers assess a brand according to very different criteria than they used to.
How your brand is judged today
It seems that the planning, budget and effort put into the styling, positioning, messaging and promoting a certain brand image is being ignored, particularly by younger consumers. Today consumers judge an organisation by the human connection they experience.
For example, in everyday life, a person who demonstrates both warmth and competence inspires feelings of trust and admiration within us, and we are motivated to continue the relationship with them, according to Chris Malone and Susan T Fiske, authors of The Human Brand.
The authors evaluated 45 companies and their customers, and found that this basic perception of warmth and competence also relates to how we judge companies, brands, and inanimate products.
Customer perception of basic human warmth and competence drive nearly 50% of all customer purchase and loyalty behaviour.
And that’s before they consider things like price, quality, availability, differentiation, competitors or any of the other factors managers spend all their time focusing on.
How your staff are judged
In essence, your brand is no longer just your logo, messaging and positioning that’s been carefully crafted onto your website, your advertising, your packaging and your publicity.
Your staff are now your brand. The staff who serve your customers directly in stores or at their premises, and the staff who talk to your customers on the phone or via webchat, social media or email.
Every staff member who has contact with your customers IS your company. They represent what your company is like to deal with.
- If they are officious, condescending, apathetic or rude – there’s no human warmth on display.
- If they are slow to provide service, repeat questions, don’t know the answers or are frustrating and unhelpful, the customer perception will be one of incompetence.
There are many reasons why staff behaviour or the service they deliver is incongruent with the brand image your marketing department has worked hard to build.
They could very well need some training. They may be hampered by siloed information or cumbersome technology. They may be under pressure to achieve KPIs which are at odds with delivering better service. Or they might just be having a bad day.
The point is that your customers are judging your whole company based on the experience they have with your staff – because your staff are your company.
How your customers will decide
In his book Marketing Rebellion: The Most Human Company Wins, author Mark Schaefer suggests that customers are now the marketing department and businesses no longer have control over their marketing. Technology has provided the means for customers to discover, share, and discuss products and services before they decide what they will and won’t buy, and from which providers.
An increasing number of people are not even exposed to advertising any more, because they use ad blockers on social media, avoid purchasing printed publications, and consume television shows and movies on streaming channels like Netflix, so they can watch them ad-free.
What has happened is that they’ve taken control of the marketing game, and made it nearly impossible for brands to interrupt them and grab attention. Instead, they decide what and when they’ll buy in a totally different way. Their attention may be arrested and they may be influenced by a discussion on social media, which is why influencer marketing has become such a popular marketing strategy.
When considering a purchase, they may initiate peer discussions, look at online reviews, and check out the culture and social consciousness of brands.
They may even contact the brand before making the final purchase decision to assess the human side of the business – and see if the people behind the brand are warm and competent and the kind of people they’re happy to do business with.
How contact centre staff can shape your brand
Schaefer suggests that brands need to shift focus away from AI, blockchain, and marketing automation and concentrate on building human connections and improving the overall customer experience. Technology should be used invisibly in the background to help your company be more compassionate, receptive, fascinating, and useful.
Now more than ever, contact centre teams have the power to help shape a company’s future, because they deliver the human connection that customers want.
It’s up to management to ensure that the people who personify the corporate brand – sales and customer service staff – are given the inspiration, support, training and tools to allow them to consistently deliver a warm and excellent customer experience.
Your contact centre staff are your brand. Cherishing and supporting them will help them connect with your customers and ensure your brand becomes more human.