The Power of “We” in Customer Service

Here’s a little anecdote from a shopping experience I had yesterday that shows how a subtle difference in language can really effect a brand experience.

My daughter broke her backpack and I went shopping for a new one. This is not an easy task by the way – three quarters into the school year the selection is very limited. It’s like trying to find a 4th of July sparkler in November.  Anyway, I digress…

I went into several brand name shops in my local shopping area, frantically searching for the back pack, and I noticed something really important in visiting  two stores back to back.

The sales clerk at store number #1 (Burlington Coat Factory)  told me THEY don’t carry backpacks right now. The “THEY” she was referring to was the store she worked at. The employer paying her check. By using this pronoun it was clear to me that she didn’t really consider herself part of this brand. I love Burlington Coat Factory for its great selection and low prices but I was dismayed by this attitude.

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The sales clerk at store #2 (DSW-Designer Shoe Warehouse) – also wasn’t able to help me find what I was looking for. But she said “I am sorry, WE don’t have backpacks in stock right now”. This subtle difference from “THEY” to “WE” told me that she realized that she was indeed part of the DSW brand. And my experience shopping there has been consistent, the sales clerks will spend a lot of time with you trying to help you find just the right pair of tall black suede boots size 9 (just for example).

Semantics? I don’t think so. I think a brand’s ability to deliver great customer service is linked to its ability to make its employees understand and feel that they are the brand. There is no “THEY” –  there is only “WE”.

Do your employees understand this distinction? Are they taking ownership of your brand?

Building a strong brand culture and delivering on your promise at every touch point – including employee interactions – may not always be as easy as it sounds. We understand the challenges in creating a strong, clear and more profitable brand. Brand School is our highly effective, premier branding program that will give you the tools you need to develop your brand and use it to make your business thrive. Receive more information about the next semester and also receive free brand-building tools and tips when you join our mailing list.

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Engage in the Conversation

This post is part of our series, “Thirteen Tips For Stronger Branding.” See the rest of the series HERE.

en·gage 
v.
 en·gageden·gag·ingen·gag·es
1. To involve oneself or become occupied; participate: engage in conversation.

It’s not enough to talk to a few loyal fans and followers on social media. You must really engage: it’s the only way to get ahead. Read on for another tip that will help you engage better.

TIP #11: ENGAGE IN THE CONVERSATION

Stop observing and start participating. Curious about Pinterest? Create a page and start pinning. Set up a Twitter account, follow those you can learn from, comment on and Retweet other users’ content. Start small; the important thing is that you get in on the conversation. You don’t have to start your own blog, but you should comment on blogs that you read and find relevant. This simple act can help drive traffic back to your site – and may even lead to valuable and enriching professional relationships.

What simple tips have you used to grow your business? Let me know in the comment section or on Facebook.

Check out tip #12 in the series, Innovate New Brand Ideas by Adding a Fresh Twist.

ENGAGE BETTER WITH A STRONGER BRAND THROUGH BRAND SCHOOL

Brand building is one of the single most important things you can do to grow your business but it takes expertise, energy and investment. Julie Cottineau, the Applegate Network’s Small Business Branding Expert and the former VP of Brand for Richard Branson’s Virgin is here to show you how.

Brand School is the premier program for business owners and entrepreneurs who what to grow their business. Brand School takes best practices of beloved brands such as Virgin, Apple, and Zappos and teaches you how to apply their success to your business to build a stronger brand to drive business results. Brand School gives you engaging videos, interactive exercises and exclusive access to a private community of other entrepreneurs. Learn more about Brand School HERE.

“Julie was so generous and gave us so much depth.  I learned my core message and how to package and brand it so I could stand out from the crowd.” – Dr. Marina Kostina, Distance Learning Specialist, CEO of  wired@heart 

5 Brand Trends for 2013

I don’t have a crystal ball, but that doesn’t stop me from having some opinions about what the year to come has in store. Check out my five predictions for brand trends in 2013 and let me know what you think in the comment section below!

1. The Royal Waiting

Anything Kate Middleton wears while baking the royal bun in the oven is sure to be an instant hit.  And it’s a pretty safe bet that the Duchess won’t be wearing anything too sexy or body clinging while she’s waiting for her royal heir to hatch. Will we be seeing a throw back to the formless maternity dresses and peter pan collars of Lady Diana? Probably not. You can bet Kate will continue to build her own personal brand with a maternity look that’s stylish, practical, and demure all at the same time. There’s likely a relatively unknown British maternity designer that’s about to become a household name. Look for knock-offs to appear immediately in the stores. Topshop may even start a maternity line.

2. Instagram becomes the new Facebook for tweens

Many tweens (ages 10-12) aren’t allowed to have Facebook accounts, but many others have their own iPads (or at least constant access to the family device). Bottom line: these almost-teenagers want to share everything, and pictures have always been worth a thousand words. Will this set still want to graduate to Facebook when their parents finally give the ‘okay’, or will they eventually fuel the growth of Instagram as the hottest social media channel? I predict the latter.

3. Blind Agency Pitches

The best part of the immensely popular talent show “The Voice” is the first weeks when the judges choose contestants based solely on their singing ability. Chairs facing away from the stage, the performers’ appearance has no influence on whether they make it on to one of the judge’s teams. I think agencies will soon be asked to pitch in a similar way. I mean, I can just imagine potential clients sitting enthroned in over-sized leather chairs, fingers hovering over big red buttons. Perhaps the strength of a small, relatively obscure agency’s simply brilliant core idea will finally have the chance to trump the dog and pony shows that many of the larger agencies have come to rely on.

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4. I Heart Brooklyn

This younger-brother borough has long been creeping up on its more popular counterpart (Manhattan) as the coolest place to see and be seen in the NY metro area. The shiny new Barclay Center, home to uber cool Jay-Z’s Nets, may have finally given this area the last boost it needed to wear the crown. Will Brooklyn finally win the sibling rivalry and become the focus of the iconic “I Love New York” campaign? The way it’s looking right now, it just might happen. I Heart Brooklyn bumper sticker anyone?

5. Weather or Not

For the past few years, the seasons are completely out of whack. Regardless of whether you believe in global warming, you have to admit that the temperatures are not what we used to expect each season and Mother Nature seems to be having a field day at our expense with hurricanes, October snow storms and then 60 degree Decembers. Will these changes affect the way that brands are created and marketed? For example, maybe we won’t see the same seasonal collections in fashion lines. Maybe a “round the year” collection from designers will become the norm. Hey, it could happen.

I PREDICT GREAT THINGS FOR YOUR BUSINESS WITH BRAND SCHOOL

Brand innovation comes from being a keen observer of the world around us and applying inspiration from one category to another. Brand School, is our premier program that teaches you to apply lateral thinking to build your brand and your business. Brand School takes the best practices of beloved brands such as Virgin, Apple, and Zappos and brings them to life in engaging videos, interactive exercises and exclusive access to a private community of fellow entrepreneurs. Learn more about Brand School here.  If you’d like to find out about our special discounts just for our social media friends, please sign up for the BrandTwist newsletter.

“Taking the Brand School course was THE best decision I ever made for my business.” – Dr. Marina Kostina, Distance Learning Specialist, CEO of  wired@heart

The Most Important Person in Your Company?

Who is the most important person in your company?

Hint: It’s not the CEO, the CFO or even the CMO.

It’s the receptionist.

Come again? You heard me.

The receptionist. The person that greets people as they enter your office or when they call on the phone is the person who sets the tone for what the brand is about.

They are one of the most important people you can hire. And they are the first person you should fire if they are not embodying your brand values.

If you are considering hiring a company, or perhaps working there, spend a few minutes lingering in the reception area. I guarantee you will learn more in a few minutes than you would during hours of pitches or interviews.

A few weeks ago during my first visit to a particular agency I had an experience

When the Customer is Wrong

Usually the mantra is “the customer is always right”.  Great brands go out of the way to resolve issues…often bypassing the details of who is wrong and who is right in a quest to prove customer love and win long time loyalty.

Well, one brand, Austin’s Alamo Drafthouse Cinema, took a decidedly different tack.

Not only did the call out their customer for bad behavior. They made a public (albeit anonymous) spectacle of her.

The offense? Texting in a movie. Take a look at this video posted on YouTube which features the angry customer’s call to the cinema’s voice mail after she was ejected from the theatre for texting. I promise it’s worth watching.

In this case, the theatre made the conscous decision to sacrifice the love of one customer to gain the respect (and business) of many.

As someone who abhors the glowing lights from texting in my movie watching experience I applaud their efforts.

Given the amount of views from YouTube (2.5 million at last count), I’m guessing the “customer is wrong” strategy paid off in this instance.

That’s my point of view. What’s your twist?

Was the Alamo in the right or should all customers be treated with respect?