Well bear with me on that.
Wouldn’t you agree that your brand isn’t what you tell people it is; it’s what the customer perceives it to be?
The other day as I was returning home a liveried delivery van (i.e. the name of the company was blazoned across it) was parked outside my house, making a delivery – sadly not to me – but my neighbour. It preventing me from turning into my drive, but that was fine; it’s a narrow road and we accept it’s difficult to park without blocking the road. So far nothing remarkable.
But as the driver came out from my neighbour’s drive before stepping back into his van he dropped his cigarette on the ground (to the entrance of my drive). I don’t know about you, but as far as I’m concerned a cigarette butt it just another form of litter. He obviously didn’t seem to think so because as I got out of my car and handed him back his still smouldering cigarette butt he seemed somewhat shocked!
So what has this to do with brand and buyers’ remorse? The van was from a well-regarded white goods company who spend a small fortune on advertising and building their brand. But what did this driver’s actions leave me feeling about their brand and their attitude towards customers? Even though I wasn’t the customer the power of referral and recommendation is undeniable.
And as I recounted this tale to my neighbour – and whereas I didn’t intend to leave her with any buyers’ remorse – inevitably she was not impressed (and maybe even a little embarrassed).
As we said earlier, your brand is it what you tell people is, it’s what the customer experiences.
But it’s not down to us…
One of the ‘excuses’ I often hear from businesses is that it’s down to a third party provider and they have no control over it. But just think about this. These suppliers could be your customers’ very first impression or very last impression. The two most critical points of your customers’ journey, so doesn’t it make sense to get it right.
- You outsource your IT or your telephone answering service. How often is your website or call to your office the customer’s very first touch point?
- You work from serviced offices. How often is the grumpy security guard or miserable disengaged reception desk the first physical point of contact?
- If you outsource your cleaning, how often do your customers encounter your cleaners? (And bear in mind how often the toilets become the first or last port of call!)
- If you are a hotel and you outsource your leisure or spa facilities, how influential are these in determining your guests’ overall experience?
- And if you deliver anything to your customers, be it white goods, printing, or engineering support, how often will this be the very last touch point and lasting memory of your business?
So how do you control these?
When appointing your subcontractors choose businesses that are compatible with your customer service values and can demonstrate their ability to meet these.
Find out what they actually do to meet these. What systems do they have in place for when things go wrong? How good a role model for customer care is the person you deal with one a day to day basis? What do their other customers say about them? Is there any evidence of customer service training?
For example, some of my clients ask me to provide them with information for their sales proposals so they’re able to demonstrate to perspective customers how they take customer service seriously.
Just the other day one of my clients asked for extra copies of some of the training materials I’d produced for them so they could share with some of their customers and prospective customers.
Set criteria and KPIs/SLAs for your subcontractors so they know exactly what’s expected of them, what’s acceptable behaviour and what’s not. Ensure you have ways to measure these, don’t just assume they are living up to them. Ask your customers for feedback or carry out mystery shopping exercises where you can.
And if things are not going according to your standards nip it in the bud, unless they are aware they’re falling short they’re unlikely to change.
(And of course if they need some help on their customer care you know where to send them! J)
By the way… as we’re talking about cigarettes… one last point I’d like to add.
What image do your own team give customers when it comes to their cigarette breaks?
Is your customers’ first sight of your team seeing them puffing away outside your building? Worse still do customers (or the general public) have to fight their way through a haze smoke to get to your front door?!
I’ll leave you to reflect on that one.
We all know it’s a hassle switching suppliers or contractors, but don’t leave your customer’s experience and your brand to chance.