Part two: brand coaching

30th Mar 2007

Jennifer KirkbyBy Jennifer Kirkby, consulting editor

Treat staff well and they’ll be motivated to treat customers well - advice that resounds from many a speakers platform. But is it just treating staff well? Or is it treating them in a way that demonstrates what the brand is all about, so they fulfil the promises corporates make?

First Direct bank promises ‘we’ve built our service to revolve around you’. To ensure it does, it first builds its world around its staff: its website states:

“When we are not looking after you, we’re doing fun stuff or being rewarded for being good at what we do...During the 2006 World Cup we stirred up a lot of passion and pride in our staff by holding various activities from penalty shoot-outs to competitions and face paintings. We even sneaked some monitors into the call centre so that so we could watch the game live." Notice the link in the inference of the word ‘sneak’ and going that extra mile for the customer.

Virgin, which promises brilliant service and value for money in underserved market, also offers fun. To make sure this is delivered, Richard Branson holds regular staff parties, culminating in a six day annual garden party at his country home for 30,000 plus employees, partners and families. “It’s a tremendous moral booster to have them come to my house and be treated properly,” he laughs.

Experience has taught that delivering brand promises is about brand coaching not brand training. Give employees guidelines on what is requested then let them interpret that in their own way - then reinforce good practice.

To do that First Direct has its Making a Difference (MAD) staff awards twice a year with full on celebrations. Other organisations use the same celebratory technique but on an ongoing basis through such ideas as a ‘Company Heroes’ book – where outstanding staff find their stories entered into the book and told throughout the organisation (see the interview with Optimity here).

Derek Williams of the WOW Awards dedicates his time to helping organisations put in place schemes for recognising staff who deliver promises. His view is that targets and performance measures grind down the spirit and transfix people with fear. He tries to eradicate the ‘Watchdog’ mentality with his awards.

He maintains that to liberate people’s heroic side you have to demonstrate high expectations of what staff can achieve. The added benefit, he has found, is that customers welcome the chance to show their appreciation for good service. (see WOW - Have you seen what the Brits are doing?).

Other ways of brand coaching involve staff collaborating with each other, and even customers, to create the brand promise in the first place:

• Terry Leahy of Tesco holds staff and supplier surgeries wherever he goes to gather ideas about improvements – and then puts them into action.

• Some organisations don’t just collect feedback but give it to staff for decision making; others ask key account managers to regularly review account plans and set goals with clients (see Cracking Key Account Management).

• Internal communities of practice have been solving problems for a number of years and IBM with its far flung workforce has been leading exponents of this virtual team method. But real collaboration only occurs when people ‘get personal’; now this too can be done virtually through the use of avatars (see Wikipedia) By early this year, a number of IBM employees had acquired an avatar for social networking before and after telephone conferences. Is this because men cannot ‘chat’ on the phone I ask myself?!!

• Organisational culture experts, such as David Firth of One, advocate the use of narrative techniques to find the disempowering stories that stultify the passion and energy in an organisation; then to change them to conversations where staff engage each other in an internal community that builds brand values (see Change Conversations, Change Culture).

Part three, skills building, and performance and rewards, click here.


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