We’re living in an increasingly digital world. Every year, more and more business transactions are taking place online. Long term profitable relationships are created and continue for years even when the customer has never met a single individual from the service provider in person. With all this online business and communication, it’s easy to underestimate the value of individualized client care and attention.
Though it doesn’t look the way it used to, business hasn’t changed. People do business with people—the same way it’s always been done. There is no replacement for a dedicated staff that provides personal assistance to clients, and customers expect and demand this type of service.
Client Service in the 21st Century
It’s true that there is less face-to-face interaction with clients. The internet has made it so much easier and faster to work with people electronically. Businesses are no longer confined to a geographic region or even a country. In one morning, you can assist a client in Boston and then discuss a completed project with a client in China. Technology has opened up the marketplace, and made the face-to-face interaction less critical, but the person-to-person communication is as needed as ever.
A simple example is customer service hotlines. Though it’s so much cheaper for companies to use automated services, customers will keep pressing “0” until they can get a person on the line. We haven’t found a way to replace that yet, and we may never be able to completely replace the comfort and confidence that customers feel when they know there’s a flesh-and-blood person on the other end of that phone or computer. Customers want to get personal attention, and they want to know that their business matters.
In order to compete, companies must effectively integrate the personal and technological, and they must maintain a highly qualified and enthusiastic team of employees. Everyone understands the importance of branding, but what people forget is that branding isn’t just the logo or the website. Your employees are part of your branding too, and you must make sure your employees are adding value to your brand instead of subtracting from it.
Employees as Brand Ambassadors
Your brand instantly communicates the values of your organization and the quality of services that you provide. It’s the accumulation and product of the countless interactions your business has had with clients and partners. The success of these interactions is completely dependent on your employees and how they’ve served your clients. Strong employees will build and strengthen your brand, and poor employees will chip away at your brand until it loses its meaning.
In this way, frontline employees are the brand ambassadors. Their success determines the long term brand success of the business, and you have to focus on improving and managing those customer-employee interactions. Focusing on your management team and leadership to build your brand is wrong-headed. Sales associates, account executives, and customer service representatives—these are the people who ultimately represent your company and what it stands for in front of the customer.
Once you realize that all of your employees are part of brand building, you have to make sure they are all working together to improve the company’s image. Research shows that customer-facing employees in many companies don’t know the core values of the company and don’t know how to communicate the brand to clients. This is a critical knowledge gap that must be addressed.
All employees, but especially those who communicate with clients directly, must understand and exemplify the corporate brand. If not already in practice, companies must train and educate all staff on corporate branding. Everyone should be able to explain what makes the company different and special, and how the company’s services are superior to the competition. Client interactions that don’t build the brand are lost opportunities. Brand awareness maximizes value during client interactions.
Person Brand Discovery
One of the best ways to keep employees engaged as brand ambassadors is to empower them to develop their own personal brands. Employees who feel like replaceable cogs in a machine do not work as tirelessly or effectively for clients. Employees who believe and invest in their personal brand will go above and beyond for clients, and that builds the corporate brand. Each employee has his own strengths that can build company value, and you want to encourage that.
With the increasingly globalized economy, barriers to technology are disappearing all across the world. Companies that rely on product and technology-centered branding will struggle to differentiate themselves as other companies replicate and reproduce the same technology. Though innovators will be able to profit off new products for a time, long term success relies on person-centered branding. An organization’s most important resources are its people. A company known for its intelligent, responsive, and trustworthy people is a company and brand that lasts.