Friday, March 20, 2009

#1 In Our Series for Keeping Customers In Tough Times (Nicolette Wuring)

TIP 1: In Today’s Low-trust World Your Promises Are Much Less Likely to Be Believed.  Focus Instead on Improving Your Ability to Deliver Meaningful Interactions With Customers that Build Trust.

A cable company in Europe launched a re-branding soon after a roll-up of acquisitions by a group of venture capitalists. 

The investors demanded that the re-branding take place almost immediately.  This was not only premature and meaningless to employees and customers, it proved harmful.  Premature because on the inside this organization was far from one company.  Harmful because important organizational, operational and cultural objectives necessary to sustain the rebranding hadn’t been met. Worse still, mistrust and insecurity could be found throughout the organization in abundance. Employees were insecure about retaining their jobs after the roll-up. They were uncertain about how to represent the new entity.  And for many loyalties remained rooted in the company they used to work for. Customer-facing policies and procedures were not in place yet.  Systems had not been integrated.

Disregarding all this, the investors demanded that management forge ahead with a re-branding. The effort introduced a vision for a completely new DNA for the culture.  It painted a picture for the outside world of a company that sets itself apart by truly listening to its customers and one that enters into a personal dialogue with you.  The brand image was warm, engaged, truly caring, attentive and accessible. A company that makes complicated things simple. Boring things more fun. Dishonest things honest.

And the impossible, possible.

Now what do you suppose a group of confused, fearful and uncertain employees of this company felt when this re-branding hit the above- and below-the-line communication channels?  How do you suppose their customers felt when confronted with completely disengaged and confused employees who were struggling with legacy operational issues that made it impossible to deliver on the brand promise?  What do you suppose was the media coverage on these results, or the comments posted by customers and employees in online social environments?

The results were very bad indeed.  The company lost employees and customers, prospects turned to alternatives, and every Euro invested in the brand campaign was largely wasted.  Had this disaster taken place in the current environment, where companies can ill-afford mistakes, things would have been even worse.

Learning: Job #1 as a starting point in keeping customers is to deliver on promises.  Lead with trusted actions and only then back them up with brand imagery and communications.  The people you interact with as a company, especially your employees and customers, make or break many a brand’s reputation. Never make promises or create expectations they cannot live up to!

Nicolette Wuring is an internationally acclaimed and awarded Customer Advocacy thought leader, speaker, author and boardroom advisor to Fortune 500 companies. She is the founder of Customer M@nagement Services,, a strategic consulting firm dedicated to helping business conceive of increasing their economic value by creating emotional connections and trust with their employees and customers.

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