Every time I meet Jason I feel like he’s pleased to see me. He asks what I’m looking for and in what context (something to go with Thai duck salad for instance) and I spend more than I meant to on a bottle of wine at his boutique cellars. My ten year-old son and I have our hair cut at Uncle Rocco’s Barbershop in Port Melbourne. Fab the barber offers me a beer and my son skate stickers and cuts our hair in an old fashioned chair surrounded by skater paraphernalia. He’s friendly, open – with groovy tats and clothes and great hair – and my son and I come out feeling cool too, with sharp, reasonably priced, slightly 50’s haircuts.
These are small, successful businesses where I know what I’ll get every time. I’ll get a good product – which I could get in many other places – but more critically I know how the experience of my interaction will make me feel.
What do the people who work in your organisation do habitually when they interact with others? How does this impact the interactive experience? Your brand is your promise of a consistent and particular experience to your client. The word experience implies that it’s more than a series of observations – how that person looks and sounds and what he/she says -experience alludes to an emotive response.
For larger organisations it’s just as critical to identify how their clients should feel in each interaction, and it’s a far greater challenge to guarantee consistency across a geographically and socially diverse workforce. One of the great truths of human behaviour is that people will only take action if they feel something – our preferred state is to ‘carry on as usual’. If in every interaction you have with clients they feel trust, or feel inspired, or feel fear-then-reassurance (You are under-insured and could lose everything, but thankfully we have the perfect solution), you’re likely to move your clients towards the action you’d like them to take. Virgin, for instance, deliberately asks its staff to make customers feel liked, attractive and happy. A good funeral home employee should display genuine empathy to help clients feel cared for and completely trusting.
Unfortunately, people being what they are, many potential and existing clients leave interactions influenced simply by what you (or your employees) are feeling at the time.
Here are some of the personalities we’ve encountered in large companies: the insurance team leader who rubbed his hands together every time he mentioned the phrase ‘higher premiums’, thus semaphoring his glee – to prospective clients – at the prospect of his own bonus; the bank executive who tried to sell an overdraft facility without knowing anything about her client’s business goals or interests; and the risk-management professional who wanted to be known as an individual, so gave up personal grooming and wearing ties and added brightly coloured odd socks to his daily wardrobe. The first example caused clients to feel anger, the second disappointment and the third alarm, and each one induced a lack of trust. (These are all real cases, by the way!) Each of these people is exercising ‘personal brand’, but it’s the way that brand interacts with your business brand and the objectives of your business that counts.
Interactions build relationships, and every business needs consistently strong relationships at every level to succeed. The presence you create influences all those around you. (Ever seen someone having a bad day bring the whole team down?)
So, questions for your business:
- Are you clear about what you want your clients to feel so that they will take the actions you’d like them to take (buy from you, refer you to others, give you business…)?
- Have you articulated this goal – and how to achieve it – to your team?
- Does everyone in your team genuinely strive to create this consistent experience of themselves and the business to your clients?
That’s what Fab the barber, Jason the sommelier and the flight attendants on Virgin do, and it’s one of the cultural challenges of our larger clients. Brand leadership means taking a step beyond your action focus towards personal leadership brand.
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