Think about the last time you ordered a cup of coffee. Did the barista who took your order smile and welcome you? Or was it clear she was ready for his shift to be over? How about the last time you needed to speak to a customer service manager? Was the manager reading robotically from a script, or did she take the time to ask questions and emphasize with your situation?
How your business leaders, managers and employees show up has always been a critical input for how customers feel about your brand. And when you have customers interacting with your brand weekly, daily, or even hourly – consistently positive interactions can drive trust, loyalty and repeat business, while even just a few negative interactions can cause customers to jump ship and head to a competitor.
This is nothing new – experiences have been built, and brands have grown through the way employees treat customers. What’s new is how important these brand behaviors will be as the world adjusts to its new normal. We are being thrown, without warning, into new ways of interacting with customers. Brands who lead with care and purpose will build trust. Brands who are careless in their actions run the risk of losing out.
A New Normal for Brand Behaviors
Brands with well-defined brand behaviors or service styles have a competitive advantage over their peers. There’s a reason why Team Members at Chick-fil-A always respond with a “my pleasure” and genuine smile when you say, “thank you.” It’s core to who they are and how they serve, and it’s engrained in every employee from day 1.
Something as simple as greeting a guest with a smile, or taking a few seconds to ask how their day is going will always be strong examples of Brand Behaviors that build loyalty. But think for a minute about the new behaviors that might drive trust in a post COVID-19 world:
- An employee wiping down a touchscreen after every customer
- A cashier being empowered to give a nurse a free cup of coffee
- A manager knowing how to emphasize with a customer who can’t make a monthly payment because he’s been furloughed
Now, the stakes are higher – the presence of positive, on-brand behaviors will build trust and loyalty, while the absence of these behaviors will force customers to go elsewhere. As a leader, it’s a great time to revisit the standards for how your employees interact with customers and how your brand is experienced.
Building Brand Behaviors
Implementing a set of on-brand brand behaviors is an intuitive, yet careful process with many critical milestones.
1. Clarify the Ambition
Well before jumping right to “what do I want my employees to say or do”, it’s important to start with an ambition. At the end of the day, Brand Behaviors must be thought of strategically in the context of what your brand stands for and link back to the priorities of the business.
- What is core to our brand purpose and which aspects of our brand do we want employees to bring to life?
- How do we want our customers to feel?
- Why is this important to the overall growth of our business?
2. Define the Behaviors
With the ambition in place, you can translate the strategy to behaviors for customer-facing employees; behaviors that will be recognized and appreciated by your customers, and easy to learn and display without disrupting the roles and responsibilities of frontline employees.
- Where are the moments that matter most in the customer’s journey and experience with our brand?
- How can our employees bring our brand to life in these moments in simple, memorable ways?
- Are there exemplary on-brand behaviors happening already that we can share more broadly? And which new behaviors will our employees be excited to display?
3. Codify and Share the Behaviors
Even the go nowhere without thoughtful planning to share and create buy-in with those expected to display them. Here it’s all about simplifying the ask and telling a compelling story that gets employees excited to play a role.
- Why are we asking our employees to display these behaviors?
- What will get our team excited and incentivized to display these behaviors?
- How will these behaviors empower our team to serve our customers better, while being authentic to themselves and to our brand?
Defining and implementing Brand Behaviors is a journey, but it’s a journey that can get started with a few simple steps:
- Reflect on how you want your brand to show up, especially in this uncertain world
- Think of the simple but memorable behaviors that will bring your brand to life and stand-out from the competition
- Connect your team to the bigger why and make it easy for them to exhibit new behaviors
Now more than ever the experience your customers have with your brand is paramount. And the brands that come out ahead at the end of this crisis are the ones that will have started by leading with care and purpose.