5 Steps to Make Frontline Employees Authentic Representatives of the Brand

Actions speak louder than words.  Brands spend millions of dollars on external messaging to define an emotional connection with the customer.  However, when a customer perceives a disconnect between an employee representing the brand and external messaging, they almost certainly will experience brand ambiguity.  The result severely undermines these investments; not only for the customer in question, but their entire social network.  In today’s increasing connected world, one bad experience could be shared hundreds if not thousands of times over.

Bottom line, frontline employees must be authentic representatives of the brand.

Simple enough, right?  Nearly all rational managers will agree with the above statement.  But how does management ensure that employees animate the brand? – It is a process of alignment.

Here are five steps to align the customer experience with external messaging:

  1. Align external messaging with customer expectations:   Repeatedly test the effect of external messages on customer expectations.  Ask yourself, what expectations are we instilling based on our messaging?  Additionally, the next four steps will help ensure that operational staff fully understand and are equipped to handle these promises made to customers.
  1. Align customer expectations with company service standards:  Even in the most sophisticated and progressive companies, standards of service delivery can be out of sync with customer needs and expectations. One reason is that customers are seldom involved in the writing of these standards. Rather, service standards tend to be the product of mid-management committees, resulting in a hodge-podge of ideas and opinions that are more a reflection of operational expediency than of customer expectations.  A better practice is to calibrate service standards against customer needs, expectations and experiences.
  1. Align service standards with training content:  Training should arise from standards, not vice versa.  Bring training managers into the process from the beginning, ensuring that as standards are adjusted, training content will follow.
  1. Align training content with frontline execution:  The success of most training programs is measured in terms of the participant’s ability to recall the content, rather than to apply the information on the job.  A more proactive practice is to identify specific deficiencies in service delivery and adjust training content to address those deficiencies.
  1. Align frontline execution with rewards and incentives:  At the managerial level, incentives tend to be in the form of quarterly bonuses linked to metrics such as customer satisfaction and service execution scores.  However, you can go farther.  Depending on the data available, consider rewards on a much more immediate and shorter cycle.  For example, on a daily basis, call centers agents can receive bonus points that are immediately redeemable at on-line redemption sites.  Or a bank teller may receive an immediate reward if they display the appropriate behavior to a mystery shopper. Thus, employees receive quick, meaningful rewards that reinforce the specific skills that are needed to improve customer experiences.

These are five steps to align the customer experience with external messaging.  How do you ensure your frontline employees are authentic representatives of the brand?

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About Eric Larse

Eric Larse is co-founder of Seattle-based Kinesis CEM, LLC, which helps clients plan and execute their customer experience strategies through the intelligent use of customer satisfaction surveys and mystery shopping, linked with training and incentive programs. Visit Kinesis at: www.kinesis-cem.com

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