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Ideas. Insights. Inspiration.

The Face of Your Brand

"Do you know who the most important person in this office is in terms of our brand?"

Early in my career, I attended a monthly "all-hands" meeting, and the President asked this question of the twenty-or-so people who had gathered in the boardroom.

I thought I knew the answer, so I raised my hand.

"Julie?" I answered cautiously when the President looked at me.

The President smiled and exclaimed, "That's right... it's Julie!"

Julie wasn't our Chief Marketing Officer.

She was our receptionist.

The point the President was making was that because Julie was the very first person anybody walking into our office would meet, the impression they got from her would shape what they thought of the company and the people who worked there.*

It's such an obvious observation when you think about it.

And yet, it's one too many companies seem to forget every day.

* * *

I was in a Starbucks earlier this week and saw a barista argue with a customer.

In fairness, the customer was being extremely unreasonable; she was upset the barista would not take her order for an extra drink at the beverage pickup counter and instead asked her to return to the cash register so he could properly process the additional purchase.

But after the two went back and forth for a few vocal minutes, the barista, in frustration, exclaimed, "Jesus Christ..." loud enough for me to hear it three feet away.

Perhaps he was praying for patience, but he probably should have done that silently.

Because at that moment, that barista was representing a $113 billion global organization... and he was doing it very, very poorly.

* * *

Last month, I tried to deposit a US-dollar cheque into my Canadian-dollar line of credit.

I thought this would be a really straightforward transaction, but I was wrong.

Apparently, my bank's policy is that you can't deposit a cheque into a line of credit; it has to be deposited into an account.

"But I don't have a bank account with your bank. To me, my line of credit IS a bank account."

"But it's not, sir."

"Okay, fine, can we cash the cheque and apply the funds to the line of credit?"

"Sir, we can't cash a cheque without an account."

"But... it's a $500 cheque, and the line of credit is secured against my house..."

"It doesn't matter, sir. We need to deposit the cheque into an account."

"Fine," I said with exasperation, "my name is on my son's bank account... let's deposit it into that account and then transfer the money to the line of credit."

"We can't deposit a cheque into a child's account." (Wait, what?!?)

"But my name is on that account..."

We went back and forth like this for five minutes. I would suggest a way to process the transaction, and the teller would let me know why my solution wouldn't work.

I was getting increasingly frustrated, not only because of how difficult the bank was making it for me to give them money but also because I had thought I would make a "quick stop" at the bank before I had to pick my children up from their bus stop... and because of this prolonged interaction, I was now at risk of being late to pick up my kids.

Finally, the woman said, "Sir, I will make an exception and cash this cheque for you."

But after five minutes of arguing, my thought wasn't "Oh, I'm so happy with you and this bank for making an exception, thank you!"

It was, "If you were able to do this all along, why did we have to go through all this trouble?"

* * *

My wife has been arguing with Google's customer service for the past few weeks.

She had been running some Google Ads for her photography business, and they weren't getting any results, so she called Google's support service for help.

The representative told her that if she spent some money advertising on the platform, they could help her figure out the problem. My wife happened to have a Google promotional code that would give her a $600 ad-spend credit if she spent $600 on ads. For her small business, $600 is a lot of money, but we figured the additional credit would help yield a positive return on that investment, so she decided she would spend the money.

And after doing so, Google refused to honour the promotional credit.

After weeks of dealing with the customer service team, she asked for the situation to be escalated to a manager, and has been waiting to hear back from someone at Google.

Yesterday, she heard back from Google: she got an email stating her case had been closed.

And so this week, in an attempt to resolve this issue, my wife has to start at the beginning.

* * *

You can insert your own story here.

I suspect it won't take you long to think of one.

And that, of course, is the point.

* * *

It's incredible how companies can spend millions (and sometimes billions) of dollars on advertising to build their brand...

... and then mess things up so badly when dealing directly with customers.

Seth Godin once wrote, "The experience people have with your brand is in the hands of the person you pay the least. Act accordingly."

Exemplary customer service takes effort, but the process for making it happen isn't difficult to understand:

Hire people with the right attitudes.

Empower them to deliver exceptional service.

Don't stop working until the situation is resolved.

What customers think about your brand is shaped by the people who represent it.

It's such an obvious observation when you think about it.

And yet, it's one too many companies seem to forget every day.


* Fortunately for all of us, Julie was a lovely woman who seemed to always have a smile on her face, and when the President emphasized how important she was to the organization and our brand, she beamed with pride.


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