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Thursday, February 25, 2010

Thousands of loyal customers in just minutes a day.

I was at my local bank branch yesterday, and while engaged in discussion with an associate, I caught a glimpse of the mousepad on her desk. It had been designed as an internal communication piece – the type (usually distributed by corporate marketing) that takes an important business concept and creates a mnemonic device out of an associated word by aligning a meaningful phrase on a specific topic from each letter.

This one spelled S-E-R-V-I-C-E, with appropriate phrases meant to remind associates how they must keep the customer at the center of what they do.

It might be the cynic in me, but these communications devices are usually a sign of an organization that is not service oriented. For my bank, it certainly applies.

They’re a marketing response to a service problem, and are usually devised by a senior exec who, after reading a report on the positive impacts of loyalty, determines that a shift to a customer-centric organization is the key to retaining and growing revenue. They decree that all that needs to be done to create competitive advantage through outstanding service is to engage marketing to educate the front line how important customers are and what types of behaviors they should exhibit, through the chosen medium of boxes of $.065 mousepads sent to every branch.

(It is also these people that, years later when another executive suggests a similar tactic, inevitably says, “We tried internal engagement around customer loyalty and it didn’t show any results.”)

These tactics are the customer service & loyalty equivalent of “seven-minute abs”, “make $7,000 per week from home using the internet”, or “get thousands of Twitter followers in days” – easy, no commitment promises that ultimately fail to deliver.

There is no marketing solution to organizational service deficiencies.

Marketing – particularly internal marketing – can be a key component of a whole-company solution to service orientation and improvement, but the leadership, support and line management must be equally committed to helping the service organization make the right promises to the right customers and enabling those promises to be delivered by front line service providers.

Anything less is a waste of effort and resources.


Barry Dalton said...

Chris - The true test of the value, or lack there of, of these types of trinkets is the fact that there is now a viable industry selling parodies of these 'inspirational' sayings.

Having been around contact centers most of my career, I haven't been to a center where the walls haven't been lined with these motivational posters. Thinking back now, I'm guessing I could have statistically correlated the number of posters lining the walls with the customer's perception of that organization. I'm guessing it would have been darn close to -1.00

Chris Reaburn said...

Barry, I apologize - don't know how I missed your comment.

I'll be the first to suggest that in service businesses internal communications / internal marketing is as important (or moreso) than external marketing, and that the end objective should be enablement of the front line of service. It's so important because in service businesses, as you well know, the front line providers are the 'product' and more often than any other channel, they are the marketers as well.

I've just seen this given such short shrift in service organizations, where an appropriate message is executed without any of the necessary support - executives that believe it and practice it, process that supports it, technology / tools that enable it, and a staff organization dedicated to making it work.

In these all-too-frequent cases, the right message regarding service delivery turns into a sarcastic joke, something that an unsupported line (appropriately)rolls their eyes at.