The power within

Some of the greatest resources in your marketing armoury are the people inside your business, says Ashgrove’s Terry van Rhyn.

I forget how many times I have been in lively debates with business owners, CEOs and MDs about their brand development and strategic marketing needs and have had to raise my concerns about the lack of emphasis there is on employee training and engagement.

Unlike popular belief, a brand is built over time. It develops from a series of interactions and experiences a customer has with a company, product or service and it can be destroyed in one moment by one employee’s poor attitude.

This old gem by Warren Buffet always rings true: “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it”.

Bad news also typically travels much quicker than good news. In fact, it is probably in our nature to make an effort to complain about something that went wrong (and tell our friends) than it is to acknowledge when something has gone right.

One poor experience can obliterate all the hard work the marketing department has established in carefully crafting a brand’s value propositions and the promises made in expensive ad campaigns or informative websites.

Think about it: every touchpoint with a customer or client, be it the person at reception, answering a phone or an email has the ability to influence one’s perception of the business.

In an ever competitive – and communicative – world, it has never been more important to make sure every single employee is well informed and understands the importance of their role in the business. They need to be prepared to eat, sleep and drink the ethos the business has established.

Fail here and you have a hell of a tall mountain to climb every day to get your customers/clients to trust or believe in you again.

Sometimes it is simply a case of a lack of leadership’s understanding or appreciation of the value and importance of the role their employees play every day in their business.

In instances like this it is typical for senior management to only update their staff occasionally on some of the business successes or challenges, or at the year-end lunch. But those conversations should be happening every day, that communication should be part of the fabric of the organisation.

I also believe that, no matter what the industry, or whether B2B or B2C, all employees should be trained in the art of a customer/client service. This should be part of the business culture.

Create a client/customer centric environment which is focused on building an exceptional experience and you will find much of your marketing will take care of itself. You will create an army of loyal brand ambassadors who will spread the good word in and outside the office environment.

Of course, there may be some employees who complain they never interact with a client or customer – so why should they care? You also find some managers who agree that some employees should be kept well clear of any public facing role. None of this actually matters as the most important thing to remember is that it’s about creating a business culture.

Even those who never will, or want to, engage with the client or customer are still there to support those who are in those roles. In addition, every employee is representing the business both in and outside the office.

Even if they don’t think so, they are influencing attitudes towards the company they work for and if the stories they tell friends and families about where they work are positive – then it’s a big win!

Much of this is about trust. Trust between employer and employee, between the brand and the consumer. It’s this that will form the lineage that will become part of the company’s value proposition.

It’s also about building on the right attitude: the key ingredient in the relationship between customer and service provider. The art of good customer service starts with the ability to not only listen, but to really listen.

This is followed by a high level of knowledge on the service or product provided and the ability to speak with authority, offering solutions or defusing a potentially volatile situation immediately. This requires the ability to calmly assess a situation and respond accordingly and to keep control by providing effective and reasonable solutions.

Unfortunately, this does not always come naturally to everyone and therefore training remains a vital part of your business practice. Even if you are in a B2B environment, the same principles apply because you are still dealing with people and we are all the same!

Addressing this is often the lowest hanging fruit to create a positive impact in – and outside – a business. As well as improving client relationships, it will also generate renewed energy and focus amongst the staff.

“Bringing your employees along on the journey” may be becoming a hackneyed phrase but it is true nevertheless. And if you are serious about aligning and achieving your business goals, make sure that you unleash their potential.