I recently spent a few days at home in the UK and discovered UK morning TV. In particular a BBC programme called “Don’t Get Done Get Dom” where a consumer’s champion called Dominic Little (hence the “Dom”) tackles companies on behalf of customers who in one way or another feel they have been let down by them. I don’t know how typical the episodes that I caught were, but there was a very obvious common theme to the main cases.
One company that stands out was called SafeStyle Windows, a replacement window company that dramatically screwed up an installation. Another was a holiday company that had let down a couple who booked an expensive holiday. The common theme with these and others was that the customers (who were all more tenacious to start with than most I’ve come across ) all spent weeks and in some cases months trying to deal with Customer Service representatives to no avail.
Coincidentally I was having the same kind of experience with the Auto and Cycle store chain Halfords who might be the market leader in the UK by a long way, but still (or maybe because of that fact) run their show like amateur hour. My issue with them concerned a product listed on their web site that involved a product description, price and photograph that appeared to refer to three different products. I e-mailed Halfords customer service who redefined themselves as “customer abusers” by sending me an auto response that undertook to reply within SEVEN DAYS!!! In the even they exceeded that deadline by a further day by which time I’d bought the product elsewhere anyway. Well Mr Halfords, them’s the breaks!
In fact, I am sure that the folks sitting around the boardroom tables at Halfords, SafeStyle Windows and the holiday company (whose name escapes me) would be horrified if they realised how their Brand Promise was being massacred by front-line troops, but I’m equally prepared to accept that these same front-line troops are sure that they are doing what is expected of them. I realise that the picture is skewed by the directors, who I know are out there, of organisations who are happy to abuse customers as they hide behind their customer services people, but who are all sweetness and light and conciliatory once someone like Dominic Little gets past the razor-wire. However, assuming that the majority of managers are smart enough to realise that the trick to growing a business is to always delight your customers, the clear issue here is the gulf between the boardroom and the front line.
This is what internal marketing is all about, of course, but its a subject that I know most organisations fail to understand and vastly underestimate the importance of. It takes a special effort and a shift in attitude of senior managers to set up an internal marketing programme from scratch, but there’s no avoiding it if you want to stay in business these days. I often hear from directors that such an initiative would be too disruptive for their organisation and its true it can be if the concept is as alien to you as it is to some of the businesses I come across. That’s why I developed Brand Discovery, a programme of internal marketing that takes logical steps to ensure that all stakeholders are signed up and fully committed to playing their role in the delivery of the Brand Promise. What’s different about Brand Discovery is that it is an ongoing programme that becomes part of an organisation’s DNA and brings about change more by osmosis than revolution. There’s no longer a need to put the brakes on a business in order to change direction. Sure the benefits of Brand Discovery take time to filter through to your bottom line, but its not that long and I would argue that taking a more radical approach slows the momentum of a business short-term and therefore would never challenge the overall commercial benefit of Brand Discovery.
Whichever approach you take, if you are not already focussing on bridging that chasm between your boardroom and your front line with internal marketing you need to get moving. Unless, of course you want your ten minutes of fame on Don’t Get Done Get Dom!