Is your customer satisfaction holed beneath the surface? It’s that Icberg Imperative again!

I just landed on a great little blog that I visit from time to time called Customers Rock. In particular a new post entitled Airline Customer Service Makes All The Difference. Its not that we don’t all know this already, but that it relates to my previous post on internal marketing and provides a platform to reintroduce one of my old favourites – The Iceberg Imperative.

The Iceberg Imperative states (and I should know because I invented it!) that nine-tenths of an organisation’s communications go on below the surface. The things that combine to create your customers impression of your brand, the attitudes, values and standards that are inherent in the customer experience and cause either delight or disappointment (and too often outright alienation) are, whatever you may believe, rarely controlled by the boardroom. All too often the management approach is to seek to maintain brand integrity by legislating for every point-of-delivery eventuality, but that just produces a two-foot high process manual that nobody can read, runs up a massive process training commitment and is inevitably a waste of time and effort, because a is the nature of these things, you’ll never, ever accommodate every possible scenario.

The better practice is to bring your front-line employees (in fact every employee) into the loop. Make them as intimate with your Brand Model, its values, standards, objectives and above all its inherent “promise” as you are, so that whatever situation they encounter their response will be reflective of the brand and in line with customer expectation. This way you deliver your Brand Promise and don’t have disappointed customers.

Of course this doesn’t just happen by telepathy you have to invest as much time and effort in bringing your stakeholders behind the brand as you do in the sexy media routes that you use to make your promise to end-users. And there’s the rub. Have you studied the marketing budget breakdown in your organisation lately? My bet is that you’ll find the balance between external promise-making investment and internal promise-delivering investment is way out of line.

Given that most organisations don’t get this internal marketing thing at all and massively under-invest in it anyway, its logical that a comparatively small shift in the balance of marketing investment in favour of internal marketing will bring a disproportionately high return (provided you invest wisely in a serious strategy). There’s no set proportion, its an empirical process so you’ll have to play around with it, but it has worked for my clients.

Interestingly, and I’m at a loss to understand why they haven’t spotted this years ago, it works too for marketing services organisations who are all bleating about their share of the pie being eroded, because internal marketing demands the same skills and largely the same media as an external marketing campaign, so its a great opportunity for them to strengthen relationships with their clients and increase revenue. A no-brainer really.

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