Wednesday, July 26, 2006

10 Tips to Create Branded Service Employees

If you read this blog, you know that services marketing in general and the branding of service employees in particular is important to me. Hence, these 10 tips. (note: These principles are adapted to some extent from the book Nuts! by Kevin and Jackie Freiburg (1998) and the May 2005 Harvard Business Review article entitled "Creating the Living Brand," by Neeli and Venkat Bendapudi.)

1. Clearly define the type of person you want to have working for you. Design your interview process around this ideal and determine the maximum number of steps away from the ideal you are willing to go. Then, do not accept anything outside this perimeter.
2. Set high expectations and enable your employees to attain them. Make sure that your training is thorough and relevant and that it captures real-life scenarios as closely as possible. High expectations=challenge=engaged employees.
3. Create a good brand and be unabashedly proud of it. To quote the Bendapudis, "In retail, service is the manifestation of the brand, and service quality depends directly on the employees' attachment to the brand" (4). The pride instilled in a service employee who provides a high quality service is irresistible and readily apparent to customers.
4. Create a culture that brings employees and customers together. This is especially important when a service is perceived as a commodity (grocery stores, banks, churches-but this is for a different post). Sometimes, the relationship is the one and only thing that keeps customers coming back to your shop rather than going to the near identical one across the street, down the street, two blocks over, downtown, etc.
5. Indoctrinate employees with your individual company's unique standards of success and hold them accountable. "The company's business purpose and strategies, its mission, vision, values, and philosophy, all define [guiding] strategies." (Nuts! 105). Encourage employees to think like an owner. When employees realize how a company operates, makes money, makes a profit, etc., those rules previously perceived as arbitrary become not only meaningful but instinctive. Employees move from simply working for the company to maintaining an investment in it. And when your company's method of presenting your unique brand to the public is no longer a priority for employees, it may be time for a talk, or for a change of venue-on their part.
6. Make "security, esteem, and justice" a priority..for your employees (Bendapudi 5). Basic needs are basic needs, whether you are an investment banker or a trash collector. The adage is true: take care of your employees and they will take care of you. Just keep in mind, this care goes well beyond the compensation package--just ask the employees of Southwest Airlines.
7. Put previous experience in its place. Obviously, previous experience is important and can help an employee make a transition into a new position or career a little more smoothly. However, acquisition of many job-specific disciplines can be obtained through training. On the other hand, it is nearly impossible to train people to be "self starters with an entrepreneurial spirit" (Nuts! 98). Many times over the course of my transfer, I have felt that businesspeople are not crazy about the idea of a non-businessperson entering their field. I suspect this is because some businesspeople I know do not want to admit that their job can be done by someone who is has not been totally immersed in business nomenclature and protocol for years. You see, there is nothing magic about learning a process or a vocabulary, but there is something special about those employees who are intrinsically motivated.
8. Allow employees to share in the success of your company in a tangible way. Obviously, profit-sharing is one way to do this. Offering rewards for innovative ideas is another--and when I say "rewards," I don't mean a certificate you produced 5 years ago using Microsoft Publisher that you just went and printed on your dot matrix printer 5 minutes ago ("Be careful with it, the ink is still wet"). Be sure that your rewards are preceived by all as legitimate.
9. Allow anyone and everyone to be a leader. You just may be surprised. Crosstrain to increase potential exponentially.
10. Communicate frequently and openly to inspire lasting trust that is fueled by integrity. OK, so I kind of combined some principles in this tip.


Chris Posey

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