Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The Internal-External Brand Messaging Rendezvous

Happy Wednesday!

If you've read my posts on this blog, you know that I'm a fan of constant and consistent employee recognition for two reasons: a) it's the right thing to do as an inspired and inspiring leader; and b) the known positive tangible impacts it has on the bottom line.  Just last week, I attended a webinar presented by Maritz (courtesy of Loyalty 360) on this very topic.  I'm still trying to get a hold of a link to the webinar to share with you - please bear with me. 

One thing that struck me was data from a Maritz Customer Experience study: 43% of customers who defect do so because of poor customer service.  A staggering 77% of that 43% defect because of "employee attitude" and a gobsmacking 83% of that 43% defect tell somebody else because of the poor service (this does conjure up those Faberge commercials).  We've all had poor service bordering on the comical that we've told to friends or discussed in business meetings as cautionary tales. 

What are the implications?  Well, as we commit ourselves to refreshed brand marketing principles externally as discussed in my earlier posts, we should also commit to refreshed brand marketing principles internally.  Our employees are our brand ambassadors and as much as we marketers are committed to the personality and viability of our brand, it's truly our foot soldiers who deliver the brand promise to our customers daily.

If you fly Southwest, you know that the flight attendants, while totally professional, have been known to "flip the script" by telling jokes, playing games, wearing reindeer antlers around Christmas or singing.  Or, the customer service agents have been known to bend the rules every once in a while just because.  I recently had one of those "just because" moments myself on Christmas Day!  

Which brings me to David Holmes, the rapping Southwest flight attendant featured on TV, etc. Please watch the video if not for the sake of this post but to see the passengers' faces.  Why does David rap and why do customer service agents bend the rules once in a while?  It's about understanding that the Southwest brand embodies freedom and empowerment.  Southwest management has done an excellent job of stressing internal brand promise and how that translated into the external brand promise.  

This article from CustomerThink says it better than I ever could: "Southwest Airlines was one of the earliest companies to recognize the value of the employer brand and its impact on customer loyalty and retention. By aligning internal brand positioning with external brand positioning, the company created one of the highest customer satisfaction and employee satisfaction rates in the industry."

Southwest is not shy about the importance they place on internal-external brand matching -- they are proud of it.  So much so that David was to the annual shareholder meeting to do the GAAP rap.  Worth watching for the looks on the retiree shareholder faces and for noting that David Homes was introduced as the "rhythmic ambassador" -- a tacit affirmation to shareholders that this internal-external brand matching is a business practice that will continue.

Great stuff.  I wish all businesses could follow the Southwest example.  Thanks for reading today.  As always, I look forward to hearing from you!


Parissa Behnia

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