Thursday, June 10, 2010

Branding and Cultural Accountability: @BudgetRAC, Listen Up!


Yesterday, I told you my sad Budget car rental story.  Truly a customer experience nightmare!  Katie Ayoub, one of my readers, shared in the comment section a recent weird customer experience with Budget as well.  In the middle of all of this, Gary Gertz (@ggertz) shared with me some of his customer experience horrors.  Gary's story as well as some strategic implications will be covered in an upcoming 678 Partners interview so stay tuned for that!

My Budget story didn't dramatically alter the quality of my life in any form or fashion.  At its worst, it's laughably bad customer service.  If we look past the "ha ha" of it all, we see something that's a little more insidious: a cultural problem both structural and attitudinal.  The structural problem is mechanizing the fee so it automatically gets added.  The cultural problem is "The machine did it" answer with neither yielding a basic "sorry" to the inconvenienced customer nor fully understanding what the inconvenience might mean confusing, missing a flight, lost of money and ultimately, loss of business/loyalty.

"Sorry" makes a difference.  As Jay Baer pointed out in this post, we've seen two extreme instances of late: Umpire Jim Joyce and the BP mess in the gulf.  To be clear: sorry is more than just a throwaway word.  It doesn't absolve you.  Rather; it's the acceptance of responsibility and accountability.  It's about understanding the gravity of the situation (small in my case and devastating in the gulf's case) and acting in ways that befit the situation.

Accountability and responsibility can only drill down if you "walk the talk" with your employees.  It's all well and good to put up a poster about accountability somewhere but that's like turning the lights on and unlocking the doors of your business.  Really, it's at your peril if your employees don't have a stake in the success of your business.  If you remember this post, I quoted data from Maritz that show that 43% of customers defect because of poor service.  77% of that 43% defect because of poor employee attitude and 83% of that 43% tell other people their horror stories.

It's about the alignment of internal and external branding.  I have previously mentioned David Holmes, Southwest's "rhythmic ambassador" and rapping flight attendant as a prime example of how he lives "the freedom and empowerment" of the Southwest brand promise.  He can live it easily because of consistency and because Southwest "walks the talk" with employees.  Some long time readers have seen this before, but for my new friends, this is what I mean:

Oh sure, there are more examples of brands that successfully "walk the talk" and thrive because of it.  In my next post, we'll talk about Jet Blue and Zappo's which are two great examples of success borne of service and attention to detail.

Thanks always for the emails and comments!  Keep them coming!  I enjoy reading them.  Also, join us on our Facebook page!

Until Next Time,

Parissa Behnia
Idea Chef

1 comment:

  1. Two thoughts Parrisa:

    1.) I think the world is beginning to wake up that we have a customer service problem across all industries. In the last two weeks all of a sudden I am reading feeds about the need to train customer service employees (call centers). Since problems represent opportunities in disguise, maybe this new movement of the need to be customer centric will gain traction.
    2.) Few brands walk the talk. Those that do, have a unique Corporate Culture as evident by the examples you gave. BP doesn't walk the talk.