Training Beyond Customer Service

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Training Beyond Customer Service

It’s interesting the effect that pressure has.

I’ve been bouncing around some ideas related to customer service in my head for a few months, but it was not until I HAD to write them down in the form of a paper for a conference that I was pushed to form them into some coherent whole. Of course, that was easier said than done, especially when I realized that I was working with some compound insights. In other words, I had insights that I had been using for some time, that have themselves been assembled into compound insights. But I had never written the original insights down… so I had to go back and lay the groundwork, and this I found somewhat annoying, although necessary.

Make sense? 🙂

One idea I finally had to explain is how little customer service training in the Caribbean is directed towards generating a particular customer experience.

If anything, I would say that our front-line staff in the Caribbean is only trained to follow the “right” process, and little else (with notable exceptions). What does that mean, exactly?

It simply means that as a customer, over and over, it seems as if customer service representatives (CSR’s) are only expected by their managers to say and do the required actions that they have been told to say and do. CSR’s are quite satisfied when they have done so, and seem to have either an ignorance of, or indifference to the experience that I and other customers are having.

I recently noticed this phenomena with three companies in different settings, and for the sake of competitive fairness, I’ll use three companies that offer services in the same industry – Digicel, Cable and Wireless and TSTT (Trinidad’s monopoly telephone provider).

As mentioned in a prior post, I have been waiting for basic fixed line service from Cable and Wireless here in Jamaica from Aug 8th, and as of today, Sep 27th, I have not received service. When I call to complain/beg/cajole, which I do almost every other day now, I receive a uniform response – “We don’t know.” That is the fixed response that my wife and I have gotten to every question that we’ve asked. There has been not a single show of concern, regret or apology.

I can tell by the response that they are “following the party line.” We’ve also tried the tactic of asking for a supervisor, only to be told that “they are just going to tell you the same thing.”

Once, I did get through to a supervisor, who told us that he’d check into it and call us back. We’re still waiting almost 4 weeks later.

In Trinidad, TSTT, in which Cable and Wireless holds a minority stake, has an awful habit of taking down their network for days at a time. It’s an amazing piece of monopoly-driven behaviour that has generated significant ill-will among Trinidadians who, from all indications, are even more eager than we Jamaicans were to bring in cellular phone competition. This is due to start in early 2006, which is not a moment too soon for most Trinis.

The joke is that with a likely and immediate drop in revenue on the near horizon, TSTT’s customer service remains painful to experience. When TSTT introduced GSM service I was told by everyone who switched over ( i.e. lured by false promises) to hold on to my old TDMA service. Three years later, I was being told the same thing, except that at this point, my TDMA phone was falling apart. I was forced into an upgrade, and had to make three trips to TSTT to get a new chip and a new number (transfers of old numbers were “backordered’ and would take weeks to accomplish).

I happened to go on a day on which “the system was down” and when I returned later that day, I was told by 3 CSR’s that I recognized (they were casually strolling around Trincity mall) that the system was still down.

Undaunted, I went up to check for myself and was told that the system was back up. About fifteen minutes later, the 3 CSR’s casually strolled in and started taking customers from what was by now a considerable line of people. They may have been on a sanctioned break for all I know, but the truth is that they must have been idle for several hours before that break due to the system being down. They were oblivious to all around them…

And, to add insult to injury, the entire cell-phone system went down for two whole days starting the day after (this occurrence is inconceivable to us in Jamaica).

Digicel, for its part, came to Jamaica as a breath of fresh air and has been able to capture over 50% of the cellular phone market in just three short years. Their trademark has been a combination of better pricing, better service and wide availability (going to a Cable and Wireless office used to be seen as one of the worst evils imaginable).

Lately, however, Digicel customer service operators have clearly been “trained.”

Every conversation with a Digicel CSR goes something like this:

“Can I have your name please?”

“Francis”

“Mr. Francis, thank you for calling Mr. Francis, how can we help you today Mr. Francis?”

“My voicemail cannot be reached”

“Mr. Francis, I’m sorry to hear that Mr. Francis, and let me see what the problem is Mr. Francis.”

While I’m exaggerating to demonstrate the point, the effect of the CSR using my name over and over again in this unnatural way makes me think I’m dealing with some kind of machine, worse than any I encountered while living in the U.S.

But this is only annoying.

Clearly, Digicel, has also trained its CSR’s to keep the phone conversations short, and they might even be measured on the amount of calls they accept per CSR.

How did I arrive at this conclusion? Well, in each case that I’ve called, I’ve had to struggle to keep the CSR on the phone, and to prevent them from hanging up on me before I was finished asking my questions, and long before the issue was resolved.

Throw in a “Mr. Francis” here and a “Mr. Francis” there and the conversation is comical:

“I would suggest that you call back later Mr. Francis, and I’d like to thank you for calling Mr. Francis, and have a nice….”

“WAIT, I’m not finished yet!!!!”

“Yes, Mr. Francis?” (in an exasperated tone)

“How do I know that I’ll be able to fix this next time I call? What will be different then?”

“Well Mr. Francis, perhaps by then we will have a solution, but I’d like to thank you for calling Mr. Francis, and hope that it gets resolved next time Mr. Francis, and have a nice…”

“WAIT, Hold on, I’m not finished yet!!!!”

And so it goes, on and on — with me desperately trying to keep them on the phone, and them rushing to get off.

The thing that Cable and Wireless, Digicel and TSTT have not understood is that their employees were probably trained to be “good students” or what we in Jamaica would call “nice students.” In other words, they are very-well trained to follow orders and follow procedures. You cannot get through our Caribbean education system, with its do-or-die examinations at different levels, without being proficient at following sometimes mindless routines.

In fact, Caribbean slavery and indentureship were all about doing as little work as possible under duress, and just enough to avoid punishment. In Barbados, (where my observation is that this behaviour has reached an apogee,) I’ve heard this called “malicious compliance.”

The employee is trained to follow the rules, and does so, against what I believe are some of his/her natural instincts.

Thankfully, there is a new standard of customer service that is more appropriate for Caribbean customers – training in producing a particular customer experience (also called a “branded customer experience”).

This approach takes much more focused effort to both define the experience, and to train employees in producing it. The definition requires senior management involvement, and for the benefit of Caribbean employees be put into song, verse and script in order to get the definition across. The experience might be as simple as “Customers feel cared for in every interaction” or “Customers are able to get on with their day as soon as possible.”

One benefit of focusing on a particular experience, is that is puts the employee squarely in the world of the customer, so that instead of wondering whether or not their boss will be mad at them, they focus their energy on how to produce the desired customer experience.

Clearly, the CSR’s that I encountered from Digicel, C&W and TSTT did not care about my experience, as they would probably say that that was just not a part of their job. Their job was to follow the instructions they had been given (as good students would) and to do as they were told.

The fact is, providing a particular customer experience takes more than following the rules, and in many cases the rules that work in places like North America do not work here in the Caribbean (and even have the opposite effect). Instead, it takes a different level of awareness of what’s occurring in the customer’s world, combined with some ingenuity to determine how to provide it given the business constraints that the company must operate within.

The good news is that the Caribbean has no shortage of people who are tuned into the experience of others, and an over-abundance of ingenuity… if only these could be combined in some unique ways we could go well beyond dealing with people who are just “following the process” and come to know our companies by the quality experiences that they offer.

Reflections on Blogging and Customer Intimacy

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I found the news that Google has just developed a search engine for blogs to be really exciting, and it had me think about blogs on a much larger scale, and their impact on customer intimacy.

The new Google search engine can be found at http://weblogs.google.com.

Of course, I immediately did a search for this blog, and of course, Google has already done a fantastic job in indexing this blog in their search engine. As I saw my posts appear on the list, it began to dawn on me that easy access to blogs is going to accelerate a process that I already see happening that I think has a profound impact on how companies come to be known by their customers. But I go too far too quickly.

In a conference workshop I gave this week I shared my blog address with the participants who attended, which was a first for me. It was the first time that I was sharing the existence of my blog with a public audience.

Given that the workshop was located in the Caribbean, I wasn’t too surprised that almost no-one in the room even knew what a blog was. Blogging is yet to enter the mainstream in either the Caribbean or North America, and I’m feeling like some kind of pioneer.

It’s made me think about the role of a blog in bringing customers closer to companies, in several ways.

Recently I had the opportunity to visit David Allen’s website – www.davidco.com. The topic he is an expert in – time management – is one that I’ve been interested in for all my years as a professional, and I’ve read tens of websites and books on the topic. When I read his book, I liked the ideas, but when I read his blog I was hooked. Here he was honestly and openly discussing the base of his ideas, which is basically his daily life.

Here was someone who was brave enough to be sharing his most early ideas, almost from the point at which he was developing his newest thinking. This runs counter to the idea that ideas are like tangible assets like gold and diamonds that are limited in quantity and therefore can be stolen.

Ideas cannot be “stolen” unless the person who originated the idea stops innovating, and turns instead into protecting them.

A blog such as David’s helps to establish him as an expert, and also makes it very clear to anyone who will do the basic research that he is the source of the ideas, and no-one else. It’s easy to see that he has been developing his ideas over a period of several years, and that while anyone can read his book, hearing it from him is truly hearing it from the “horse’s mouth”. All other time management systems can be openly and clearly compared against his, and when I actually did this for a time management system that I am familiar with, I noticed where the developers of that system had clearly lifted some of his ideas, and were re-packaging and re-selling them.

The blog has helped to protect David as the originator of the ideas behind his unique system.

(To view a Quick Time video of David in action, click here.)

In contrast, other competitive products to David’s are the typical ones that one finds on the internet – glorified advertisements. They talk about how great their systems are and how much it costs to sign up for them, replete with opportunities to use a credit card online to sign up.

They offer little or no information or details on the system, and are quite static, with no opportunity to do any of the kinds of things that are possible with a blog such as:

1) hearing about new ideas as they are being developed

2) giving feedback on new ideas, how the system is being used, ask questions, make complaints, etc.

3) hearing about future plans for the company, and present-day problems or issues from the CEO/MD of the company rather than from hired PR flacks

Of course, there is also the possibility of a company being either embarrassed or criticized publicly, and openly. Anyone can respond to a blog that allows feedback and use it as a way to publish lies (at least until the company removes the offensive responses). If a company has something to hide, it’s quite possible that a reader will use the system to make the issues public.

Here in the Caribbean, there is not a single CEO or MD from the region that has a blog. I imagine that that will change in the near term.

At the same time, many do not even have websites, so they remain completely out of the website loop that their competitors overseas are using daily.

While companies can talk forever about wanting to develop customer intimacy, and do their best to get their customers to do their basic business with the company over the internet (thereby saving them a lot of money) ,it doesn’t seem to occur to them companies that there is a way to accomplish both through the skillful use of a blog. What could possibly generate more customer intimacy than a blog in which the CEO or MD shares interesting information? What could be more responsive than a blog that answers customer’s questions?

The joke is that companies that either have no web presence or only a web-based billboard will have their presence in blogs defined by others, who can say anything they want. When the company finally realizes (as many did in the 90’s in the case of email) that they must adopt and use the new technology or die, it will be quite late. Others will have defined the company in their blogs, and attempts to answer the question or balance the messages will probably be a case of “too little, too late”.

Customer Service and Caribbean Airlines

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I’m in the midst of a series of short-hop flights from KIN-ANT-POS-BGI-ANU-KIN (see a list of acronyms used at the end of this blog.)

In the past, I’d sworn to myself that I would never fly BWIA again, after some piece of bad treatment on some flight that I now can’t remember. This time around, I couldn’t bear to either face the cost and time of flying through MIA to get to POS from KIN. The connections are long, and the whole day of flying is deadly.

I didn’t want to fly AirJa to BGI, and then make another connection to another airline (LIAT, Caribbean Star or BWIA,) as my experience was that the extra connection to another airline just did not make it worth it. So I resigned myself to giving BWIA another try, and as I checked in I began to remember what I disliked so much.

The first annoyance was BWIA’s ultra-strict carry-on policy, which always results in me having to check my luggage – the same luggage that I carry-on to every other plane I fly in North America. For that size aircraft, they are the only carrier that insists that carry-ons be checked, and the way that they do it consistently seems to disregard the fact that a business traveler and frequent flyer have different needs than the casual vacationer. BWIA seems not to distinguish between the two in any way, and seems unwilling to make any kinds of concessions for its most valuable passengers (who fly the most often and pay the highest fares).

When we got to Antigua, which was just supposed to be a short stop on the way to POS, we were told that a flight attendant had burned her hand badly on the flight to Antigua, and as a result could not perform her duties. Therefore, the flight would have to be discontinued, as they could not find a replacement. Thus began a 4 hour delay.

Of course, people were complaining. How could the absence of a single flight attendant cause that much disruption? Why didn’t they offer some people free tickets and an overnight in Antigua in exchange for giving up their seat on the plane and making the flight legal? Why didn’t they have backup crew – could no-one on the island step in?

I cussed to myself, and reminded myself why I don’t fly BWIA. I quickly made some alternate arrangements so that I would only need to fly to BGI on the way back.

When I turned up at POS for my next leg to BGI a couple of days later, the absence of a line at the check-in counter warned me that something was awry. I was told that they were sorry but the flight was no longer stopping in Barbados, and instead that I was checked into the following morning’s flight to BGI (without my knowledge.)

I was sputtering with the shock of this news at all of 7:30 pm.

The CSR’s did not even begin to apologize, or try to make amends, which made my blood start to boil. They also started to get into what might be called “blame the victim” by asking me if I had confirmed (“Yes”), given a contact number (“you tell me“), made the reservation a long time ago (“No”).

I eventually asked them a pressing question – “Was there another flight going to Barbados tonight?” That yielded a reluctant “Yes, there’s one leaving in a few minutes on LIAT.” I rushed over to LIAT with a transfer in hand (OK, it was at the same counter, just 25 yards away). By the time I really started rushing, I was there.

I ran through immigration and the check-points, and to gate 13 – which had a small number of passengers, and no staff in sight. It was delayed.

Thankfully, they were still keeping to their schedule, and I made it to BGI that night, albeit an hour late.

I contrast this with a horrible delay that I had the prior week travelling with Air Jamaica from Fort Lauderdale. The 8am flight had mechanical difficulties, which were not resolved by parts that were sent up from Jamaica, and we were finally included on a flight that left at 10:30pm that night, which resulted in a travel day of some 20 hours total from bed to bed.

The contrast comes in the way the Air Jamaica staff dealt with the problem. They had several problems themselves, in this case in getting the word out to the customers on the latest developments. But the feeling I had was that the staff cared, and one agent cared enough to sit around for a couple of hours with the passengers in the lounge commiserating and demonstrating a remarkable willingness to be the butt of Air Jamaica jokes.

That was something else, and the laughing and hilarity that ensued helped make the day feel that much shorter.

At BWIA, I was left with this uneasy feeling that the staff just did not care, and were not willing to be responsible for anything. Although both Air Jamaica and BWIA are losing money every day, and are both up for sale by their respective governments, Air Jamaica’s service consistently seems to be at a higher level in some ways that I can’t define very well.

My hypothesis is that Air Jamaica is a major carrier for European and North American tourists to the island, while BWIA carries mostly Trinidadians and other Caribbean islanders. The feel of the service at BWIA is that it is more friendly than professional.

The difference between friendly and professional service, however, is that a friend represents only him or herself, whereas a professional represents a company. Friends are free not to care, but a CSR is paid to care, and is obliged to provide service regardless of their mood, or how they feel about the person on the receiving end. To that end, BWIA’s service is good when things are going well and that friendly feeling prevails. It quickly turns distant and unfeeling, however, when things go badly and this is where the other airlines are generally better.

Interestingly, I’m writing this entry aboard a Caribbean Star flight from BGI to Antigua. That by itself is pretty mundane, but the interesting aspect of this trip is that I am the only passenger on a 32 or so seater.

To be more accurate, I am the only revenue passenger – there are 3 employees of the airline on the flight also. There is one (female) flight attendant working, another one travelling and two pilots travelling. To my disappointment, they have not yet broken out the champagne and fillet mignon… perhaps I am cramping their style? I made a joke that they now had to hide the scotch…

I made the mistake of asking if there was anything else, at the end of an offer of refreshments – I had a choice of 4 kinds of cream filled biscuits, and 4 kinds of juices, in addition to water. Not even soft drinks are carried on these flights apparently… However, the flight attendant assured me that on the longer flights they carry sandwiches. She must think highly of these sandwiches as she suggested that I take a longer flight to find out what that kind of service was like… Hmmm…. That one had the spare pilots and flight attendant laughing.

Acronyms used

ANU –Antigua

GAIA / BGI– Grantley Adams International Airport

POS – Port of Spain

KIN – Kingston

Awakeness – The Key to Accomplishment

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I had the privilege of leading a workshop today here in Trinidad at the TTAIFA conference – the Trinidad and Tobago Association of Insurance and Financial Agents.

The group was a wonderful one to speak and engage with, and as great a bunch of Trinis as I’ve every worked with.

The initial post that I wrote today related to this speech appears to have disappeared into Never, Never Land, unfortunately. Somehow the content just disappeared…

The most exciting part of the preparation came when I ran into a roadblock while trying to describe a certain quality that I know is important to being productive. I am now calling it “awakeness,” and as a Jamaican – we are famous for inventing new words – I like the “sound” and vibe of it.

In a nutshell (which is just about all the work I’ve done on it so far) “awakeness” is defined as the quality of being present to the outcome of a task while one is engaged in it..

When someone is experiencing awakeness, there is a connected feeling that makes the activity flow, and sometimes allows it to feel easy. Yet, it’s more than “being in the flow”. The process of completing a task takes several important steps:

  1. Changing the definition of the task
  2. Making a decision to do the task
  3. Scheduling the task
  4. Choosing to start the task at the appointed time
  5. Completing the task
  6. Deciding on next steps once the task is complete

As you can imagine, having “awakeness” is important at each step of the way. Let’s take a simple task such as “doing the ironing.” Doing the ironing is a task that could be poorly executed at any of the 6 steps, resulting in the task either failing to be fully completed in some way.

When there is “awakeness” there is a powerful quality brought to each of the above steps. At each step of the way, there is a clarity of purpose that changes the entire task.

  1. The first step is about replacing how the task is expressed in writing and speaking, from “ironing the clothes.” The person doing the task would have to look to see why they are in fact doing the task e.g. it might be a real part of a goal of “providing my children a secure and safe environment in which to grow.” The task could be re-expressed as “ironing for security, safety and looking clean and fresh.” This re-expression can help to bring an awakened frame of mind to the activity that is not there when it’s just about plain “ironing” which seems to be something that just needs to be endured.
  2. Making a decision to do the task at a specific moment in time is easier to do when there is “awakeness” simply because a deeper purpose has been engaged and activated.
  3. Putting the activity into our calendars at a time that is realistic is also easier to do with “awakeness”.
  4. Choosing to do the task at the appointed time, even when we are busy, is easier to do when the appointed time comes and we are awakened. If we are watching television and the time comes to do the task, it would be easier to turn it off and see about our children’s “safety and security” than it would be to watch the rest of the episode of “Days of Our Lives”.
  5. Seeing the task through to the very last sock and t-shirt, and avoiding interruptions are all about being awake during the task. The hard job that we have to do while ironing is to prevent ourselves from unconsciously falling out of “awakeness” into the kind of absent-mindedness that allows us sometimes to drive for miles to a destination and wonder what route we just took to get there.
  6. When we are in a state of “awakeness,” realizing that there are next steps is natural. When we are just ironing and nothing else, then the end of the task comes as a respite, and the tendency is to get the mind out of the boring task at hand and back to Days of Our Lives (recorded on our DVD-RW). On the other hand, when it’s about “our children’s safety and security,” it’s easier to see that it might be a good idea to put the clothes away now, and to schedule some more time to buy a good quality iron that would do a better job. The next steps are easier to see, and to start a new six step process when we are “awake,” because the actions are merely a continuation of the deeper commitment.

The point here is that the steps are, by themselves, not the point. There are some training programs and time management systems which try to be prescriptive about what happens at each of these stages, down to the kind of language that is used to re-express the task.

They all miss the point, however.

When we are “awake” the right things to do naturally present themselves. When we are asleep at the wheel, then no amount of detailed instructions will compensate for a lack of “awakeness.”

Why is this all important?

Well, we human beings need to be protected from ourselves.

On the first of the year, a part of us gets inspired to create plans to get fit and lost weight. By the end of the week, however, another part of us kicks in and takes control, and that’s the end of the plan until the start of the next year. The same happens with respect to other plans that we make, in our attempts to “Have the Lives that We Most Want.” The part of us that creates these plans does need assistance to make it through tough times , and this assistance comes most easily from our level of “awakeness.”

To put it another way, when we don’t have awakeness, then our mind will only allow us to accomplish simple tasks that require a single effort, and prevents us from accomplishing complex tasks like losing weight, that require sustained and consistent effort.

* I’d like to credit the book Getting Things Done for providing some of the key ideas and thinking for my own ideas.

Throw Away Customer Service Training

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Yes, that’s right. Throw away Customer Service Training.

That’s the new mantra of companies that are thinking seriously about delivering a particular brand promise to their customers.

The truth is that companies have become chained to a vague commitment to “better service” without this “better service” being defined in way that ensures that definite progress can be made. Instead, “bad customer service” is used as an accusation that is used to blame companies at all levels for not providing service… at all levels. Yes, that’s right…. companies are blamed for not providing service at ALL levels.

Small companies are blamed for not providing the consistent service of larger companies.

Large companies are blamed for acting as if they do not care.

Low-priced companies are blamed for being cheap, and not supplying the luxuries that people want.

High-end companies are blamed for charging too much.

What’s going on here? Are customers being unreasonable to ask for so much? Are the complaints just a matter of the impossibility to trying to please everyone?

In Port of Spain, should the doubles vendor on Long Circular Road be asked provide the same level of service as Hot Shoppe? In Kingston, should the pan chicken vendor on Red Hills Road be asked to provide the same level of service as KFC up the road? In Bridgetown, should Jus’ Grilling provide the same levels of service as Champers?

The vague quality of these questions leave us all in a quandry, that pushes most of us to nostrums such as “You get what you pay for,” implying that the issue has something to do with the price that the consumer is willing to pay.

These kinds of vague non-answers seem to let companies off the hook, but they are just a mistake on the part of companies that refuse to do the much more difficult work of defining a brand experience for their customers that is precise and clear.

Clarity and precision have nothing to do with price. They also have nothing to do with the size of a business in terms of total revenue, or profit.

For example, the pan chicken vendor on Red Hills Road is not providing the consistency of KFC, and he (or she) should not try to. Instead, he should focus on the brand experience that he wants his customers to have — one that consists of:

  • a home-cooked taste that changes with people’s tastes
  • the pungent smell of the chicken that pervades the air
  • all-night availability
  • friendly and fast service and gets better with repeat purchases
  • the convenience of not having to leave the car
  • the low cost that comes from buying on the street in an “unsecured” environment

Instead, the drum-pan chicken vendor should seek to provide an experience that is uniquely the “Red Hills pan chicken experience” …. and nothing else. The same principle applies to KFC, which should also try to provide a unique experience.

Neither outfit should try to provide “good customer service.” In doing so, they hold themselves hostage to customers’ (and employees’) complaints that only come about because companies are insufficiently courageous enough to define unique service that is clear. The emotional challenge comes from the fact that when a company defines itself in a unique way, then they immediately must define themselves as “not-everything.”

My observation is that executives of Caribbean companies (with whom I have the most experience) are downright scared to define their companies as “not-everything”. Declaring that your company is a unique “something” actually defines it as “not-everything” when it’s done well. Sticking to your guns and defining yourself as “not-everything” takes courage and are not for the faint of heart, especially when contracts and business opportunities seem to be abundant in the areas that are outside the defined zone of expertise.

Recently, I had the opportunity to take my own company down this path. In 2005 we made the decision to use the tagline, “High-Stakes Interventions.” One of my partners-in-crime (but not an employee) shared with me that the tagline made him feel as if he were a CEO, that he would not want to give the company a call. He was right, and I knew it in the moment.

I gulped, and after thinking about it for a minute I realized that CEO’s would only call me when they needed to, not when they wanted to. In this sense, my firm was willing to create a brand experience that is similar to that of surgeon or a skilled mechanic — someone that you call for help when you absolutely needed that particular kind of expertise (and not just for a good lime). This little interchange helped make my company’s brand just a bit more clear and precise, and it grew into the truth that I now have embraced and included in my marketing copy, which is that “High-Stakes Interventions are not for Everyone.”

The downside of failing to define the company as “not-everything” is a kind of superficiality that creates a blurriness in the mind of the customer that is the very opposite of a brand experience that is clear and precise.

The upside is that a company that sticks to its guns can do the following differently:

  • distinguish the branded experience at a deep level, and define the experience in way that makes it clear when the experience is present, and when it’s not
  • define in depth the unique combination of People, Processes and Products/Services that together provide the experience
  • decide how much to invest in making the experience real, and also what the costs are for not committing to an alternate experience

For the customer, this only helps. I go to KFC when I want one kind of experience, and I can choose a different kind of experience by visiting Cheffette, Royal Castle, Pollo Tropical or Island Grille. Rather than being told that I get what I pay for, I can make my choice based on the brand I choose to experience.

The job of the proprietor is to ensure that they have accurately defined their own brand experience, and have the internal brand to deliver it over and over again.

In this sense, generic customer service training needs to be thrown away, and replaced by very specific, clear and precise brand-oriented “experience training.”