I just spent four glorious days in San Diego, where I got to experience firsthand how your employees can help or hurt your brand.
In an attempt to reduce our stress levels, my husband and I decided to rely on taxies rather than renting a car. In theory, this sounded like a great plan. The reality was much different.
Every time I called the largest taxi company in the city, I was placed on hold for at least five minutes before reaching a customer service representative. Sometimes the wait was longer. Not the way to make a great first impression.
When I finally got through, I would request a taxi that accepted credit cards. Sometimes I would get one that did, and other times not.
A number of times I was asked by my taxi cab driver if I knew how to get to my desired location, even though the driver had a GPS in his cab. One would assume that a cab driver would be familiar with the territory he was assigned, or that he would at least use his GPS. Relying on the passenger for directions in a city known to be a tourist destination is a bit bizarre and certainly doesn't do much to instill confidence in one's brand.
Compare that to my experience at the American Craft Brewers Association's Annual Conference, where I was speaking. Every person on staff at the association was impressive. In spite of the fact that there were 4,000 visitors, each person I interacted with took the time to focus on me and make me feel as if I were the only person in the room.
I had the opportunity to meet a number of employees who worked in the craft brewery industry, and all were terrific ambassadors for their companies. If only I had time to sample all their beers.
The service personnel in every restaurant we patronized were fully trained and couldn't do enough to make us feel welcome. We will certainly remember and recommend these establishments to friends and family. I'm afraid that I can't say the same for the taxi company.
When you think about it, what is a company without a strong brand? Businesses without a brand have to work twice as hard in order to bring in customers. Many complain that they don't have the resources to hire quality personnel. That's just an excuse for being lazy.
It doesn't take more time and effort to hire and train someone who is the right fit for the job, but you have to know how to do this, and, more importantly, you have to care. At the conference, I heard several people talking about a big name company in their industry who was doing a poor job of hiring. They also mentioned how this company was treating their employees like dirt. They were chuckling amongst themselves as they discussed on how easy this organization was making it for small guys like them to take the lead.
At the end of the day, the biggest differentiator you have from you competition is your people. They are your brand. Perhaps it's time to reallocate your budget so you have funds available to invest in the one thing that really matters—your reputation.
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