This post was sparked by reading another quality post, by Seth Godin, which suggests that your company brand lies at the front-line contact you have with your customers & clients; this of course makes sense – the experience people really have of your business is not in what you personally say or promise, or what your website or PR states your brand to be, but in the interactions they have with your employees.
This is never more true than when you are working in a business-to-consumer environment where you may have many contact points from initial outbound and inbound sales activity, to ongoing customer service, seeking renewals or further business, complaints handling, etc.
With such a myriad and diverse range of interactions, how do you ensure your brand is represented as you would wish it to be?
Skilled employees, clear in what they have to do, are naturally essential, but unless you are a low-budget airline of certain repute, then your brand is often being distinguished by how they go about their job; their behaviour when interacting with the customer.
You cannot monitor every call, watch every interaction, attend each field visit and manage individuals; you have to signal what’s expected and trust individuals.
The best way to signal what’s expected is by clearly stating your organisational values, and ideally provide some sense of what behaviours would be observed in someone congruent with these values.
This latter step takes a set of company values, often found laminated and stuck to a wall, and brings them to life; it allows them to be more readily discussed as both line managers and employees have an easier way to articulate the values through real-life stories of how they behave in their day-to-day work.
If you have a brand you cherish, having values is a start, but not enough – they must work practically within the context of Performance Management conversations, otherwise they really aren’t worth the (laminated) paper they’re written on.