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Customers Care About a Product’s Value, Not How the Company Treats Employees

Your customers only really care about themselves and your product’s value to them!

I’ve been a customer champion for most of my career. But with the likes of Richard Branson saying it’s employees first, customers second, my confidence was beginning to slide a little.

Thank goodness, therefore, for some new research from Global RepTrak® that has finally confirmed what I have always believed. Customers care about themselves first and foremost! Everyone else comes second.

Dale Carnegie spelled it out really well when he said:

“People are not interested in you. They are not interested in me. They are interested in themselves – morning, noon and after dinner.”

People are interested in themselves - morning, noon and after dinner. Click To Tweet

It was the below chart that I first saw on MarketingCharts.com that alerted me to this work by RepTrak™. (I highly recommend signing up for their daily charts by the way; they’re a great source of facts and inspiration!)

 

Customers care most about your product's value
Click to enlarge

 

The article that accompanies the chart is a great read too. However, I wanted to take a look behind these numbers and try to understand why some influencers have been pushing employee centricity.

 

Products And Services Are Key

The first four factors of reputation shown in the graph above are all product related. Therefore it’s clear that customers think about themselves first and foremost. They want satisfaction and therefore it’s a product’s value that matters most. I think that’s normal, don’t you? They are looking for a solution that meets their needs and a company that stands behind what they offer.

Great customer service won’t make up for a terrible product or service offer. So every organisation needs to ensure that what they propose is the very best they possibly can.

Great customer service won't make up for a terrible product . Click To Tweet

However, it is also true that the quality and value you offer depends to a large extent on the excellence of your employees in delivering it. If employees are not motivated to give their best, then what they deliver will be sub-optimal.

This is why it is essential that everyone within a company understands their role in satisfying the customer.

One of the quickest ways I have found to achieve this is by providing regular access to the customer. Once an employee sees and understands what they can do to increase satisfaction, they are much more likely to do it. After all, it’s absurd to think that they would want their employer to fail, isn’t it? In fact, I have seen a genuine excitement around customer connections whenever I have introduced them within an organisation.

If you’d like to organise your own customer connection sessions then I highly recommend reading “Five Rules of Observation and Why it’s Hard to Do Effectively.”

 

Employees Are An Important Touchpoint

I think it was P&G who coined the phrase “the first moment of truth” in referring to the beginning of the shopping experience. I would, therefore, add employees, at least in retail and other consumer-facing industries, as being a close second. However, the vast majority of products are made by companies that rarely, if ever, come into direct contact with their customers. (sadly true even today, which is why I encourage regular customer connections as I mentioned earlier.)

Most products are made by companies that rarely, if ever, come into direct contact with customers. Click To Tweet

Now it’s true that service industry employees matter to the customers, but even now I’m not convinced they come first. I still think customers will judge a hotel, a restaurant or an airline based primarily on the product’s value, just like any other industry. However, it is obvious that loyalty is impacted by and depends upon the services offered.

Loyalty in the service industry will be impacted by & depend upon the services offered. Click To Tweet

Shep Hyken wrote a great piece on this topic called “Customer Service Means Never Saying Never (But If You Must, Say It In A Different Way)” which I highly recommend. In it, he talks about the customer NOT always being right, but concludes with the old customer service saying:

“You’re not trying to win an argument. You’re trying to win a customer.”

As he says “You really can’t win an argument with a customer. If you “win,” it means the customer has “lost,” and you could end up losing the customer.”

That is why it’s important to hire the right people and then give them sufficient freedom to solve almost any issue for the customer. If you force them to follow a rulebook of acceptable answers, then you will limit their authority to satisfy the customer. They may actually end up saying “we can’t do that” to the customer, which is sure to irritate them and won’t exactly encourage loyalty! After all, isn’t that what customer service is all about, protecting the business’s current and potential customers?

Customer service is all about protecting the business's current & potential customers. Click To Tweet

 

Companies Should Be Ethical

Going back to the RepTrack report, it is interesting to see that ethical and fair practices score above average, yet treating employees fairly and rewarding them appropriately score well below average. Again this confirms that it is what directly impacts the customer that matters most to them.

An organisation’s impact on society matters more to customers than their fairness to their employees. In other words, it’s the higher order practices of corporate social responsibility that enable the customer to feel good about spending their money with the company.

In fact, recent research shows that CSR has a direct impact on customers’ purchase decisions, especially for women.

Corporate Social Responsibility has a direct impact on consumers’ purchase decisions. Click To Tweet

Customers are interested in CSR

 

Employees Are Still Important

Coming back to Branson’s position about the importance of employees, there is one of his comments that I do support. He said in an Inc interview that

“Unhappy employees can ruin the brand experience for numerous customers.”

“Unhappy employees can ruin the brand experience for numerous customers.” Richard Branson Click To Tweet

Clearly, this is an extreme situation and management should do everything to treat their employees well; that just makes good business sense. Unhappy employees will impact your product quality and the motivation of others, not just that of your customers.

There have been many examples to confirm this, such as incidents involving FedEx, United Airlines and Domino’s to name just a few. Click on their names to remind yourself of these famous customer service disasters.

More recently the automobile industry has been facing numerous scandals of emissions and fuel economy frauds. It seems that Volkswagen was not an isolated case and since then Opel, Chevrolet/GMC/Buick, Daimler, Fiat/Chrysler, Mitsubishi and most recently PSA and Renault have been scrutinised. Whether these were coordinated, isolated or employee driven is still to be ascertained.

I understand that when you’re in business, your goal is to sell products and services to your customers and make money for your shareholders.

Business sells products & services to customers & makes money for shareholders. Click To Tweet

However, why don’t employees ever ask the question about the impact of their behaviour on the customers? And if that customer was their wife, daughter, family member or friend, would that make a difference? Perhaps, but it shouldn’t; as human beings, we should want to treat every other person fairly. At least that’s what I believe.

One of the best ways to better understand your customer’s needs is to look at their purchase journey and especially their emotions at each step. I recommend reading “Do You Know Your Customer Journey Map & the Emotions Overlay?” for a review of this topic.

So in conclusion, our customers – and we are all someone’s customer – care firs and foremost about your product’s value to them. Will it answer their needs? Will it be the solution to their problem? I therefore don’t see how there can be any doubt that customers matter more than employees. But I’d love to hear your thoughts on this. It’s just as conflictual and complex as the “chicken or egg” question if you ask me!

 



 

Reputation and Trust: Do you Have Both?

At the end of last year I asked readers to send me their biggest challenges for 2014. The winning question was related to innovation, which I wrote about last week: “This is why your new products crash & burn“.

Another of the questions I received was related to measuring equity and the relative importance of following the image of the br and or the corporation. I respond below to this interesting dilemma and propose some ideas about what you should be following.

The three essentials of br and valueLet me start by saying that I covered br and image metrics in some detail last year in a popular post  called “ How to Build Br and Reputation and Consumer Trust: And then Track it”. The article spoke about the three important areas that you need to measure in order to have a complete perspective of your br and image, namely Rational / Functional, Emotional / Subjective and Cultural / Relational.

Whilst this is the simplest method for measuring br and equity, it is said that there are in fact seven essential elements that make a business great in the eyes of the customer. These elements are a combination of product perceptions as above, together with those of the enterprise. Perhaps surprisingly, the latter actually trump the former in driving behaviours today, so corporate reputation is now essential to follow too. It also suggests that whilst product performance, services and innovation are important, it is the companies behind the br ands that influence a consumer’s trust and final choice. If you’d like to read more about this, please click on the above link where you can find more details.

Coca Cola logo

However, measuring br and image and corporate reputation is still not going to give you all the answers you need. One of the areas that few organisations study today, even when they measure both of these, is the relationship between the images of the br ands and the company.

Unilever AXE logoFor some br ands such as Coca Cola, the relationship is both obvious and strong, whereas for Pantene or Axe the link to P&G  and Unilever may be far less evident.

P&G Pantene logo

Despite an increasing effort by both companies to strengthen the association between their br ands and themselves as manufacturer, the connection remains tenuous at best.

So how do you measure this link and underst and what the br and brings to the corporation and vice versa? Read on for a simple process.

Following Br and & Corporate Reputations is a 3-step process

Step 1: Measure your br ands’ images

Hopefully you are already doing this on a regular basis. If not please start immediately since you cannot manage br ands without knowing where you are today, even if you have a clear idea planned for where you want to go. The post linked above gives you a start on getting this done.

The one addition that you may have to incorporate in your current questionnaire is to ensure that you clearly identify whether the respondent knows who makes each of the br ands. This will be essential for the analysis later on.

Step 2: Measure your corporate image

Again you should already be doing this, but I am always amazed how few companies collect such metrics on a regular basis. The prompt for doing so is often a crisis or a change of management and vision, but by then it is actually too late. Whatever you measure in such circumstances will be difficult to analyse since you don’t know what the figures looked like before the event happened. This is why it is essential to measure it at least annually and perhaps even more regularly when a lot is happening in the marketplace.

As was also the case for your br and equity metrics, you will need to include a measurement of br and attribution for each of the companies you measure. This will again be used in the analytical phase.

Step 3: Analyse and cross-reference the information gathered

The third step of the process is to first review the images of each br and by the knowledge and awareness of the consumers about its parent company. Then review the corporate images based upon whether each is attributed or not to each of its br ands, or maybe even to competitive br ands. Then by crossing these two sets of relational information, you will get a clear picture of what the br and brings in terms of reputation to the company and what the corporate reputation adds to or detracts from each br and. Once you underst and the relationship between your br ands and your business, you can start to lay out a plan to boost your consumers’ knowledge and trust with appropriate PR and advertising.

Some organisations, including those mentioned above, find ways to associate their company name within their br and advertising. For instance Nestlé and Purina both end their ads with a company link and logo. Unilever and SCJohnson are a little more creative in showing  a fold up / down corner with their logo and name and in the case of the latter, even their corporate slogan. This is far less intrusive and leaves the br and to shine as hero in the ad.

If you already run your own br and equity or corporate reputation studies, why not combine them as suggested above, for improved actionability? If you do a different type of analysis I would love to hear about it; just add a comment below or write to me in person at denysedd@c3centricity.com. It would be great to hear your thoughts on this essential element of tracking.

How to Build Br and Reputation and Consumer Trust: And then Track it

Forbes’ 2013 report of the world’s most reputable companies was published in April and unlike previous years, did not cause a lot of  commentary. Perhaps this was because so little changed. BMW remained solidly in #1 position and only Apple and Volkswagen moved out of the Top 10.

The Reputation Institute does a great job of measuring the seven essential elements that make a business great in the eyes of the consumer. These elements are a combination of enterprise and product perceptions, the former perhaps surprisingly, trumping the latter in driving behaviours today. This shows that whilst product performance, services and innovation are important, it is the companies behind the br ands that influence a consumer’s final choice. 

As consumers’ dem and to know more about the company behind the br ands they buy, corporations have been obliged to become more transparent. In response, many companies now link their corporate names more strongly with their br ands, in an effort to build this consumer trust.

The report says that

For companies with strong reputations, 55% of consumers say they would definitely buy their products and 50% would be willing to recommend their products to others. For companies with weak reputations, these percentages fall to only 31% willing to buy and just 28% willing to recommend”

That’s a significant difference, which explains why companies are working so hard to build consumers’ trust in them and not just their br ands.

Measuring Reputation

So how do you win consumer trust and build a strong reputation? As the study mentions, it takes more than just great products. It takes local citizenship, leadership and workplace fairness to drive people’s admiration and trust. It is therefore important to measure these different aspects in any br and image and equity work you undertake.

Functional / Rational

The three essentials of br and valueAlthough the study mentioned that perceptions about the enterprise are more likely to drive behaviour, it is clearly essential to underst and consumers’ perceptions of your product and service offerings. Underst anding the functional benefits also helps you to develop and improve the performance and thus the product or service satisfaction of your customers. These metrics can also be used as input to renovation and innovation efforts, and tracked over time to ensure they do not decline. Since image changes are often a precursor to sales changes, these basic metrics should be your foundation.

Subjective / Emotional

As mentioned in the Forbes report, the emotional elements of corporate reputation are becoming more important. A Reputation Institute Executive is quoted as saying “we live in a time when word of mouth is the number one driver of sales and competitive advantage”. Discussing br ands and companies with others, whether online or in person, will impact what consumers think about them and thus also their purchase decisions.

Cultural / Relational

Many of the elements that are cited in the report as building reputation for an organisation come into this group. Things such as a company’s workplace image, citizenship and leadership all depend upon the culture of the (perceived) country of origin and its reputation, as well as the involvement of the organisation in the local community. The relationships it establishes with its consumers as well as its stakeholders will also play an important role in building the corporation’s reputation.

[Tweet “There are 3 essentials of br and reputation: rational, emotional & cultural”]

These three aspects of image come together to cover the total perception and reputation of a br and or company so it is vital that all three areas are measured. As the Forbes report shows, the cultural and emotional aspects have now become more important than the rational benefits of a br and, in influencing br and choice and purchase decisions.

In closing, it should not be forgotten that these three areas are as important for br ands as for the company behind them. With more companies using their corporate name to further enhance their reputation and build trust with their consumers, the importance of measuring the images of both the company and its br ands cannot be over-emphasised. The impact of one on the other, as well as the verification that they are stronger together than when used independently,  also need to be established.

If you would like to  know more about measuring br and perceptions and images, check out our website: https://www.c3centricity.com/home/engagement

Need help in building your own corporate or br and reputation? Let us help you catalyze your customer centricity; contact us here

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