People Strategy & Your Brand
In today’s competitive environment, brands play an important part in the choices that we make about how and where to spend our money. Luxury brands drive product differentiation by offering a subtle combination of reality and aspiration. Everyday brands do the same by offering consistency, value for money and familiarity.
The most successful brands are those that successfully deliver a holistic brand experience to customers through the three key channels – product, image and relationships. No matter how much is spent on advertising, store design, packaging and other hardware, one bad experience with a member of staff can undo everything. So, to deliver a brand effectively, every employee, both core and extended, must ‘live the brand’ across every touchpoint and that takes a personal interaction.
Getting this right, aligning the business goals with people development, is not easy. Read any current headline inviting you to attend a people development networking event and you will see a familiar question: ‘How can we deliver outstanding customer service as business as usual?’ Customer focus skills are currently a top issue to address and critical to the competitive advantage.
But, is the change in culture to one of customer focus really so new?
Celebrating nearly 25 years working with clients to align people to deliver business impact, cda’s experience and expertise suggests not. However, the difference is in the approach as to how organisations deliver a consistent and differentiating brand experience through their people. The solution is not just about a course in customer service, it is a combination of behaviours, skills and knowledge to deliver the brand offering by understanding the brands core values and exemplifying them. Ideally, we want to combine the interpersonal skills and flexibility required to meet customer needs, with the standardised business processes that we have to underpin every transaction.
So how can we start to approach this differently?
It takes trust, governance and having the right people and processes in place. Every employee has to know exactly what he/she needs to do in their job, the skills, behaviours and knowledge, and their part in delivering the brand. I appreciate this is a simple and obvious statement but it has profound implications for the way in which people are recruited, managed, rewarded and developed. This strategy results in one single compelling message to employees about what is important.
Here are 5 simple questions to assess if you are maximising the effectiveness of your brand through your people (includes leaders, managers, other stakeholders and the extended workforce):
- Do your people understand the brand vision and what it means for them in their day-to-day job role?
- Is there a clear statement of knowledge, skills and behaviours that each team member needs to possess in order to deliver the brand to customers?
- Do you recruit your people by looking for the skills, knowledge and behaviours that will really make the difference to your customers?
- Is training and development activity focused on these key areas?
- Is reward and recognition focused on these key areas?
Here are two examples of an integrated approach where we worked with clients to drive improvements to brand visibility, customer satisfaction and profitability through the skills and behaviours of organisations:
A vital factor for success was the set-up of a highly committed and enthusiastic project team of senior leadership and managers from across the business to design and implement the changes.
The team structures were simplified to make sure every role was defined for both the accountabilities and competencies (knowledge, skills and behaviours) required to carry out the roles that linked closely to the brand values.
Leaders and Managers were pre-assessed against the required competencies of the roles followed up with training and development. This also covered their understanding of the competency model and how they could use it to manage their teams to deliver the brand experience to customers by improving the selling and customer handling competencies of every employee.
This was reinforced via a performance management process using the competencies required to deliver the customer experience aligned to reward and recognition schemes.
The results included increased sales, higher sales value from each customer and improved behavioural change towards customers.
The aim of the organisation was to grow market share in a static market by becoming more brand focused.
The initial focus was on developing a framework to describe all job profiles and competencies to support effective brand delivery. Some employees had to cope with major changes to their roles.
To drive and support these changes to roles, the centre managers adoption of using the competency model to recruit, develop and manage their staff was key. All employees were trained to help build rapport and empathy with customers, understand the wider needs and aspirations specific to the industry and brand which was critical to success.
This was a Europe wide roll out and measurable results showed increased customer satisfaction scores, larger market share and improved business performance.
In conclusion, to answer the question, ‘What does your competitive brand have to do with your people strategy?’ Everything!
Creating a brand image is not only about the product….it also has to be about the way that the brand is personally delivered to the customer.
Brands are delivered by people.