You may recall that last year I posted about the importance of branding for smaller businesses, and I pointed out that the image, qualities and promises projected by your brand should also be reflected in every aspect of your business performance, from the satisfaction your products or services deliver to the manner in which your phones are answered and the way you deal with queries or problems.
But I missed something HUGE.
I forgot to mention that anyone you employ - even on a very casual basis - also represents your brand, and you need to make sure that they're providing the same customer service experience as you do. Something happened to me recently that really drove this point home.
I do most of my grocery shopping online, and a couple of weeks ago the driver delivering my items pointed to a photo in our entry and asked if that was me. When I told him it was, he immediately asked "what happened?" Obviously I asked him what he meant, to which he replied, "You look healthy there, now you just look skinny and sick".
I was absolutely mortified. And it probably wouldn't surprise you to learn I won't be using the services of that business anytime soon.
You see even though the business is incredibly successful and very well-known, they have a staff member who is not representing the values or the customer service of their brand.
Now my example is extreme, but it raises the issue of how important it is to make sure our clients and customers are receiving the same service from our team as they do from us. And I have 4 tips to help you achieve this:
1. Hire the right people:
This is obvious but not easy, and I certainly wouldn't presume to tell you what qualifications or experience you should be looking for when you're recruiting. But I will point out that you'd expect someone in a job interview to be on their best behaviour. So if they don't impress you in that first meeting as someone who'll represent your business well, they probably never will.
Many business owners complain that team members 'don't take responsibility, cost too much, don't do any more than they have to, arrive late, go home early, make mistakes all the time, don't take any responsibility, blame each other or the customers, drag their family problems into work, make personal phone calls all day. It would be easier to do it myself.'
If your team members are treating their roles as if it's 'just a job', it's time to get them more involved.
The key is for you to take charge and do something. One strategy that a lot of really successful businesses do that can be incredibly effective is to implement a 'team commitment.'
Call a team meeting - again even if they're casual or contractors, they're part of your team and need to be involved - and explain that you want to get their involvement in more areas of the business. Tell them that you want to make a commitment to them, have them commit to their roles and, together, make some commitments to customers.
Then print your team commitments and give everyone a copy - it would be great if you could get them to sign it. This could be a great marketing tool if you frame a large version, including all team members' signatures, and hang it in your reception area or shop. That way, you, your customers, and your team members have a constant reminder of your commitments.
3. Set expectations
"You don't know what you don't know".
The arch-nemesis of Small business owners is time (or lack thereof) and when we employ people we ideally want them to be able to hit the ground running. We often don't have the time or resources to spend on intensive and time consuming training.
The problem with this is that no matter how skilful a person is, they can't possibly meet our expectations if we never articulate them! Think about it, if they knew exactly what to do and how to do it without us, they'd probably be running their own business.
At a bare minimum set written expectations for all team members around:
- Their role and responsibilities in the business;
- The flow and quality of work;
- The relationship between customer and business, and their responsibilities.
And the final step to achieving consistent brand representation from your team is having robust systems in place.
The best and most successful businesses have formal systems to help their team provide a consistent experience to their customers and clients.
These may include (but are not limited to):
- Step by step sales systems
- Scripts for handling enquiries
- Scripts for setting up meetings
- Scripts for generating and/or analysing leads
- Email templates
- Letter and other documentation templates
- A position description so that they can describe your business to potential customers in 30 seconds.
Your business and your business brand is important, so when you relinquish total control of it by hiring staff, you need to make sure you retain control of how it's represented. Don't hire people who from the outset you feel won't be a positive ambassador for your business, encourage commitment from team members, set clear expectations, and put in place robust systems to help your team provide a consistent and terrific experience to your clients and customers.
If you'd like to hear more of what I have to say on the matter, click here for a recording of my most recent "You & Your Business" radio segment on 98.1FM Radio Eastern.
PS. If you or anyone you know of is thinking of buying their first home, click here for details on an upcoming FREE session about what's involved in getting that first home-loan now that banks are getting tough...