by Andrea Wiley
While on a family vacation, Chris Hurn, founder and CEO of Fountainhead Commercial Capital, discovered his son had accidentally left his stuffed giraffe “Joshie” at the Ritz-Carlton. Once they returned home and called the resort, they learned that the staff had found Joshie in the laundry and promised his safe return. A few days later, a package arrived which not only included the giraffe but a variety of hotel goodies and photos of Joshie’s “extended” vacation at the resort. The photos showed Joshie the Giraffe sunbathing by the pool, getting a relaxing spa treatment complete with cucumbers over his eyes, driving a golf cart in front of the 18th hole, and socializing with other stuffed animals who were also on extended holidays. Hurn’s son was ecstatic about Joshie’s return and delighted to find out he had so much fun while they were briefly separated.
Joshie’s extended vacation is an example of great customer service that resonated with thousands around the world when shared via social media with 12,000-plus Facebook likes, 4,600-plus tweets, and 3,500-plus Facebook shares. The story has been memorialized in at least three books and told in many keynote speeches. It was recently featured in a MarketingProfs Webinar by keynote speaker Scott Stratten, president of UnMarketing, and an expert in viral, social, and authentic marketing, to illustrate his point that when a consumer sees a logo of a brand, in this case of Ritz-Carlton, they are immediately taken back to their most recent or most extreme experience with that brand.
Yes, Ritz-Carlton is famous for its customer service, but any business can learn from this story to never miss an opportunity to ensure customers have the best experience possible. Those experiences are often times directly tied to employees who have direct contact with customers, which means your employees are your best brand ambassadors.
Training your employees to be brand ambassadors starts with internal communication. Whether proactive or inactive or somewhere in between, your level of internal communication affects your employees’ level of engagement, morale, productivity, and even revenue, which is directly tied to that customer experience.
Customers are influenced as much by their experience with a product as by the product itself. If there is a gap between the two, brand mistrust can be the result. Brand perception is driven by a string of interwoven touch points, only some of which fall in the category of marketing, like the brand’s website, YouTube videos, or promotional emails. Many touch points, such as calls to customer service and interactions with the sales associates, sit outside the traditional realm of marketing.
Internal communication is critical when it comes to brand philosophy, marketing initiatives, and the importance of delivering a great customer experience. A disconnect can occur between the promises of promotional activity and what is actually experienced by customers if employees are not clear about what they are supposed to be doing or completely behind it. Marketing tends to be externally focused, but it is equally important if not more so that it is shifted internally. Your most critical target audience is your own employees.
At a basic level, company goals and values must be clearly communicated at the right time and through the right medium so employees know what is expected of them and can align their individual objectives accordingly.
At a deeper level, for employees to feel engaged in their work and motivated to do their best job, they have to believe that they are valued and understand how their role contributes towards overall business goals.
Employees’ perceptions of company brand values do not develop by simply being told what they are, but from the experience they have, day in and day out. It is developed over time and is the sum of many subtle cultural variables such as the quality of relationships they have in the office, through the level of communication that runs through the company from the top down, and ultimately by how listened-to people feel.
If employees do not feel invested in the brand’s philosophy and approach to marketing, then how are they supposed to sell these values to customers?
By using strategic internal communication to demonstrate company values, an engaged and motivated workforce can be created that enhances the customer experience of the brand. And one day, maybe your own company’s version of “Joshie the Giraffe” could go viral.
Andrea Wiley is director of Account Management at DCA Creative Communications Consulting. She is an adjunct professor teaching Advertising at the University of Memphis and is the 2015-2016 president of the American Advertising Federation, Memphis Chapter.
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