If your company proposed, would you say yes?

Think about it, your job is a lot like a marriage – it is a commitment that requires engagement, trust, loyalty, communication, dedication and hard work. And let’s not forget time! The average full time employee easily spends more time at work then they do with their spouse. So if your job is essentially your second marriage, don’t you think it’s important for you to love that too?
With such a commitment, you can see why it is crucial for employees to get engaged (to their companies that is!) and for companies to identify and create a culture for employees who are motivated to do so. According to Gregg Lederman’s newest book, ENGAGED! Outbehave Your Competition to Create Customers for Life, 65% of workers are either somewhat or totally unsatisfied. Not only is that upsetting, it is expensive! I’m sure it won’t surprise you to hear that disengaged employees are less productive and deliver a less efficient customer experience than those that are in love with their company.
Case in point, a friend of mine recently told me that she planned to “break up” with her salon because her stylist was always late and rushed through her appointments. The term “break up” might sound silly but it’s the truth behind what happens when companies do not deliver a positive experience.
Consider the experience you are creating for your customers with your actions and behaviors. They should reflect the commitment you made to your organization and hopefully, the love you have for your company.
Marriages are meant to last for a lifetime and so should customers! Consistently delivering a positive experience shows your dedication to your company, outbehaves your competition and creates a culture filled with customers for life. Think of it as your vow to live the brand, every day, and you’ll be amazed at what it will do for your “work marriage”!

The Little Company That Could

Allow me to tell you a story. A story about people like you. A story about a company that might sound just a bit like yours.

Once upon a time there was a little widget company called XYZ Widget. The public loved their widgets. All the workers at XYZ Widget were happy because they understood why people loved their widgets; they felt like they were part of a team, making something important and good. They believed in their head widget-maker, the leader who inspired them to make the best widgets on Earth. They worked together to make not only the best widgets, but a great company. Customers loved XYZ’s widgets so much that they bought more and more of them. And the little widget company grew very fast.

Every day, XYZ Widget buzzed with activity as they made more widgets than the day before. They began to hire more people to keep up with the increasing demand. The workers liked working there so much that they told all their friends to apply for jobs. “Come and work for XYZ Widget,” they said. “It’s great here!” So their friends came and got hired. The new workers needed to be trained, so the original workers became the managers of the new workers. The trouble was . . . the original workers were not trained to be managers, nor did they know how to keep the small-company spirit as it became a big company. They only knew how to make excellent widgets.

One day, one of the widget-making machines broke down, and production was brought to a halt. By this time, the company had grown so big that it was churning out a million widgets a day. The workers were getting burned out by the pressure to keep up the pace. Workers started looking around, pointing fingers, and blaming each other for breaking the crucial machine. Arguments ensued, some people quit, customers got upset because the stores had run out of widgets, and the managers didn’t know what to do. They scratched their heads and asked, “What happened to the little company that we all loved working for?” Pretty soon, XYZ Widget started losing money.

As a result, the head widget-maker, who had been traveling the world winning awards for founding the greatest widget company ever, came back to the plant to see for himself what was going on. He looked around at the unhappy workers and substandard quality widgets, sighed, and said, “This isn’t the kind of company I wanted. No wonder we’re losing money. We’ve lost the spirit of what made XYZ Widget great. Let’s take a step back and figure out who we want to be.”

So they did. The managers, leaders, and employees at XYZ Widget gathered and defined the five values that had been most important to them from the start. They proudly announced to everyone, “This is who we strive to be.” But they didn’t stop there. You see, the head widget-maker knew that the company values wouldn’t stick unless everyone, even the new hires, knew how to live out those values, and until managers knew how to manage to those values.

So the XYZ Widget leaders and workers made a list of 15 basic behaviors that everyone at XYZ Widget could and should do every day to produce superior widgets and be the best place to work. The behaviors were simple things like, “Smile and say hello,” “Offer to help others,”  “Take initiative to solve problems,” and “Say thank you.” Thus, the XYZ Widget Experience was born. When the naysayers complained, “That’s just common sense! Why do we even have to talk about such basic things?” the head widget-maker responded, “These behaviors may be common sense, but they are not common practice. If they were, we wouldn’t have some of the problems we have.”

The head widget-maker knew he had to “walk the talk” for his people to take this effort seriously, so he led the charge to reinforce the XYZ Widget Experience by practicing the basic behaviors himself every day and making the XYZ Widget values part of his daily conversations. To help the whole company stay on track, the head widget-maker provided training and some simple tools to help his managers “Manage the XYZ Widget Experience” with their teams. He also invested in an online system to remind everyone of the basic behaviors through real-life stories and positive reinforcement. His people were able to publicly recognize each other for doing the XYZ behaviors—submitting their stories in the online system for everyone to read. Managers kept up the reminding by sharing a story from the system at each team meeting. Each week, the workers looked forward to finding out which story would be featured and to hear an example of their peers delivering the XYZ Widget Experience.

Because of that, the workers began to copy the behaviors they heard others being recognized for. They began to see each other doing the XYZ Widget basic behaviors more and more. The workers began to feel happy about coming to work again. They got engaged with the XYZ Widget Experience, they understood how they contributed to XYZ Widget’s vision, they worked harder, and they felt proud of working together for the good of customers, the company, and each other.

Until finally, XYZ Widget got back to making the best widgets on Earth, being the great places to work, selling more widgets than ever.

Oh, and yes, being wildly profitable.

This could be the story of almost any one of Brand Integrity’s clients. Will it be your company’s story?

Sarah Derrenbacher is a colleague of mine.  She forwarded these stats to our team a few weeks ago.  They speak for themselves.  They should speak to YOU too.

Did you know?

49% of executives believe customers will switch brands due to poor Customer Service 89% of customers say they have switched brands because of poor Customer Service 80% of companies rate Customer Service as a top strategic objective
93% of business leaders say that improving Customer Service is one of their top three priorities for the next two years
97% state that Customer Service is critical to their business success
20% loss of annual revenue is the estimated cost of failure
91% of businesses want to be a Customer Service leader
37% are getting started with a formal Customer Service initiative

Nothing I can say in this blog could possibly have more impact on you than those stats.  Will you ignore them?  Go into denial?  Point fingers?  Or will you do something about it at your company?


Source: O’Keeffe , Bloomberg Businessweek

March Madness – A National Experience

March Madness Experience logo

March Madness Experience logo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Unless you’re living under a rock, you’re probably well aware of the madness that’s going on right now, a little something called March Madness. The office lunch room tables are probably filled with NCAA brackets and I would be willing to bet that a few office mates are trying to stream the games on their laptops.

March Madness has evolved into a huge national social event that lures in millions of fans every year for a weekend of non-stop sports action. Have you ever stopped and wondered how this happened?  How did this weekend manage to grab the attention and calendars of millions of basketball fans around the world? I think the NCAA could teach businesses a thing or two.

Let me start to paint a picture for you .Think about a basketball team, let’s say Syracuse Orangemen.  They are a team, a company if you will, that is made up of players (employees) and a leader (Coach Boeheim) and we as fans are the customers.  Coach Boeheim has cultivated a culture where each player has a set of behaviors and a common mindset that these players do every day they come to work.  From Point Guards, Shooting Guards, to Forward Centers each position has a set of behaviors that should be performed each time they hit the court.  These players have a common mindset that guides behaviors which in turns creates the branded experience. That’s the experience we, as fans, have each time we watch.

Coach Boeheim’s role is to engage his players, hold them accountable for their actions, and set clear expectations for the team. When a team of engaged players work together to perform these behaviors and expectations, they provide fans the ultimate experience and this is when we fall in love. For this reason we intently watch every March to see our favorite team work together to win the championship and provide us with a weekend filled with brackets, bantering, and beers. It is the experience the teams provide their fans that keep us engaged….. so engaged that vacation days are used , friendly wagers are placed, and people turn to social media as a means to express their emotions through out each game.

If I haven’t totally twisted your view on March Madness and you’re not completely disinterested in this weekend now; think about how they quantify that experience. How does the team measure and manage the experience they provide their fans? Ticket sales, TV ratings, and even recruiting are ways they can measure and manage. Successful teams fill seats, get people to tune in, and recruit players who understand the mindset and behaviors of the team and fit the culture.

The reason I feel like businesses could learn from these teams is because the experience I talk about above is actually the experience we help design for our clients and their customers. Its a system and it works.

In our upcoming book ENGAGED! Outbehave the Competition and Create Customers for Life, Gregg Lederman outlines a specific system that can prove successful in any company, a Living the Brand System.  The Living the Brand system is an approach for defining, reminding others about, and quantifying the experience employees and customer have.  No one person owns this system – it’s a system that works across all departments and every job function can own it. In order to implement a Living the Brand system, a company must do 3 things:

  1. Define the branded experience
  2. Remind employees about the delivery of the experience setting clear expectations and holding everyone accountable
  3. Quantify the experience and link it to financial results.

So think about the companies or teams you love, the ones that fully engage you, that make you want to come back again and again, why is that ? These companies and teams (whether they know it or not) have a Living the Brand system in place and they know how to outbehave their competition and create customers/fans for life.

Happy March Madness! Go Orangemen!



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Trader Joe’s is Buzzing Up the Right Tree

A few weeks ago, Ashley shared a great blog post about her love for Trader Joe’s and how the customer experience that they deliver creates actual shopping addictions.  I too have a slight obsession with TJ’s and want to share a recent experience I had there that reinforces Ashley’s point.

Let me set the stage:  It’s Saturday morning in Rochester, NY.  I wake up to sunshine and birds chirping for the first time in what feels like an eternity.  I get out of bed, put on the coffee, and go check in on my little Caleb, who is still asleep in his bed.  As I sit down to enjoy my cup of Joe, I start thinking about what I need (want) to accomplish on this glorious day.  1. Get a work out in  2. Clean the house 3. Go shopping at Trader Joe’s.  Yes, one of the first thoughts of my day was not that I needed to go grocery shopping (that dreaded chore), but that I WANTED to go grocery shopping…at Trader Joe’s.

Now, the first day that we get “warm” weather in Rochester is a BIG deal. Everyone comes out of hibernation wearing shorts, t-shirts, and sunglasses, even though it’s only 40 degrees out.  People are out walking their dogs, running, headed to the markets.  Traffic is crazy.  People are smiling for the first time in 6 months, seriously.  I am fully aware that when I go to Trader Joe’s it’s going to be a mob scene.  Sure enough, we get there and it takes a good 10 minutes to find a parking spot. As we walk through the parking lot, I see there is cart-to-cart traffic inside the store.  I take a deep breath and look at my 5 year old who does NOT want to be there and start to second guess my decision, just for a minute though because as we are walking in, we are distracted by this sign:


Less than 30 seconds later, as we start to make our way through the sea of carts, a smiling gentlemen in a ridiculous Hawaiian shirt comes up to my Caleb, kneels down and asks him if he saw the sign about finding the bee.  Caleb excitedly shakes his head Yes as the employee gives him a clue about where he might find the bee.  “Do you know what bees make?” he asks Caleb.  HONEY, Caleb shouts excitedly!  The remaining 40 or so minutes we spent in the store was not the typical “How much longer? Are we done yet?” type of shopping trip. No, it was an exciting adventure!  Each aisle a new opportunity for discovery.

When he finally found the bee (yay!), we went to the Captain’s Desk (service desk) and a second very animated employee awarded him a sugar-free lollipop in a fashion that I imagine the President might award a war hero the Medal of Honor.

The point of my story is that when an organization provides THIS level of customer service, it does create an addiction.  The sacrifice of waiting in long lines doesn’t seem so bad anymore.  You feel a fondness towards the people who go out of their way (even on a busy day) to make your child feel so special. TJ’s is not only creating loyal customers, they are creating future customers, however tiny they may be right now.



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