When Walking the Walk Means Talking the Talk

Have you ever had the experience where you buy a product or service, only to call the customer service number and feel like you’ve been let down? I’m not necessarily referring to horrible customer service, but something a little more tricky to define. Maybe you’re not sure why you felt let down. But gosh darnit, when you took the trouble to call the brand, you expected more. And when you didn’t get it, you felt a little deflated. Like, where was that enthusiastic guy from the TV ads who promised you that you’re more than just a number? Was he kidnapped and replaced with a generic recording that told you to wait, and then further replaced with a generic agent who politely, yet unmemorably, answered your questions? Maybe you listened to a brand’s invitation to call them “to talk,” but then when you called, they didn’t seem to have anything new to say.

Of course many of us have had this kind of experience. It’s a lot more subtle than the customer service disaster, but equally damning for a brand that wants to distinguish itself. When you think about it, it kinda boggles the mind. Brands spend time, energy, and treasure crafting a unique brand promise about what makes them stand out from the pack, only to deliver a brand experience that reinforces the message that they’re just more of the ho hum, same ol’ same ol’.

Recently I had the nifty opportunity to conduct an admittedly un-scientific, yet totally fun audit of a variety of cell phone companies in my local market. What I was looking for was how well these organizations had aligned their online and phone experiences with their overall brand promise, or even their brand “vibe.” What I found was not surprising, but interesting nonetheless.

Contact Us Page

The brands that did it right made a promise on their Contact Us page that aligned with the overall promise of the brand. Whether it was to save money by taking advantage of a unique price plan, or whether it was to be part of a neat organization that was “like me,” these brands gave me a reason to call, and used that reason to reinforce the brand’s overall promise.

IVR

So when I did call, I got what’s know as an IVR (Integrated Voice Response). This is the recording that asks you what language you prefer, if you’re a customer, or if you want the same kind of pizza you had last time you ordered. In my survey, what surprised me was the small number of companies who used this message to reinforce their brand distinction. The ones that did, prepared me to ask about unique savings opportunities, and otherwise got me excited about the experience I was about to have when I actually got to speak to an agent.

Live Agent Experience

Here’s a thought for you: The call center agent is the living, breathing representation of the brand. When I was with Tommy Hilfiger, consumers often called into the call center and asked to speak to Tommy. While that may seem odd, and even a bit naive, it makes perfect sense when you think of it in terms of the caller’s mindset. When people call the brand, they expect to talk to the brand. It’s really very simple.

So, from a caller’s perspective, what an agent says is what the brand says. What an agent forgets to say is what the brand never said in the first place. In my survey I found that some companies recognized this power of the live agent experience, and ensured their agents used phrases that reinforced the brand’s overall position. The phrases varied from a unique value statement to a specific way of speaking. Either way, it helped make the overall experience of the brand complete, and unique.

The brands that used every one of the above touch points to reinforce their distinction made it easy for me to understand why they were different from the others. Predictably, the brands that used fewer, or none, of the above opportunities sabotaged their attempts at differentiating their offer – making their offer less memorable and easier to say no to.

So next time you’re thinking about your brand’s promise, give a thought to ensuring that all of the customer touch points in the call center are aligned as well. It’ll make it easier for your customers to be able to define you, and want to buy from you.

Thanks for reading. Leave a comment if you like.

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