Quoted on the 23rd of November 2022 in Outlook India

To read the article as featured on the Outlook India website click the link below.

Getting your dream job should be a moment to cherish. My dream job was to be the Head of Marketing & Communications for a large corporation. When I did achieve this dream job, why did I have a sense of trepidation? Why did it feel like a poisoned chalice?

The reason was that the brand I was heading up was severely damaged. It had lost board members, senior managers and, in addition, it was getting negative press every day for months. There was absolutely no blueprint that informed us on how to rejuvenate a damaged brand.

At that time, it felt extremely painful; but in hindsight it was a blessing in disguise and a great source of learning. Importantly I became one of the few individuals that knew exactly what one must to do recover or rejuvenate a brand. Naively, my goal was not just to recover the brand, but also make it scale new heights. And this is exactly what we achieved when assessed independently.

In another instance, which happened when I became a consultant, one of our smaller clients was trying to stand out against much larger competitors that had humongous marketing budgets. The challenge I had was to make this brand not just compete effectively against those larger sharks, but also stand out in the market. I devised a strategic program that the client executed with perfection. Guess what happened! My client’s Net Promoter Score® went up by 80 points!

Let me share the exact steps we took to turn these brands around. But before I do this, it is important to understand what a brand actually is, since it is one of the most misunderstood terms in the market. Most people think of a brand in terms of image dimensions such as the logo, colours, advertising and other communication.  It is much, much more than just these image dimensions.

As described by the Total Engagement Model® that I created, the definition of a brand is a combination of what you SAY (your image and communication), what you actually DO (delivery of your unique value proposition and your customer experience) and who you ARE (internal cultural elements such as your values and mission). All three must be aligned and designed to drive growth. This Total Engagement Model® was published in an academic journal and was taught at The University of Queensland.

Simplistically, you cannot have a great brand if the customer experience does not match your brand promises. Alongside this, you cannot have great customer experiences if your culture is bad and your staff are disengaged. All the three are inextricably linked and together define what type of a brand you are.

So why does a brand lose its sheen? It is because you have either lost that emotional connection with your customers or the trust in your brand has eroded. ‘Trust’ is a big word and is used liberally by advertising agencies. The challenge is that various people put a different meaning to the word ‘Trust’. Some believe it to be character components such as integrity, honesty, etc. Others apply a meaning around competence such as quality, reliability and responsiveness. As an example, I trust my mother implicitly from a character perspective, but I would not get her to do my brain surgery if I needed it.

Every brand is unique. Hence, the approach that I’ve shared below needs to be tailored to help it regain its sheen. These are high level steps required to rebuild that strong connection and trust with your customers again:

Step 1: Crystallise your customer strategic intentions

This is best done by a strategic workshop facilitated by an expert that answers the following questions.

  • What should our unique value proposition be?
  • How do we position ourselves against our key competitors?

Good Customer experience can mean many things to many people. What is your planned Customer Experience DNA___:

  • In functional terms, such as timely, reliable, responsive, etc?
  • What emotions do you want your customers to feel after they interact with your brand, such as valued, supported, reassured, etc?

 Step 2 – Measure Your customer strategic intentions and extract meaningful insights

Conduct strategic and thoughtful surveys that answer the following key questions:

  • What do customers love about your brand?
  • What do customer dislike about you?
  • What are your pain points?
  • How does your brand compare against your competitors across key attributes?
  • What are your key brand drivers?
  • If there was just one thing you could do to recover your brand what would that be?

  Step 3 Take Prioritised Action

  • Focus on just a handful of themes that are the key drivers and have the most impact on your brand perception.
  • Run strategic ideation sessions top-down, where a select team of leaders develop ideas to address pain points.
  • More importantly, run frontline bottom-up tactical sessions where they develop ideas to improve their own local team’s score.
  • Ensure you have a governance process so that all ideas are visible and are accepted, deferred or rejected by a Customer Strategy review committee.
  • Track and monitor the progress of new initiatives.

The Critical Role of Staff

Now that I have said much about what businesses that are keen to revive their sheen need to do, let me ask you – Who do you think will execute the three steps above and help steer your business towards not just recovery, but also rejuvenation and success?

The answer is obvious – it’s your Staff.

Staff, especially your frontline staff, understand the pulse of your customers the best. They are aware of what products or policies resonate with your customers, and which ones do not. Involving them in the strategy ideation and building process helps your staff feel valued. This also directly makes them feel engaged with the business because they now see a purpose to the work that they do.

What happens when staff are engaged? In my experience, I have found that engaged staff provide 3X more discretionary effort than disengaged staff. They are willing to go above and beyond to ensure that the brand delivers on its business strategy.

The knowledge and best practices that I have shared here is the exact same approach that I have used to revive and rejuvenate brands that were excessively damaged, growing them from rock bottom to becoming the best in their category. One of the most critical legs of the CX chair is staff; hence, developing strong employee engagement initiatives in such a situation is critical beyond measure.

I reiterate that once your employees are fully engaged, it has a waterfall effect where they begin to engage customers equally well. Engaged customers, in turn:

  • SELECT your brand over your competitors
  • STAY loyal to your brand even in times of crisis
  • RECOMMEND your brand to others via positive reviews and word of mouth

This type of approach has helped some of our clients achieve Net Promoter Score® increases by up to 90 points. If you want your brand to regain its sheen and win back your customer market, then practice what’s shared here and you will be guaranteed success.