When people think about brands and brand management, they usually think about one of these things: brand positioning, brand strategy, brand identity and brand marketing. But they should also think about customer touch point design and execution. This is often driven by processes, systems (human and computer), organization design, front line employees (including customer service and tech support), hiring criteria, training, metrics, reward systems and other HR, operations and IT functions.
Consider the impact of each of the following scenarios on how you might perceive the brand:
- Someone in a branded vehicle cuts you off in traffic and gives you the middle finger.
- You call a customer service line and are asked to punch an endless set of digits only to find that there is no option for what you are seeking.
- You call a customer service line and are put on hold for over 20 minutes only to have the call dropped so that you have to start all over again.
- You interact with a tech support person who knows less than you do about fixing a problem you are encountering.
- You complain at the front desk of your hotel about a problem in your room but no one ever shows up to fix it or to compensate you for your inconvenience.
- (This one actually happened to me this year.) You sit on a chair in the hotel. As you get up a small nail sticking out of the seat tears your brand new dress slacks and cuts your leg. You inform the hotel staff but they do nothing about it. You move the chair away so no one else encounters the same problem but they put it back again...repeatedly.
- You find rodent hairs in your soup.
- Your online reservation is lost when you arrive at the hotel. They tell you that there are no available rooms except for the presidential suite, which is $600 a night.
- When you reach a customer service representative, she informs you that she does not have the proper authorization to fix your problem.
- You receive a defective product via FedEx or UPS. When you reach the company's customer service person, he doesn't give you a pre-paid return address label to send the defective product back. Instead, he gives you the address to which you need to ship the defective product at your expense.
- You enter a cafe's restroom only to discover filthy toilets, sinks and floors. You are afraid to touch anything, especially the toilet seat.
- You are served partially frozen food at a restaurant. The food was supposed to be hot. Your waitress has disappeared. You can't find a waiter or waitress to whom you can complain.
- Or, we are in the mist of this, Southwest Airlines has cancelled your flight and the flights of most everyone else because of a systems problem. You can't get back home. You are furious and they can't seem to solve the problem.