Why Consistent Online & Offline Brand Management is Important

25 Jun

Today’s post is about bad customer service. As you know, a brand is communicated through the customer experience.

Case in point: You visit a spa. The walls are painted neutral tones. There are nature paintings on the walls. The smell of wood, musk, and apricot linger in the air. Your masseur greets you with a cup of raspberry nectar tea and some slippers. You’re here to relax.

Get pampered by the roaring fire.

That’s an example of a direct experience. You can also experience a brand indirectly through ad campaigns and social media. Word of mouth works too. Let’s say the spa tweets daily nutrition, relaxation, and beauty tips. Your experience at the spa (healthy, clean, and relaxing environment) is consistent with their online brand, and vice versa.

This consistency is extremely valuable. The customer experience can vary. The company seems great online. Yes, people will review your company online. But who actually puts the time in to write a review? Customers who had a fantastic experience. Oh, and those who had a horrible experience. Be consistent. Reduce the potential for bad reviews and your online brand will attract clients. They will have expectations for a fantastic experience. Be sure to give it to them.

Manulife Financial Canada is a huge insurance company in Canada. It’s also a great example of poor customer service and shoddy brand management. Managing a large company is difficult. Being consistent is a challenge when you have so many sectors and employees. There is no excuse for poor customer service. There is no excuse for poor internal communication.

The CSRs (customer service representatives) are the forefront of the customer experience. They communicate the company’s brand. So why is Manulife so bad? Their employees don’t know how to assist the customer. Or at least, find someone who can. Instead of providing conscious customer service, they parrot scripted answers at the customer. In a flat, apathetic tone of voice. You can hear them reading to you. If you ask another question, they’ll repeat (or reword) what they’ve just read to you. They’ll keep doing this until you pretend that your question was answered. Or get annoyed and hang up. What an insulting waste of time.

Parrot Employee: Hello, you’ve reached Manulife.

They don’t answer letters. They don’t use e-mail. Their website is disorganized and unappealing. It reminds me of what websites looked like in 2002. It takes you longer to find things. Another insulting waste of time. They don’t even have a Twitter handle!  This all speaks to Manulife’s outdated customer service and sales techniques. Someone needs to tell them that it’s 2012. Answer your letters. Get on board with e-mail. Get Twitter. And fix your website, it’s an eyesore.

This is all extremely harmful to the company’s image. I have never heard anyone say anything good about Manulife Financial. In fact, Google “Manulife sucks” and you’ll find a sea of articles and forums, filled with angry customers and employees. Most complaints are about the poor customer service.

What can be done? PR extraordinaire Gordon McIvor has a fantastic solution.

Employees need to understand and believe in what they’re selling.

It’s that simple. Jot it down. Have it on your whiteboard at the next company meeting. Don’t follow in Manulife’s footsteps. These employees need to be properly trained. They need to understand what their role is. What are they providing?

Do they understand what they’re selling? Can they answer questions without reading off a sheet of paper? In Manulife’s case, the answer is no. The high turnover rate of young employees attests to that. Their apathy and reliance on a script attests to that. Unfortunately, this also sends a bad message about young employees. But, it’s not always their fault. These kids are thrown into the deep end. A shoddy employee training program and poor internal communication are to blame.

Large companies like Procter and Gamble are the epitome of great brand management. So, maybe there’s hope for Manulife, too.

Have you ever experienced poor customer service? What kind of message did it send about the company?


One Response to “Why Consistent Online & Offline Brand Management is Important”

  1. Maria July 10, 2012 at 3:07 pm #

    I experienced poor customer service at a Michael Kors store, twice! The salespeople were snooty and acted like they were doing me a favor by helping me. I did some research, and other people had the same experience. Michael Kors is trying to be a high-end brand, but high-end brands aren’t rude to their customers. They are kind and friendly to get you to buy stuff!!

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