Tom Asacker on Branding
Tom Asacker, who blogs about marketing and branding over at A Clear Eye, gave a short interview after his recent presentation at Brand Manager Camp. I want to highlight one of Tom's statements, but check out the whole interview (which is short) and his blog (which is intelligent and stimulating.)
A brand is a customer's perception and an expectation of receiving something.This got me thinking: What are my perceptions and expectations of the various businesses that I interact with?
- My perception and expectation of Lubeworks is, a quick oil change, today's paper to read while I'm waiting, fresh coffee, fresh flowers, honest, friendly and helpful staff, AND I'm going to leave with a smile on my face. (Everyone working there is having a good time! They care about me. I'm "tennis guy".)
- My perception and expectation of Commerce Bank is, I never ever have to interact with a human being to accomplish my business. Yay! (and I'm an extrovert) But on those rare times that I do want to actually interact with a teller or service agent (or whatever they call themselves -- I just noticed, I don't really care), I'm going to be treated by someone with a smile. No charge to dump my jar of pennies in the "penny arcade" and convert my spare change into crisp twenties. Nice touch!
- My perception and expectation of Wegman's is, they will have good prices, a great selection, a convenient 'small' size cart that's just right for me and easier to push through the aisles (why don't all stores have them?), friendly, attentive service, and never a long wait---because they have a few employees just roving to make sure the lines aren't too long and coordinating the opening of new lines. If I'm honest with myself I have to admit: Going to Wegman's is darn near recreational. ("Hon, what do you want to do tonight, go to movie? Hit the cookie counter at Wegmans?")
- My perception and expectation of Petro used to be, a big headache, long waits on the phone, disconnects, arguments, mistakes in billing, a freezing home and no service. Just before I hit my limit with this crappy service, a friendly and helpful Petro service agent told me that they were overhauling their phone system, that it was a big nightmare but it was almost done, and PLEASE PLEASE hang in there with them. Now: I expect, no wait on the phone, quick, friendly service at any time of the day or night, a nice website where I can manage my account and -- YAY! -- request an oil delivery without having to pick up the phone or deal with a voice menu. Thanks for turning it around Petro!
- Our customers' perceptions and expectations of our libraries are... [fill in the blanks] Am I copping out by not telling you my perception/expectation of my library. Uh, yes I am. Truth is, I am a member of two libraries and spend time in countless others. I get great service and really enjoy the feel of being in most of these libraries (and I always have--that's why I became a librarian. Duh.) Lots of smiles, lots of face-out merchandising, coffee, nice nooks to sit in and read or think. Generally, my satisfaction with the physical experience of being at these libraries exceeds my satisfaction with my virtual experience. Libraries, get thee to a web designer!
Tom Asacker suggests that if we offer our customers an appealing experience -- that is, an experience that's going to 1) satisfy their problems, and/or 2) help them feel good about themselves, and/or 3) allow them to make social connections -- they will choose to spend their time with us. I think that's good news for libraries. We DO help people solve problems and we (at our best) offer physical spaces that are ripe with opportunity for social connection. (Here come the "I caught them doing it in the stacks" stories...)
My questions: How can we do this better? How can we offer a consistently positive customer experience across time? Across platforms? (i.e. in-person, on the phone, on the web.) If the experience isn't consistent, how can customers ever come to expect it? In looking at my own behavior, I notice that I'll tolerate a low level of consistently poor or mediocre service more than I'll tolerate inconsistent service. Receiving consistently bad service is actually less stressful for me---as long as I know what to expect. It's the uncertainty that stresses me out...