Recently, I have had contact with a few brand names that prompted me to think a bit deeper about how companies represent their brands and strategy. Why do some brands come across true to their inherent value proposition? Why do employees of some companies trult LIVE the brand? On the other hand, why do some customers come back truly disappointed as soon as they have interacted with a company leaving them with a stark contrast between their expectations and the reality?
The answer I think is written within the DNA of the company. It is the culture of a company, its lifeblood that dictates a customer’s ultimate experience. To put it simply – it’s the reality versus the perception. The buzzwords of employee value proposition and customer value proposition need to have more meaning – one where these two paradigms are intimately connected.
A company’s culture is its DNA – it is the electrical impulse that courses through the structure and fabric of the organisation. Culture is dictated by a few things, however, in the main it’s the way that a company lives its values. They are inseparable. In fact the values, should be espoused as the brand proposition and should be the guiding beacon for all that the firm holds true. This value system is kept real by a few elements:
Are the values that a company articulates merely words on a campaign poster or is this how it truly is? If it is truly lived and if it energises all that a company talks about, then it’s real, authentic and sincere. Once this is in place, there is not much need for constant communication campaigns, HR processes and strategy workshops that are aimed at “maintaining” the culture.
Are the values and culture not just talked, but walked by the leaders? Are they able to put their money where their mouths are or are they paying lip service? Leaders should naturally and effortlessly be ambassadors of the value system and brand identity. They should be recruited for that role!
c) Performance management
Managers and employees will always behave in accordance with how they are measured. The performance metrics of a company therefore need to fit in with the values that the company is articulating and its brand propostion. This is the lock and key to ensure that employees truly live the values, and will be evident at all customer interfaces and contact points. Additionally it firmly entrenches the values into the organisation without any ambiguity or confusion at all levels of the firm.
d) Organisational design
The architecture of the firm should also match its customer centricity and values. Such things as reporting lines, business units and their relationships to one another, communication channels must be created and constantly redesigned to size up to the values.
Lastly and most importantly, the employees within the firm must cohesively and naturally bond to the value system. This can only happen if, first and foremost, people are recruited for company culture and fit. The result is a harmonious synergy between the firms goals and an individual’s sense of purpose.
So, for companies that are faking it, look inside before you wonder what a customer’s experience should be like. A critical first question is whether your employees experience the same brand value from the firm? The ultimate customer experience must be the determinant of your culture and values. Thereafter, everything else needs to tightly knit together to make this happen.
In the words of Shakespeare, “To thine own self be true.” Faking it causes really unhappy and disappointed clients who, by word of mouth, will slowly erode your brand identity. For a brand’s real identity to match up to perception, the entire organism’s life force must emanate it’s values and culture.