Branding is an integral part of modern business strategy. But while there are dozens of books on branding products and marketing campaigns, nobody has applied the logic and techniques of branding to customer service -- until now.
Branded Customer Service is a practical guide to moving service delivery to a new level so that brand reinforcement occurs every time customers interact with organizational representatives. Janelle Barlow and Paul Stewart show how to infuse an entire organization with brand values and create a recognizable style of service that reflects brand promises and brand images.
According to this turgid primer, service with a smile is no longer enough. With today's glut of interchangeable commodities and cynical consumers, every aspect of customer service must reinforce the brand image promulgated by the marketing department. Thus, employees of Fabulous Freddie's gas stations try to work the word"fabulous" into every conversation with customers, while Abercrombie and Fitch hires college-age salespeople who look like their catalogue models. CNBC commentator Barlow, author of A Complaint Is a Gift, and consulting colleague Stewart, regale readers with anecdotes about snippy, sullen, ignorant sales associates who undermine brand loyalty and, worse, waiters and customer service reps whose carefully scripted cheerfulness and solicitude leave customers with a sour aftertaste of inauthenticity. Their ideal, derived from complexity theory conceits about the self-organizing behavior of flocking birds, is to get the typical high-turnover, minimum-wage service worker so imbued with the brand's essence that it emerges in spontaneous, emotionally real encounters in which"service representatives and customers dance together in brand space." Their suggestions include lots of human resources exercises in which employees ponder and internalize the brand messages expressed in advertising, as well as acting lessons, penmanship instruction,"personal image and professional presence training," humor classes, seminars in reading body language, and exhortations to"live the brand" at work and at home. A case study of a makeover of a Bahamas resort, in which employees were instructed to translate the hotel's marketing themes into the local island patois and create their own posters, dances and songs about them, gives readers a good sense of the book's softly totalitarian approach to customer service.