Article by Dylan Kohlstadt – Shift ONE
If your staff are your brand, then what message does your brand reflect?
The way you conduct business and the way your staff treat your customers is the essence of your brand. At the end of the day, your staff are at the forefront of your business as they are the ones who interact with your customers, so they determine what your brand experience is like.
Happy customers talk. Unhappy customers walk.
I recently experienced this with ACSA (Airports Company South Africa). I had checked in for my flight and was ready to go, when ACSA found my small Leatherman knife in my bag (a girl always needs to be prepared). The security man, Jabu, was so friendly and helpful, working through various options with me. After quickly dropping the Leatherman back at my car, he fast-tracked me through the queue and quickly got me onto my flight – no problem.
How did that make me feel? Awesome! So I told my followers and friends about it.
A great brand experience is when your customers experience your brand promise, seal of excellence, and total commitment from every staff member and every encounter with your business. In this instance, ACSA nailed it, all because of Jabu.
Here are FOUR ways to create a quality brand for your business
1. Determine your values
If you don’t know what your business’ values are, how are you going to know if your staff are meeting your brand promise? Know what your business values are and only hire and keep staff that match those.
I live by this rule and follow it very strictly. It is very important to me that my staff know our core values, hold them close to their hearts, and live them out. I will only hire staff that are on-brand, no matter how skilled they are or where they’ve worked.
This ensures that our customers have a consistent experience with us as my whole team works hard, learns fast, and gets the job done in a friendly manner.
2. Test your customer experience
We have two ways to determine how your customers perceive your brand and how your brand is experienced in the market place:
- Mystery shopping. We get people who represent your target market to shop at your store and rate their experience on a number of different (very clever and insightful) levels. This helps you see weaknesses where you may not have thought to look, and will give you insight into what your customers experience in your store on a day-to-day basis. Think you know what it’s like to be your customer? Think again.
- User testing. Pull individuals from your target market into a room (one at a time) and get them to go through your website, your menu, your app, your food, facilitated by an expert (moi, of course) and get honest feedback. Understand how they perceive, experience and use these touch points. It’s not an expensive exercise, but it can save you millions. Seriously, the clever guys are doing this. Those with the best website usability, win.
3. Hire the right staff
At ShiftONE, I personally hand-pick each and every staff member, carefully and with great expectation. I’ve often been asked where I find my staff, because they are awesome, but I’m not telling!
Less important than skills is attitude, aptitude, and personality. I can teach them any skills they might lack, but I sure can’t teach them to have a good attitude.
In the book, Traction by Gino Wickman, there is a brilliant example of measuring staff against values, called the People Analyser:
The plus means they are always on brand, the minus means they don’t display the quality and the +- means they are only sometimes on brand. Wickman believes that the recommended bar for a company with five core values is three plusses, two plus/minuses, and never a minus.
Again, we come back to company values. Know what they are, how to measure them and how to reward them.
4. Keep your staff happy
Once you know what your customer experience is like and you know that you have the right staff, it is very important that you retain your staff.
Hiring and training staff is expensive, and time consuming. It also takes valuable team members away from productive work.
If you want your staff to buy into your values and brand, you need to treat them well and appreciate them, or you’ll find yourself all alone trying to effect an organisational culture change.
Here are my top six ways of rewarding my staff:
- ‘Biltong’ prize. I like to reward my staff with a R100 spot prize (called the biltong prize, but they can use it for anything they like) when they’ve gone above and beyond what is expected, if they’ve done a job very well, or if a customer is super happy. They can also nominate each other for doing things that are ‘on brand’. You want to reward and motivate the right behaviour. I guess it’s about catching people doing things right, and not always looking for what they’re not doing.
- Medical benefit. I’ve taken out private medical care for all my staff that don’t have medical aid to give them peace of mind on the roads. With Angel Assist this only costs me R149 a month – so worth it.
- Birthday leave. I give each staff member a day off on their birthday – my staff love this one.
- Birthday gift. To sweeten the deal, I also give my staff a R250 JBJD handmade jewellery birthday voucher for them to spoil themselves with.
- Monthly coffees. I connect with my staff at least once a month over a coffee. We don’t just talk about work, we chat about their goals and how they can reach them as well.
- Right people in the right roles. I move my staff around to make sure they are happy with their positions at work. Put the right people in the right roles and they’ll be motivated and happy.
So, what’s the big take away?
Creating a quality brand for your business is as important as providing a quality service or selling quality products.
It’s something that has to be handcrafted; it’s not something that just happens by itself. It’s an intentional process that needs constant care, measurement and refining.
Bottom line? Take care of your staff, and they’ll take care of your customers and brand.