Thousands of opportunities to build the brand lost every week

In the words of Tony Hsieh, CEO of every contact is a branding opportunity.

In the mid 1980s, Jan Carlzon, then CEO of Scandinavian Airlines, said that every contact that we have with customers is a moment of truth – an opportunity to make a positive impression on the customer.

Tony and Jan are speaking the same language. Every contact with a customer can build our brand image and build customer loyalty. Or, at the other extreme, a contact between an employee and a customer can damage the brand. However, in most cases, the contact is wasted. It is a bland experience that leaves no impression on the customer at all. A branding opportunity wasted.

I had an appointment with a skin specialist at a local hospital. First of all, please do not send flowers and notes of care, as this was just a minor issue!

I entered the hospital clinic and, as I always do, walked to the reception wearing a warm smile. I was confronted by a professional but cold “good morning”, which was quickly followed by “Please fill out this form.”

In a nanosecond, I got the impression that I was being treated as “skin condition number 8 for the day” rather than “George Aveling, human being with human emotions.”

I noticed that patients were going into the doctor’s office for their consultation and came out very soon after. There were not a lot of people in the clinic, and the doctor certainly was keeping things moving.

It was soon my turn to see the doctor. I did my normal trick of giving a warm smile (I’m that sort of guy!) and the doctor did the trick that seemed to be how they did things in that office. He gave me a professional, but cold good morning. He asked a couple of questions and quickly prescribed some medicine, a skin cleanser and some ointment (hey, I’m sharing some personal stuff here!).

There is more to this story, but this is enough for this blog post.

The question is, would I recommend this hospital and this doctor to others? The short answer is that the doctor and his staff did not do anything wrong. But they did not do anything to have me want to recommend them to others.

In the words of Tony Hsieh, this branding opportunity was wasted. Or in the words of Jan Carlzon, my moments of truth were non events. They weren’t negative experiences, but they weren’t positive either.

My guess is that the culture of this hospital is to treat the patients as illnesses to be dealt with, rather than patients to be cared for.

The impact is that thousands of branding opportunities are being wasted every week.

In the language of customer service, it’s important to focus on both the functional (the medical condition) and the emotional elements of the service encounter.

Many organisations equate a good customer experience with meeting the functional needs of the client. In the case of the hospital, this means eg being reliable, making a correct diagnosis and treating the illness. They provide a “professional” service.

What they don’t seem to understand is that it is the critical role of emotional experience. The quality of the emotional experience will be the key factor that will determine whether the customer becomes a raving fan or not.

Now think of the way that your organisation interacts with customers. Focus on both the functional and the emotional sides of the customer experience (and do a good job at them!) and your customers will grow your business and brand for you.

Until the next post…



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