I’ve often told clients that “brand” lives and dies at the lowest levels of their organizations, and can even be found in how a receptionist or shipping clerk answers the phone and treats people.
Today I phoned a large architecture firm and was met with “Good afternoon, XXX Architecture” in a solemn tone of voice. In an attempt to be friendly and engaging, I responded with “It IS a good afternoon, isn’t it? It’s so beautiful I wish it was Friday. How are you?” to which she responded with an awkward silence and then hung up on me with a CLICK. And this is a firm whose brand promise is rooted in the virtues of conversation and treating their clients with respect!
Stunned (and feeling rather rejected), I called back and heard the same voice greet me with “Good afternoon, XXX Architecture” to which I responded “Hi, this is Mark Busse. Were we cut off just now?” Silence. Then she curtly asked “Who do you want to speak to?” and connected me without another word.
Not only did she not know whether I was a prospect, client, vendor, or event new applicant, but there’s no way to take back that kind of first impression. We live in an age where everyone can easily and publicly post their negative experiences with a company’s first line staff which can be quite harmful to a brand (see this post). But more importantly, this is a breach of brand promise and an indication of an unhealthy internal culture—and make no mistake: brand and culture are intrinsically linked.
BRANDING IS A VERB, NOT A NOUN.