A few weeks ago I had a good talk with Josh, a financial expert at my bank about restructuring my retirement plan. At the end of our talk Josh handed me a computer printout of various financial scenario’s. Lots of numbers and graphs. Impressive stuff. He also gave me his business card. It has written Personal Attention. Anytime, Anywhere on the back. Nothing too catchy, but a nice sounding brand promise nonetheless. It’s also meaningless.
One week before my meeting with Josh I got a phone call. “Good morning mr. van de Werk. My name is Mark. I see you’re interested in one of our retirement plans?” Halfway through our conversation the signal on my iPhone starts degrading and I suggest I call him back. “Do you have a number I could call?” I ask.
“I’m sorry, you’ll have to go through our central service number.”
Moments later I am greeted by a computer. “Please enter your account number.” When I finally get back to Mark, he suggests I make an appointment with one of their experts – next Tuesday at 10:00. The expert will help me put together a better retirement plan. “So, what’s this person’s name?”, I enquire.
“I don’t know yet. When you get at our office, my colleagues will able to tell you from our system, though.”
Tuesday 09:40 “Good morning mr. van de Werk, this is Samantha. According to our system you have an appointment at our branch office at 10:00 today. I’m afraid there are no mortgage experts available in our particular office. Can I make another appointment for you?”
Mortgage? Huh? Grudgingly I agreed. And that’s how I met Josh. Josh did a good job, but his brand promise didn’t feel genuine. It annoyed me. Especially when I got home.
On my doormat I found a small package from Uitgeverij Snor. My wife had ordered some children’s books. With it came a friendly postcard. On the back somebody had written:
“Dear Carmen, thank you for your order.
You will receive them in two packages.
I hope you enjoy the books and best [wishes] from SNOR!”
Sure, it’s bad grammar, but who cares? I got a handwritten note! Somebody, not some computer, not some system, but a real person had taken the time to write that note. Now that’s personal. Uitgeverij Snor may or may not have a fancy brand promise written on its business card (I really wouldn’t know) but they are damn well keeping it.
Lesson to be learned: not making a brand promise may be bad, breaking one is much, much worse. So here’s two basic questions I would like you to ask yourself:
- What promise does my brand make to its customers?
- How do I make sure this promise is kept?
You would be surprised to see how many of us stumble when asked these fairly basic questions. And if we are left groping for words, how can we expect our employees and colleagues to fare much better?