There’s this chicken fast food spot with some fantastic yellow and red visual branding. It was founded in NC but it’s growing with locations all over the country. The food is typically amazing and those of us that grew up on NC but have lived elsewhere have nostalgic feelings when a certain smell hits the air or we get a batch of fried chicken that sucks. We all have memories of meals there after church and the big boxes of it brought to the house when a family member passes away. No one says anything bad about the food at all. The chicken, the fries, the biscuits, and the breakfast menu have added pounds to all North Carolinians. And I don’t drink it, but the sweet tea is legendary, it says so right in the name.
However, since the pandemic they have started to fall off in the service department. The food takes way too long causing long lines inside as well as the drive thru. The chicken is cold and the portions are childlike. Are those pigeon wings? They’re mighty small. The seasoned fries that they are famous for are rarely fresh or even seasoned. Once, and this is an absolute true story, I waited in the long line at the drive thru and it started moving real fast. I got excited, thinking they had gotten it together and things were now rolling.
Because of the way the drive thru wraps around the building, I only had a visual account of the two vehicles immediately in front of mine. So I couldn’t see what was really happening. I saw those two vehicles pull off after speaking into the mic. I knew something was wrong but after the 15 minute wait, there was no way in hell I was just gone pull off without knowing what happened.
When I got to the mic to place my order, everything seemed regular.
“Welcome to ____________ may I take your order?”
“Yeah, I’ll have the family pack 12 piece with fries, mac n cheese, and green beans. And can I replace the gallon of tea with a gallon of pink lemonade please?”
“Man, we aint got no chicken.”
It’s time to face it, the world we live in is all about branding. From that expensive ass pair of shoes you bought because of the name to that gas station with the potholes and the creepy cashier that’s less than a mile away from your home, but you will never go to again, every brand wants to make a mark in our minds. And if you think about it, there are tons of brands out there that do just that. But what makes a brand stand out from the rest? Yep, as you can tell from the title of this article, it’s the service! The service creates the experience. The experience forms the memories. The memories forge return customers as well as referred customers, which both generate profits. Let’s discuss how service affects branding, which effects all the other stuff I just mentioned.
Customer experience will leave a lasting impression, whether it’s a good or bad experience. Lets say you go to get a chicken sandwich from the place dressed in red and white, and you’re treated better than your family treats you, the experience and the impression are different. You download the app to order your food ahead of time. You get a little upset that one day a week that they’re closed because, for some reason that craving hits different on that day. The food is pretty good, but coupled with that fantastic service experience, it becomes amazing! People make memes and social media posts about the service, not the food.
Conversely, let’s talk about bad service at a restaurant, such as the fast food spot I spoke of at the beginning. My memories of this experience will live in a different part of my brain. Although it was hilarious to me, because I jut don’t allow much to bother me, the stories I tell about this place will not be about the food, but more about the service and the experience. Or, if I had actually received some food, the story may have sounded something like, “the food was good but…” Now the food will take a downgrade. The service will destroy the taste of the food. This restaurant chain needs to do something about the service and the experience it creates before we just give up on them. Their service is creating bad experiences, which are giving bad memories, producing less customers and lower profits, which can lead to locked doors.
Now comes the fun part, Fixing it using humor, authenticity and professionalism! Brands that find a way to master and utilize the delicate balance of humor, authenticity, and professionalism in their service tend to stick to the memory forever. They become legends. In service, keeping things light hearted means that you’re listening, understanding, and acknowledging the customer while confidently refusing to lose control of the situation and acting, “off brand.” Light hearted customer service interactions make the customers feel at ease while also creating a delightful experience which produces repeat customers and profits.
This balance is achieved and carried along by creating brand characteristics and brand process guidelines for the employees. This is how you avoid “off brand” reactions. To do this, you must first define the brand characteristics. Otherwise you’re just throwing ideas into the wind. Answering phones, greeting visitors, even automated messages on the site must adhere to the characteristics laid out in the brand guidelines. Your brand guidelines personify your brand for employees and vendors. You should establish a personality, a tone of voice, a value statement, the mission that drives it, and the why story of your brand before hiring anyone to portray your brand in the public eye. Once these characteristics are established, guidelines, code of ethics, and employee processes can be documented much easier and passed along
Consistent top notch service will keep you in good memes and keep your lines long because people don’t mind the wait, knowing the food and the experience will be great. You gain this consistency with developing brand characteristics and brand process guidelines. But when it all goes the other way. When your lines are long because you have no values that are taught to the employees and they’re simply slow and don’t care. The managers don’t know the brand processes because they don’t exist. Someday I’m just gonna keep riding, right past the entrance driveway.