I read an interesting article titled “Brand Is Culture, Culture Is Brand”, which examined the relationship between the Human Resources and Marketing departments in an organization. The premise of the piece is that, in the new paradigm of business, these two functions are intrinsically interlinked. I agree with many of the author’s points, and this is a principle I’ve always tried to employ in the businesses of which I am lucky enough to be a part.
It has been proven time and again that people prefer to do business with a company they are comfortable with and which provides excellent customer service. In fact, many individuals would prefer to again patronize a company that may have made a mistake, but was diligent and apologetic in correcting it, over a starchy outfit that gets it right every time. This is a testament that the human factor is just too powerful to ignore.
It’s almost a throwback to the era of “mom and pop businesses”, in that customers are searching for that personal attention and warm feeling from the establishments they patronize. Even if you are a large or multinational company, it is possible to establish a great culture and brand that is reflected in your staff. And yes, this matters if your business exists only online.
I feel that the HR function, which is the gatekeeper of an organization, has a direct impact on the culture of the company and the ensuing customer experience. The degree to which HR exhibits expertise and diligence in hiring and promoting energetic, talented, and customer focused people has a direct correlation on company growth and customer relations.
The idea of close collaboration between the HR and Marketing functions makes good business sense for a number of reasons. The employees of a company are the face of the organization. If you think that the company bigwigs and investors have the most influence on public opinion and customer perception, think again. A customer remembers the person they spoke to on the phone, the clerk at the counter, or the technician that came out for a repair.
I especially love the example in the article of USAA-a huge insurance and financial services company, serving military families. They offer a great training program in which new employees read real deployment letters, communications from soldiers stationed abroad, and walk in cumbersome 65 pound backpacks to get a taste of what it is like to be a soldier. This understandably inspires empathy, which comes across in how employees relate to customers.
I’ve always felt that it is critical to have the right people in the right positions, and then let them run with the ball. They are the ones that will build and maintain the company’s overall voice and culture. If you examine the Forbes list of the Top 100 Places to Work, the list is littered with companies that are known for their dedication to employees and the customer experience. Some of the most recognizable are Google, DreamWorks Animation Studios, and Whole Foods. These names are synonymous with a great customer experience.
There are so many options for a customer to choose from that the deciding factor is often the customer experience. This, more than advertising and promotions is what solidifies your brand in the minds of the public. I think that it is a promising trend that businesses are recognizing the power of their front line employees in their overall branding strategy. The marriage of Human Resources and Marketing just may be a perfect match.
I’ll be giving this topic a lot more thought in the months to come, and I’ll report back with how things go!