Putting People in Your Plan: Why Marketing and HR Should Share an Office

July 13, 2010 | blog | By Mike Sullivan

Chick-fil-A-script-red-smPart One of a Six Part Series

The most important marketing weapon for consumer-facing brands is something most companies assign exclusively to human resources. It’s people. The customer experience is a social one driven by emotion. Whether it’s a restaurant, a shoe store, or an airline, the way customers feel about their interactions with the people serving them is the heart of the brand experience. Each exchange either strengthens or weakens the customer’s bond with the brand. After all, a brand represents what people think it’s like to do business with a company. And what customers think about a company and the way it treats them has the power to make or break it. Great products and smart advertising are potent marketing weapons, but the customer experience trumps all.

The Friendly Folks at Chick-fil-A
Chick-fil-A knows how to deliver a strong customer experience as well as any company. In study after study, Chick-fil-A stands alone as the leader for delivering quality customer service with a gaping chasm separating them from second best. In a recent study fielded by Coca-Cola, Chick-fil-A’s score for friendliness was nearly twice that of the second-friendliest fast food chain, and more than double the category average. According to the Coke study, friendliness, which is a critical performance indicator in the restaurant category, includes simple pleasantries like saying “please” and “thank you,” smiling, and making eye contact. Being polite sounds simple enough, but based on the comparably poor scores for the balance of the fast-food chains in the study, it’s exceedingly difficult to get front-line employees to extend themselves.

This is unfortunate for most companies, because it couldn’t be more important. As social beings, we’re constantly evaluating our daily experiences based on social interaction and feedback. An evaluative loop whirls away in our minds behind the scenes giving us constant information about our sense of belonging, status, self-respect, and so forth. This process is so fundamental to our human experience, we tend to forget about it. Too often, as marketers, we do forget about it, or at the very least we overlook it. The leadership team at Chick-fil-A always remembers that delivering quality social experiences is core to its success. And that begs the question: In a society where the prevailing consensus is that basic civility and good manners are on the decline, how does a company train people to be well-mannered and friendly. How do we teach employees to show up socially in a manner that invites people to connect with our brand?

Topics: customers, Marketing, advertising, chic-fil-a, coca-cola, coke

Mike Sullivan

President at LOOMIS, the country’s leading challenger brand advertising agency


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