Online Behaviour

There’s a saying in modern business ‘your culture is your brand’. However good your business strategy or impactful your marketing, delivery of your brand promise to customers relies on the daily behaviour of your staff.

This was always true in the service sector but today it applies equally to consumer brands, business to business brands, government agencies – in fact almost any collaborative human activity. This is because social media activity and online marketing are now integral to almost any organisation seeking to influence external publics. And online marketing is decentralised: permitting individual members of staff to engage outsiders. If, as a business owner, that doesn’t worry you … it should.

Because very few employees permitted to speak on behalf of their organisations on a daily basis, have been given any more than vestigial guidance on how to do it. Their managers (drawn almost exclusively from preceding low tech generations) don’t know how to do it themselves so prefer to delegate the problem.

The young people who manage communications in the online space tend to be well intentioned. That is a good start, but they deserve clearer guidance on what they can say, and how they should say it. Better still, their orientation should begin with ‘why’. Why is it important for the organisation to engage customers and what do we hope to achieve by doing this?

For most companies, the priority tends to be complaint resolution. I have seen briefing documents which give the online objective as ‘reduce customer complaints by 50%’. While that gives a clear metric, the word ‘reduce’ will create problems unless it’s properly unpacked. Staff may interpret ‘reduce’ as ‘suppress’. Others will not have the skills to tackle complex issues alone and will need to refer to other internal departments to achieve resolution. But, if those departments have not been aligned to the brief, they will not help.

Anyone who has worked in Customer Care will tell you that an entire day spent resolving complaints would test the stamina of a saint. So, it’s important that young people in the online front line get the opportunity to tackle other challenges. Reactivating lapsed customers; notifying promotion winners; inviting happy clients to recommend friends.

Begin the briefing process for your online team by talking them through your organisation’s Brand Promise. A well-crafted Brand Promise takes the Business Purpose and recasts it in language that outsiders will understand. A simple statement of belief – why we exist and what good we intend to do for customers.

Plus, a re-articulation of Company Values as simple-to-action Brand Behaviours. Staff on the front line will understand what to do when they are prompted to ‘be interested’, ‘be fair’ and ‘be enthusiastic’.