What separates good from great is everything.
Raise your hand if you’ve ever had to call your internet provider for technical support. Now raise your other hand if you:
• Had to wait on hold for hours listening to some heinous rendition of Celine Dion’s My Heart Will Go On.
• Got passed from technician to technician with nobody actually listening to your problem.
• Wanted to throw your modem and/or phone against the wall.
• Had to repeat your situation so many times that you wanted to punch yourself in the face.
• Considered drinking a litre of drain cleaner to take the pain away.
I’m raising both hands right now, even though one arm is half-dead from holding the phone to my ear.
Yesterday, I had the pleasure of spending 3 hours on the phone to Telstra trying to get my internet fixed. My call was passed around the world and back (literally) with no practical solutions or even a drop of empathy offered at any stage. It was the second most frustrating experience of my life – second to the time I had to deal with TPG technicians sorting out my last dose of, “You must be in a dead spot.”.
The best part about this whole process was that after my call, I ended up with an email in my inbox to ask for customer feedback (which was a fun activity with a glass of wine in hand!), and then somehow I must have ended up on someone else’s mobile account as I got sent a phone bill addressed to an ‘Alexander Allen’. This then spiralled into them demanding that I pay this $300 phone bill for which I rigorously pressed wasn’t even mine. It was truly confounding.
In short, it’s safe to say that the whole Telstra debacle will stick in my mind like a 3rd-degree burn of shitty customer service. If there are any customer representatives from Telstra reading this, please send a few cases of beer to the Smack Bang studio – I’m deserving, I swear.
A long and painful lesson to learn, for sure, but what this has taught me is that in business, every little detail counts. And I mean ev-err-ryyy detail. The way the customer support person picked up the phone, the way they did (or didn’t) listen to my problems, the way they walked (or didn’t walk) me through the technical process, the follow up (or shall we call it the F-up), the empathy (or lack thereof) and the way I felt as I walked away from the entire business transaction.
Granted, it’s Telstra, and my expectations weren’t exactly high from the get-go, but that’s not to say they couldn’t and shouldn’t have done better.
As business owners, it’s so important that we consider how every little detail on our customer’s journey matters. I believe that the difference between good and great is all the little details along the way.
So today, I’m taking lessons from good ol’ Telstra and applying them to my business. I’m considering all the little ways Smack Bang shows up to the world and how we can craft the perfect experience along the way.
For me, it all boils down to consistency. If you position your biz as a fun, happy-go-lucky one, then you better make sure that whoever answers the customer’s call doesn’t sound like they’ve just come straight from a funeral and overdosed on gin and Xanax on the way to the office. If you’re not making the effort to be consistent at every touchpoint of your brand, people aren’t going to trust, remember, or buy from you. Why? Because people do business with brands they respect, that are consistent with their values and make good on their promises. Consistency connotes professionalism, purpose, and stability. Simply put, consistency makes you look like you know what you’re doing and you care about what you’re doing.
So let’s get detailed. Here are the non-negotiables that I stand by at all costs, with the goal of making Smack Bang the sort of ‘great’ that I hope to see in the world.
- YOUR OFFLINE EXPERIENCE
When it comes to branding, people often forget about in-person experiences. The way people interact with your business offline is often even more memorable than their online experiences with you. At Smack Bang, we try to engage all the senses of anyone who experiences our brand: what are they seeing, smelling, tasting and hearing? When people come for a meeting at the Smack Bang studio, I hope that they smell the scent of our signature candle, the hum of some sweet tunes (and most likely the chitter chatter of my designers), see our on-brand and carefully styled interiors, and experience the taste of our delicious Mayde Tea goodies. We also pay a great deal of attention to things like signage, and how easy it is to find our office. In the same way that it pays for you to consider the same, once people arrive, how does your style and decor emulate your brand story? If you follow our hashtag #smackbangstudio, you’ll know that I’m a bit (read: a lot) particular when it comes to keeping our studio looking spiffy. And there’s a good reason. The way you present yourself to your customers is branding. Even your personal style and how you and your staff dress, is branding. It is all a reflection of the company you’re building.
- YOUR AESTHETIC.
Your imagery, your logo, your font palette, the way your filters are all so damn clean and consistent – all of these elements serve to make or break your aesthetic. We live in a world where people are moved by looks first and function second, and as much as we hate to admit it, aesthetic is everything. Don’t let your brand become the outdated salmon pink slacks your Grandma dons each day. If your brand makes you cringe when you look at it, that’s probably enough of a warning sign to shift gears. Of course, over time, your businesses will mould, move and adapt to new circumstances and future times. You may find yourself needing to revamp and reinvent, and this is okay. The best brands are those that are constantly updating to remain fresh and relevant. Successful rebrands manage to rejuvenate and inject new life, whilst still celebrating the history and heritage of the business. It’s what’s on the inside that counts, okay? But we’re visual creatures, us mere mortals, and we move towards pretty things like moths to a lightbulb. A little bit of style goes a long, long way, and personality and aesthetics tend to go hand-in-hand when we’re talking branding and business. If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, or are familiar with the SBD ethos, you would have heard us bang on a good few times about the importance of consistency. The visual personality of your brand teamed with its values and its message all work together to create bucketloads of personality and are a sure-fire way to bring to life those vision boards you’ve had propped up next to your bed for years and years.
- YOUR WRITING.
How do you make people feel when they read about your brand/products/services? Does your tone of voice align with your brand story, brand vision and brand aesthetics? Branding is clearly articulating what you want people to know, do and feel, with every blog post you write, the Instagram photo you caption, every tweet you post, and every product description you write. It doesn’t stop, and it should always be consistent with the vibe you’re trying to tell (and sell). And when people write you emails? You need to write back with your ‘brand’ top of mind. Spelling and grammar should be practically perfect. The very odd slip-up in communications is reasonable, but consistently sending out comms to people that make you look like you’re onto glass #4 of chardy doesn’t really scream, “We know what we’re doing!”. Similarly, consider the way you answer the phone and the voicemail you use. Is it friendly and inviting? Does it match the fun vibes of your office interior? These touch points, no matter how small, are deserving of brand consideration.
- YOUR DIGITAL.
From your website to your newsletter template to your email signature and even your actual email address— no little detail should go unturned when it comes to how your brand appears online. Is your website up-to-date and putting your very best foot forward? How about your social media presence? Do they link nicely and reflect one another the way you actually want to be reflected? Are they easy to use, and importantly, do they easily result in leads or conversions? And is your email signature doing your brand justice? Do you even have an email signature? So many questions! Yet your digital presence is crucial to how people will relate to and recall your brand, so you’re going to want to really invest in and protect your look and feel across as many platforms and touch points as you have.
- YOUR BACKEND SYSTEMS.
There’s no doubt that people have high expectations. My expectations are on a whole ‘nother level. Yesterday I purchased a bunch of ceramics for my best friend’s birthday and the tax invoice I received nearly made me dry retch. It was so ugly. Fugly, in fact. The ceramics – beautiful. The photography – beautiful. The website – fairly nice. The tax invoice – fugly.Now, I understand that it’s not that important. But I’m also here to tell you that it is. Your tax invoice is ‘branding’. At every possible customer touchpoint — tax invoice, shipping confirmation, delivery package, bumper stickers (lol hello 1992) — put your best foot forward. Wear your Sunday best, only every day! Yep, that’s the sort of commitment it takes to build and build and build a brand with legs. These are often things that aren’t defined in your brand platform, but they are considerations that can make or break an experience for your customer.
- YOUR PRODUCT.
Well, here it is. The real clinker. Your actual product and/or service needs to be absolutely breathtaking to your audience, and the product that shows care, attention, detail, and true quality are harder and harder to find. Boutique, tailored approaches to customers have given way to stock-standard, sub-par wannabes because the market is saturated. But consider this: although everything seems expendable these days, people still love brands they can rely upon, that won’t break on them, that will offer excellent customer service, and that improve their experience every time they make contact. So, you might feel like you’re bobbing around in a huge sea of people offering similar services to you, but now your challenge becomes to be the swimmer at the front. Quite simply, you need to be the fastest and the best at freestyle. And if you aren’t in the water each day training to be the best, well, you probably won’t be *shrugs*.
- YOUR ‘TUDE
Caring about customers doesn’t mean just fixing their problems and checking them off your list. It means listening intently, then digging deeper. Your attitude towards your customers is extremely telling; it basically denotes (or at least is the perception) how you are going to care for them in the long-term. Customers are shopping around for a brand they can rely on, and your attitude towards their needs can make or break a relationship. So, be the company you want to talk to at a party. Be friendly, accessible and genuine. Be transparent, fun, and engaging – committed to real talk over fluff. And, when paired with an excellent product offering, you’ll find yourself top of the class.
Image credit: Chase Middleton