What's more important? Building a brand, or serving your customers?
Happy buyers are essential to making your business succeed. Without customer service, it doesn’t matter if you’ve created a great brand. Ignoring buyers or potential customers is counter-productive to the ultimate goal of attaining success.
That being said, a strong brand identity is like a way-finding system for your customers, so it’s very important, too. It signals what you do, how you position yourself and lets your customers understand how you fit into the marketplace, and how it relates to them. Customers encounter your brand and should quickly understand a brand’s personality and position among competitors and decide whether there is a good fit.
That’s how the Graham Cracker Cookie Crumbles
Some of you know, my husband, David Horsfall, and I opened Alki Surf Shop in Seattle seven months ago. It may be February, and so what if Boston is buried in 100 inches of snow (@chillie31512)? The weather in Seattle has been balmy, and Alki Surf Shop is gearing up for spring and summer!
One of the things I’ve learned about retail stores like ours — there is a need to continually integrate new, fun and useful merchandise, as well as give each of our customers as positive an experience as possible.
We installed a new section of slat wall, which is a display system that will allow us to add food items this summer. One of the things we have been researching is ingredients for S’mores.
In the spirit of due diligence, we’ve been reading reviews by consumers concerning their feelings about certain brands of marshmallows and graham crackers. A brand I’ve never heard of landed on my radar, so I sent a query asking about where I might be able to find their goods to try them, and what it would entail to open an account (minimum opening orders, terms, etc.) if it looked like something we want to pursue.
Here is their reply:
Granted, Alki Surf Shop is not going to move the dial even an iota in terms of product orders, but it struck me as a bit lame, similar to when an intern will post something silly on behalf of a national brand on Twitter.
May I help you?
For whatever reason, this phrase seems to have fallen out of favor. Some companies seem to have erected walls between themselves and their customers. When is the last time you were able to reach someone at Google or Twitter, for example?
Also this week—we ordered a large batch of hoodies to take to our screen printer. When attempting to contact the supplier to confirm the order was ready for us in Will Call, we weren’t able to reach them. My husband, on a leap of faith and using the directions on their web site, drove there to pick them up. But the building wasn’t where it was supposed to be and they weren’t answering their phone. So a 40-minute drive from Seattle to Auburn was wasted.
Eventually I called customer service for their parent company who was able to get through to the facility. The rep told me, “Oh, they are really busy and don’t have any customer service reps, so they don’t answer their phone!”
When a business lists a telephone number, but has absolutely no intention of answering the phone, why bother listing it?
On the second attempt, David discovered a glitch in the directions and was able to pick up the hoodies. He asked why they continue to post the wrong directions on their web site, and an employee replied, “One of the guys put it up there, and we heard about the mistake. I guess he never got around to fixing it.”
If you build it, will they come?
Without brand development, your customers might never find you in the first place. Good customer service provides your clients with positive experiences that can carry over to continuing relationships and result in word-of-mouth recommendations. Branding and customer service are essentially two sides of the same coin. When one side is missing, the currency is worthless.
Have you had any exceptionally good or bad experiences with a business? What are they and how have they affected your relationship with them? I would love to hear about your experiences.
Follow Alki Surf Shop on Twitter: @alkisurfshop
Follow Terri Nakamura on Twitter: @terrinakamura
Shop at our online store: http://www.alkisurfshop.com
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Alki Surf Shop is located on Seattle's best beach. 2622 Alki Avenue SW, Seattle, 98116