Service. The only remaining source of competitive advantage

August 8, 2011

Over the past few years, we developed our own vision of branding. We believe that branding is about staff motivation and empowerment, how this relates to good service and how, increasingly, the delivery of a positive customer experience will be a source of competitive advantage. In fact – we stated that service delivery will be the most important differentiator in a competitive environment where everything else can be quickly copied. Copying happy staff that delivers the service, however, will always be difficult.

Our vision has just been confirmed by research sponsored by BDO in “Service 2020: Megatrends for the decade ahead,” compiled by the Economist Intelligence Unit. The research clearly lays out the forces stressing the importance of service, trends that need to watched and the desired outcome that companies must strive for.

The key will always be staff and it is our experience that communicating with staff is perpetually on companies’ to-do lists but rarely gets done. Building a company that delivers an outstanding customer experience through service is done through motivated and empowered employees. This, for obvious reasons, will always cost a bit more and require human-resource management to be one of the priorities company management, instead of something delegated to the third tier of responsibility. By focusing on employees, and getting them to fully understand, and deliver, what the company is about, is the best means of building a strong brand, with staff as the main spokespersons.

Undoubtedly, the best service is delivered by the owner of the business. A family run hotel will always be hard at work providing a better service, because everyone knows and understands where the money comes from. But often the shop floor employee at the supermarket is be so far distanced from responsibility and where the money comes from, that s(he) cannot recognize what is good or bad service and what is making customers upset. This disconnect between the mission of the company and the staff that are supposed to deliver it is a fundamental flaw in organizations, that is not being addressed. After all, it is easier and more manageable to install a new CRM system than it is to train and motivate staff.

Building a strong company brand means making staff fans first. Secondly, it means delivering to customers a service that allows staff to shine. All it takes is hard work with people – complicated, emotional, individual and temperamental people.