Are brand image and customer service intrinsically linked? You can bank on it

July 16 A new J.D. Power retail banking survey shows that image is more important than proximity, products or service.

A bank's image is based upon a customer's unique experience. And the customer experience, in turn, drives his or her recommendations: both positive and negative. So, a bank literally lives or dies based upon how well it treats customers. And that is as it should be.

While these findings may elicit a 'no duh' from most marketers, it's shocking to see how many organizations still get it so wrong. Airlines and cable companies are classic examples (so are NJ Transit and my buddies at the TSA. But, that's another blog for another day).

While the airline and cable industries are making positive strides, they continue to suffer from what I've been calling the 'other' digital divide. On the one hand, airline and cable company marketing teams are champing at the bit to ramp up their social media efforts so they can better engage with customers. On the other hand, their peers in customer service are being incentivized to disengage from customers as quickly as possible. Talk about the left hand not knowing what the right hand is doing!

T.D. Bank, which earned top Power scores in the Mid-Atlantic region, gets the connection. They ensure brand and customer service are intrinsically linked. 'Before we hire someone, we see if they smile at us during the initial interview. Then we continue to measure and monitor their attitude to customers,' said Linda Verba, EVP of retail operations and service. A smile? So simple, but so utterly lacking in so many retail experiences.

Public relations can, and should, be playing a lead role in aiding airlines, cable companies and any consumer-facing organization improve their image. But, the best image work in the world can't overcome a horrific product or service experience. That's a C-suite responsibility that too many C-suites have abdicated. Maybe they should smile a little bit more?

*Thanks to Greg Schmalz for the idea behind this post.

2 thoughts on “Are brand image and customer service intrinsically linked? You can bank on it

  1. That’s reprehensible, Gaetano. Here’s hoping that T-Mobile deals with you the same way Comcast dealt with me. They’re actively monitoring the blogosphere and engaging with disenchanted customers. I now have an e-mail and cell phone address for a ‘personal’ CSR if I run into future issues. T-Mobile should follow suit.

  2. On the right hand not knowing what the left hand front…here is a story about T-Mobile. Two years ago T-Mobile was putting on a big push to recruit college age customers. Their Side Kick product was right up their alley for texting, and ease of use. Sounds like a good market strategy for a fourth place company. My daughter was one who bought the pitch. We converted plans making sure the phone would work while she was away at school. The sales rep made sure that she had NO long distance and NO roaming because school was 7 hours by car from her home. Two years go by no problems. Then the following letter shows up in the mail. “Upon review of your account, we determined that, during several recent billing cycles, a very high percentage of your usage on the phone number referenced above occured while roaming off the T-Mobile network. Your current service for the phone number listed above will no longer be available to you as of August 18, 2009 and your service to that line will be terminated. If this cancellation results in all phone lines on your account being terminated, then your account will also be closed on August 18, 2009.” Wow. I called the rep and she said yes they understood the situation and like my daughter many students were being terminated before they headed back to school. Great strategy…reel in the students and then throw them away. You gotta bet those students will never return as customers to T-Mobile.