You are only as amazing as your customers say you are

It’s often the first to be cut and the last to be adequately respected for its impact on the bottom line, but how your business communicates has never been more important, argues Samantha Hogg-Brandjes, Owner and MD of GinjaNinja – South Africa’s leading boutique tech PR agency.

My 14-year-old told me that her ambition is not merely to be known, but to be famous. While I laughed at her gumption, I was also proud of her ability to dream big and to recognise that her success is determined by the level of awareness she has within her target market, in her case, a discerning audience with an appreciation for an accomplished classical singer.  

The reason I am telling you about my slightly precocious child is because businesses could learn from her. The road to business success is only possible if your market knows who you are and what you offer. More than that, your market needs to understand your value system, your approach to business, your ethos. Your customer needs to feel like they know who they are partnering with and why you deserve their business.

Why? Because today’s customers don’t take much at face value. They are curious, if not, cautious and sceptical. They find it hard to trust a brand and won’t invest their precious resources (read: time, money, repeat business) unless they are truly convinced that it will meet their needs. Of course, these are not just literal product or service needs they are buying, but more about their needs as a conscious customer who cares about the environment, the community, and the planet.

Who you are and what you offer needs to be positioned and communicated repeatedly so that the customer not only gets the message but starts to build trust in your brand.  It’s only by doing this you establish a loyal customer base who feel they understand your vision and mission and that you are worthy of their business. Easier said than done, of course, but it’s the saying part that matters more than you might think.

Consider the powerful role that communications can play within the marketing mix and the greater business. Often the first to be cut and the last to be adequately respected for its impact on the bottom line, effective communication is where your business story resides. It’s where you shape your narrative and develop content that speaks to what the target customer wants to hear. It is external as well as internal, and I stress the internal bit because I have seen too many brands spend all their energy on external comms while the people dealing with customers are in the dark about your grand brand story. Inevitably, your strategy falls flat, and your customer is left underwhelmed, or worse. 

I recently relocated from Gauteng to the Western Cape, and as most people do, decided to use a moving company. I was present for the packing and loading and felt happy and satisfied with the service provided. The brand chosen had its slogan on all the boxes and I couldn’t help but think, yes, they are amazing, just like their boxes say. Yet, as my family and I unpacked, we discovered that a vintage pair of cufflinks that belonged to my late father, which I later gifted to my husband at our wedding, had been removed from its box. I immediately informed said moving company, wanting the appropriate response from a brand that believes they are amazing. What I got was, “oh dear, but you didn’t take our insurance, sorry.” What the individual failed to do was read the room and recognise that I was truly sad to lose these very sentimental cufflinks and wanted them to know that their brand promise was not achieved.

I didn’t care about the insurance, I was telling her so that she would understand how I, her customer felt, and that in that moment, she could make a difference. Instead, it was a procedural response that left me bitterly disappointed. It is not hard to make customers feel seen and heard, strategic communications can do that with ease.  In my case, send me a sorry card or gift, acknowledge how I feel. It’s not about the monetary value of item stolen. The cufflinks were sentimental and irreplaceable – and it shouldn’t be hard for any business, anywhere on Earth to ‘get it’.   It shouldn’t matter that I wasn’t insured by the brand, a wrong could’ve been corrected and wasn’t. 

Brands need to have a better handle on how their employees are communicating, making sure the mission, vision and values of the brand are experienced by customers no matter where in the organisation they deal with the business. In terms of my dad’s cufflinks, I will never see them again, and the moving company has long since forgotten about me. There was no consolation. I didn’t take their insurance, so it’s on me. Were they amazing, well yes, until they stole from me and did nothing to rectify the situation.