We have all experienced it. A slick new marketing campaign peaks our interest in a product or service. It’s usually a bold promise about what we can expect if we purchase a product or sign up for a service. We take the chance, engage with the business and immediately start seeing gaps between what they promised and the actual experience. What happened? Where did the promise go?

Companies that don’t pay attention to the gap between the brand promise and the actual customer experience risk creating a situation where customers sense a bait and switch. This can quickly erode the integrity of your brand and take years – and millions of dollars – to correct.

The practice of Internal-External Brand Alignment can help ensure that your customer experience reflects the promise of your brand by building a strong culture, providing effective and practical training, and communicating consistently and powerfully to your teams. To get started on the right path, you should first identify the various conditions in your business that have a cumulative impact on your service culture. Here are a few we commonly see.

Are you clear about your service goal?
This seems like an obvious question, yet it’s surprising how often I ask this question in consulting sessions and get an uncomfortable silence. It’s also surprising how many businesses immediately say they provide outstanding service, but when I dig a little deeper, it’s clear they’re not delivering anything more than the most elementary and basic customer experience. There’s simply no “delight” to be found anywhere. But maybe “delight” isn’t part of the experience you’re committed to providing. If your goal is to provide a solid, basic experience, then call it that. If it’s true delight you’re after, then the elements that make a delightful experience must be clear and tangible to everyone – most importantly your customer.

Are you putting money, and time, where your mouth is?
Here’s a simple question: is your company spending more time or less time on associate training and communication now than you did five years ago? If your answer is “more,” then good for you. Building a strong culture of exceptional service requires time and commitment. If you’re spending less than before, this could be a reason for declining service standards. Over the past few years, many businesses have gradually starved their communication, training, and cultural alignment and are now seeing a widening gap between the brand promise and the service reality.

What does your employee attraction program look like?
Many service businesses have relatively high turnover. Logic would tell you that these businesses should be masters at attracting great workers due to the fact that they are always recruiting. Often the opposite is true. Many service businesses have extremely primitive programs for attracting a workforce that is right for their brand and gifted at providing a great experience for customers. They rely on the most basic elements of recruiting, like posting a help wanted sign in the window or posting an ad on craigslist. Instead, they could be building a network of qualified candidates who they’ve already determined are brand-right.

Leading companies put tremendous effort into building their employment brand in such a way that it supports the larger brand. This will attract the brand-right people into your company and entice them to stay for the long haul and perform to their highest potential.

Does your entire organization know how cool they are?
When working with an organization for the first time, I’m often amazed at how they do what they do, the beauty of their product, the complexity of their execution, and the innovation they foster. Yet, when I point this out to my clients they often roll their eyes and shrug off the compliment. What makes their company amazing has become mundane and common in their eyes. Providing excitement and engagement for your customer starts with you being excited and engaged first. Does your organization truly celebrate what you do, what you provide, or how you provide it? Take a fresh look at what you do, how you talk about it, how you celebrate it. You might find that the secret to delighting your customer is first of all re-connecting your organization with a true passion for what you do.

Asking yourself these four questions is a great place to start in identifying where your opportunities may lie. How does your organization deliver what you promise to customers?

About Kurt Kennedy

Kurt founded Kennedy Communications in 1988 as a media production company. Since then, Kennedy Global has evolved into the leading internal-external brand alignment agency. Kurt and his team create strategic business solutions that align a company’s external customer promise with an engaged internal culture that generates tremendous results at every level of an organization. Kurt and his team have created strategic programs for some of the world’s most recognized brands including Intel, Nike, Office Depot, Starbucks, Albertsons, Adobe, Dell, LensCrafters, Target Optical, Sunglass Hut, Safeway, Unilever and many others. In addition to consulting with clients, Kurt frequently serves as a speaker and facilitator at a variety of business events around the world including strategy sessions with executive leadership teams, interactive workshops and training sessions at corporate summits, and keynote presentations at industry events. Kurt earned his BA in Mass Communications from Walla Walla University. He enjoys traveling in his spare time.