Wednesday, February 8th, 2012
Last week, my boiler broke down (bear with me I do have a point here). For two full days during one of the coldest weeks in the year I had no hot water or heating in my flat, and when I called British Gas I was quickly assured that an engineer would be round imminently to fix the problem.
In fact, I would go so far as to say that the person on the other end of the phone was charming, personable and efficient. I hung up feeling like a valued (albeit rather cold) customer, secure in the knowledge that I wasn’t going to be left to freeze. But no one turned up. Then, after waiting for more than ten hours, I had a call from the British Gas engineer to say he couldn’t make it that day and would come the next.
As a result, British Gas found its way into my bad books.
The point I want to make (see, I said I had one) is that despite the very good customer service I experienced from one part of the company (in this case, its call centre), the no-show and rather dismissive attitude of another part (the engineer) succeeded in tainting the whole of the British Gas brand for me. I even tweeted about it:
We at 1000heads are strong believers in the fact that in order to become successfully social, brands need to become more human. This is true both on and offline, whether the point of contact between a brand and an individual is someone sitting in a call centre, standing behind a counter or updating a Twitter feed or Facebook wall. People want to be able to put a face to a name, and a personality to a brand. That is what being social means.
But companies are often so preoccupied with ‘humanising’ and engaging people with certain aspects of their brand that they forget that for the average person, the brand is seen as a single entity; if they have a bad experience with one aspect of the organisation, then it will taint their perception of the brand as a whole.
The trick is to get the balance right. Being human should not mean losing sight of the overall message you want to promote, and being professional should not mean coming across as unapproachable or disconnected.
British Gas made the mistake of believing great call centre experiences are the key to customer loyalty, rather than customer service as a whole (although I should mention that it has since apologised and offered me compensation for the extra day I spent feeling like a polar bear in an ice storm). Others have cottoned on to the fact that maintaining a personable, human side to every aspect of their brand is crucial in making people believe and trust the services on offer. Take a look at this little gem. The sign could easily read “Please use other door”, but in saying so much more, it (ahem) says so much more about the brand beyond the doorway….