Is Your Team On-Brand?

By Stephen Murphy | Branding Strategist


Okay, this is going to be a bit of a rant, but bear with me, this is something that we all experience far too often.  I'm using the retail clothing trade as an example, but really, the message can apply to most kinds of businesses at the point of customer service.

Two weeks ago I spilled superglue on my favorite pair of jeans (muppet) so decided it was time to buy myself a new pair.  I visited a large retail shopping mall on the south side
of Dublin in order have a large choice of shops and ranges.  Here is a record of what I experienced as I entered each store. Seriously.


Shop 1

I walked in and couldn’t see anyone (it was early morning). Great. 
I began my browse and was reaching into a rack checking the size of a pair I liked when behind me, a mans voice boomed: “Are ye Alright?” This is a colloquial Dublin phrase that basically means Hello.  It has a number of derivatives such as “Hows it goin Bud?” “Howayadoin?” etc. but  the words "are you alright?" are usually melded into the greeting. I looked around and told the guy I was “fine” and delivered that humiliating line most of us use in these situations “yes, just having a browse”.  And on that note he just walked away, I think he was pleased he didn’t have to do anything for me.


I left the shop without buying anything


Shop 2

My foot had barely crossed the threshold when a shop assistant intercepted me with “Do you need any help with anything?”  (There were lots of things, work-related and financial I could think of, but I’m not sure that was what she meant).  Again, I used the standard “Thanks, I’m just Browsing” confession.  She stood about two feet away from me and then followed me everywhere I went.  A bit creepy.


I left the shop without buying anything


Shop 3

When I walked in, I was aware of two assistants at various locations within the store.  They said nothing to me, so I proceeded to burrow through the racks and found a very nice pair  I liked, but the size I was looking for was missing. I turned to ask one of the staff just as she announced to her colleague "I'm off for my coffee break".  I made my way over to the desk to the remaining staff member whom I could see was on the phone.  I waited a while.  There was a lot of laughing going on, so I assumed it was a personal call.  She was kind enough to gesture to me "I'll be with you in a minute". I'd lost interest at that stage.


I left the shop without buying anything


Shop 4

I wanted to head home at this point but forced myself to go into one
more store.  About a minute after I entered, a young assistant approached me (here we go, I thought)  "Good morning sir, please feel free to browse around and if there are any sizes or colours you need assistance with, my name is Brian, and I'll be right over at the desk behind you". Wow, that was a nice approach.


As I searched around, I found one or two items I liked and called upon Brian's expertise.  He was exceptionally helpful.  After finding the exact size and style I wanted, he also managed to get me to try on some other ones I might not have otherwise.  He also showed me a new range that had come in that very morning.


I left the shop having bought four pairs of jeans and one shirt.



This is a true story and one you may be able to relate to.  As I drove home, I reflected on the overall experience.  It costs a small fortune to fit out a modern clothing store:


  • Rent
  • Rates
  • Store Kit-out
  • Brand Identity
  • Insurance
  • Recruitment
  • Staff payment
  • Stock
  • Etc.


All the stores I visited belonged to one chain or another.  Each has their unique style and clothing ranges, but the common denominator is the attention to detail of each environment.  Every element, from the signage to the décor to the uniforms to the bags, is painstakingly designed to build and reinforce the brand.  It begs the question, why are they not as meticulous about their most important brand element - their people?


What were the differences between Stores 1-3 and Store 4?  There
could be many, but my guess is that in the first three, the staff weren’t trained in the right way to engage with customers. In the absence of
good management and training, they fell back on their social skills.
Some retracted into themselves, while others practically jumped on
the customer (me).


The approach from the guy in Store 4 was clearly professional.  He understands the model of his store is self-service, and that I have eyes,
a brain and can browse the racks all by myself.  He greeted me politely
and allowed me the space to look around. If I required help, he was close by ready to assist.


When I did avail of his help, he solved my problem and used the time well by engaging me in conversation and finding out what I like.  He used this information to show me other items that may interest me. He added value to their brand.  The result of this was a healthy sale and a very happy customer.  We all know what happy customers do.


Your brand is your reputation. Your people are the
most important part of your brand. Make sure they represent you well.


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