Pity today’s customer service agent.

 We do.  Regardless of the industry or the nature of the complaint, whether we’re in an IVR system or face to face, many of us now routinely game the system by “zeroing out,” asking to “escalate, please,” and following up with nasty-grams to media ombudspersons and even the CEO.  [Yes, we’ll admit to grumbling rather loudly about product and service and billing issues.]

 In other words, those on the corporate frontlines must have the patience of a Job, as well as continual training and reinforcement. 

 It’s the reinforcement that intrigues us.  Delta Air Lines, for instance, is sending its 11,000 agents back to school to counter a very bad year in ratings, arrivals, and baggage handling.  Their five ways to wow customers range from being present to listening and empathy exercises.  “It’s all in how you say it,” explains one of the company’s training facilitators.

 That’s a great start.  How much more powerful would the learning (and reinforcement) be if those lessons were linked to the brand?  At its ultimate, customer service expresses the brand, resulting in well-defined behaviors, engaged customers, and emotionally-connected employees.    [Not to mention increased brand equity and higher profits.] 

 No doubt, branding frontline service requires time, both in its creation and execution.  To work well, it must also be integrated holistically into everything every employee says and does, not just those handling customers. 

In addition to educating all on branding abcs, there are champions to identify, teams to assemble, and, most critical, foundations to put into place:  goals, strategies, tasks, behaviors, measurement, and compliance.   That process needn’t be filled with jargon or too many steps.  Nor overly complicated in words and design.   Or burdened with a ton of rules and regulations.  After all, the best customer service is about doing the right things in the right ways for the right reasons.

 Hmmm:  Common sense and customer service share more than a number of letters.  Adding the brand to that mix equals success for businesses today – and tomorrow.