what happens when the brand’s frontline doesn’t deliver – and why we should be bothered

The last couple of weeks for me have been about contrasts in customer service.  And they’ve all been frontline contact, whether face to face or on the phone.

Take Holiday Inn Express.  Their website promises an improved experience with “Real Service. Really.”  But trying to book a meeting room and couple of bedrooms was more like a krypton challenge of emails gone AWOL, generally being treated as an inconvenience and multiple misunderstandings.

The irony is that when I tweeted this:


their parent company (Intercontinental Hotel Group @IHGcare ) twitter guys were straight on the case offering to help.  One arm of their customer service operation was delivering brilliantly, while the frontline fell flat on its face.

Booking the same package at a similarly priced Days Inn elsewhere in the country couldn’t have been a more different experience, with obviously well trained, motivated and switched on staff going out of their way to help.

I had a similar compare-and-contrast experience last week when I popped into Debenhams and was mid browse, only to be interrupted by an employee, pen poised, with an abrupt “excuse me, do you have an email address?” , to which I’m afraid my reply was that I may have one but she certainly wasn’t having it.  There was some kind of promotional marketing data collection form in her hand, but she had decided to cut out explaining *why* she’d like my details and what was in it for me and just go straight to the ask (at this point, the agency/head office people concerned should feel free to bang their heads on the nearest desk).

Across the store her Debenhams colleagues seemed to have decided that making eye contact with customers or helping them in any way was a sackable offence.  In contrast, in New Look (where you’d perhaps expect the staff to have less training) they were all on the ball, helpful, upbeat and engaging .

It all comes down to how the customer’s experience is realised at the point of delivery.  And that comes from the top man or woman on the ground.  The Debenhams store manager was obviously a lot worse at communicating to his staff how they should handle and engage with customers than the one at New Look, just like the Holiday Inn Express hotel manager could take some lessons from his or her counterpart at Days Inn.

So as I’ve riffed on several times before, we should perhaps be spending more of our time as marketing bods concentrating on how the brand is going to be experienced at the point of delivery – and less time farting around with long winded brand architectures.

3 thoughts on “what happens when the brand’s frontline doesn’t deliver – and why we should be bothered

  1. One good thing about the management when I worked at Comet was that they understood the people in the store were the frontline. So they were always open to ideas.

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