by Rich Gallitelli*
We just concluded yet another holiday season full of new widgets which most of us didn’t even dream about a generation ago. Yet, despite all these technological advancements, I am still drawn to the famous editorial that appeared in the New York Sun way back in 1897. “Yes Virginia, there is a Santa Claus” is the famous line in Francis P. Church’s reply to young Virginia O’Hanlon’s question, a reply which has become the most reprinted editorial in history.
The Sun was the main rival of the New York Times for more than half a century. Its famous masthead was featured in the Oscar-winning movie “The Godfather.” It was even the first newspaper to hire a full-time fashion editor, Eleanor Hoyt Brainerd. And its “Crime on the Waterfront” feature, by Sun writer Malcolm Johnson, won the Pulitzer Prize for local reporting and became the impetus for another Oscar-winning movie: 1954’s “On the Waterfront.” But, what is most synonymous with The Sun, more than anything else accredited to the newspaper, was that charming, reassuring editorial.
“Yes Virginia, there is a Santa Claus” inspired among other things, a 1974 Emmy-winning animated television special, the Virginia O’Hanlon Scholarship from the The Studio School in New York City, Macy’s 2010 Christmas campaign, and the countless hearts of our inner-children. In effect, the editorial became synonymous with The Sun’s brand. And that got me to thinking… In this age of emails, tweets, blogs, and general interconnectedness, client services and their interactions with their clients have now become their company’s brand and how it is conveyed to others.
In my previous blog post, I extolled the virtues of product knowledge. And, while product knowledge does instill the trust between the client and the client services representative, how you answer your emails and the questions posed to you over the phone is just as important. The manner in which you convey your knowledge through your speech and grammatical tone promotes and broadens or hinders the appeal of the company brand. In essence, employees serve as brand ambassadors. If you are armed with product knowledge, take ownership of problems, and convey ideas politely – you can easily take on the challenges of today’s interconnected business world and exceed the expectations of clients. Now, think for a moment, how many times you have dealt with not just a rude representative, but a curt representative, an unsympathetic representative, or someone who passed you along to various individuals. How poorly did that affect your opinion of that company? Not a company you want to deal with, right? Yep, I would be dreading that phone inquiry too!
Anne Sauvé of Anne Sauvé Marketing Communications has stated, “I’ve always believed in the sheer power of ‘living the brand’ internally, which is where effective employee communications can play such a powerful role.” She goes on to say, “No matter how good a job you do at building your brand in the marketplace, it will all fall apart if your employees are not engaged and part of that brand – without them you have no brand.”
Perception is reality. And the reality is that a company’s client services is an extension of the company’s brand. It is not the first line of defense; rather, it is the arm of diplomacy after the company’s marketing and sales efforts have taken hold. Today’s companies have to be more than what they offer. It may sound insignificant, but a half-hearted email or a lousy tone on the phone becomes the reality by which the company will be remembered. Yes, we all have bad days and we all suffer from stress. Yes, we even deal with a client or two that we can’t possibly please. Hard to believe, isn’t it? But, the client isn’t just going to remember the bad or rude employee; they are going to remember the bad or rude employee from “company X.”
So the next time you reply to an email or phone inquiry, remember, you are not just an employee; you are the company’s ambassador for its brand. Take an extra five minutes to go over that email that addresses a difficult problem. That response and the manner in which it is written is the company’s solution, not yours, and embodies the company’s brand when the client reads it. In essence, the brand takes a journey through cyberspace to build itself up further in the marketplace. The same thing applies when addressing the difficult problems on the phone. Perception of how warm you are is the reality of how you are as a representative and how a company is as a whole. Because, “Yes, Virginia” … as the ambassador for your company’s brand, your actions greatly affect how your clients feel about the company. Simply put, would you want to speak to you on the phone?
*Bio: Richard Gallitelli brought a wealth of sales and customer-service experience when he came to BurrellesLuce in 2007. His outstanding performance as a sales associate and personalized shopper for Neiman Marcus (he also has worked for Nordstrom) earned him a nomination by Boston magazine as “Best of Boston” sales associate for high-end retail fashion stores. Rich’s talents also won him praise and a profile in the book, “What Customers Like About You: Adding Emotional Value for Service Excellence and Competitive Advantage,” written by best-selling business author Dr. David Freemantle. Rich majored in English Literature at William Paterson University, and is a published poet and short-story writer. Facebook: BurrellesLuce Twitter: BurrellesLuce LinkedIn: BurrellesLuce