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Use your manners, please. It just makes good brand sense!

As we celebrate Canada’s 150th birthday, we are often reminded of one of the characteristics that makes us uniquely Canadian - our above average manners. We are often described as polite people. Please, thank you and of course sorry are part of our everyday vocabulary!

I am fascinated by how brands operate. Every day we are all making conscious and subconscious assessments about the brands we experience. Given my profession, I pay special attention.

Here’s something to ponder. Are front line customer service associates slipping on their manners? I am not making a blanket statement here, but I have noticed over the last few years, an increasing number of in store transactions where I personally do not hear a “please” or a “thank you” from the customer service employee. Really? The absence of please or thank you isn’t even about being Canadian – it’s customer service 101; smile, be efficient, use manners and leave the customer satisfied with their brand experience.

Here’s a story that might get your brand blood boiling. Last month, I was in a checkout line at a major Canadian grocery retailer. I was having a pleasant interaction with my cashier; you know - casual small talk about the weather and the price of cherries, but I couldn’t help but observe what was going on in the checkout across from me.

A lady was buying a huge whack of groceries. Her cashier and bagger were basically ignoring the customer. They were having their own personal discussion about their wages, when raises were coming and general complaints about the company providing their pay cheque. I was watching carefully. The cashier didn’t even acknowledge the customer nor did she ask for the customer’s reward card. She simply carried on with their animated conversation about the company that was paying them to cash out and bag this woman’s groceries. Once the groceries were all scanned, the cashier spun her ahead around and simply stated “two hundred and seventeen dollars.” She couldn’t even muster the words, “Today that will be…”

As a brand strategist, I think this is a notable example of how important it is to engage all levels of staff in a brand training program. Any solid customer service training program would include all the details on how to engage with a customer at the time of a transaction – smile, look them in the eye, ask if they found everything they were looking for, mention this week’s charity initiative, handle the groceries with care, ask for payment in a polite and professional way and finish the interaction with, “Thank you and have a wonderful day!”

These are simple nuts and bolts of any role in customer service, and this should be a red flag for managers and organizational leaders. Every single one of these poor experiences is damaging your brand; wearing it thin and leaving a bad impression. It is not only diminishing the reputation of the individual store owner or franchisee, but it is also damaging the corporate brand. These situations may be far and few between; however it is the lack of consistency that causes the damage.

It is critical for front line employees to understand that they are a key part of the brand experience. They are in fact a brand ambassador. In this example, the only people involved in the brand experience are the cashier and bagger. They are representatives of the brand and by nattering on and ignoring the customer, what does this say about your brand? Make sure they understand how important they are in the brand building process! They can be the reason a customer does or does not return to your store. Are they demonstrating your brand’s core values? If not, are you hiring the right people for the roles?

In a time when competition is fierce and businesses are trying to get a leg up, make sure the basics are covered off! If I can get a please and thank you when I buy online, from a dialogue box (!) surely, I can get one from a human in the store environment. It just makes good brand sense!

Thank you for reading!

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