Let’s get physical 2: It’s all about culture

Part 2: It’s all about culture

Organisation culture put simply is “the way we do things”. The physical aspect of the internal culture or the “space in which we do things” is hugely important and often under-rated as, whether inadvertently, or by design, it signifies what’s important. It certainly needs to be factored into any customer brand engagement programme and is just as important to an employee engagement drive. 

Consider how all the talk about openness is undone by a closed office door; respect is undermined by unfair parking privileges or unjustifiably different standards of office furniture or an inappropriate front of house setup.

As odd as it may sound, we recently worked with a not for profit, disability focused charity where the desk in reception was too high for wheelchair users and the offices resembled a 1970s sit-com. Pretty tricky changing the logo on the outside in pursuit of a brand refresh and change agenda when the illusion was shattered as soon as employees and customers crossed the threshold.

We often fail to appreciate the importance of the physical, the visual, the use of space, colour and shapes in corporate communication. Yes, it’s a cliché that a picture paints 1000 words, yet we often persist in using words devoid from their context. All the executive speeches and even podcasts in the world couldn’t compensate for the interactive brand walk-through experience we co-created for the employees of a global insurance company. Better still, consider the impact it had when we took the brand walk-through experience to the people rather than the people to the exhibit when we mounted it aboard a touring flat back truck.

The real breakthrough in developing, launching and embedding a service and brand engagement programme for a major health and wellbeing organisation came when we recently threw away the slides and rooted the champions training in the physical space.

Given the fact that the brand strategy involved offering a complete healthcare solution delivered through relationships rather than products, an off-the-shelf service training approach would have been counter-productive. Instead, we worked with a panel of champions and designed an ideal centre layout in 3d and, working with the centre teams  tracked the respective journeys of different client types throughout the workshops. By grounding the service standards in the environment for which they were designed rather than drowning people in theory, the champions were able to raise and tackle very real situations and scenarios and share best practices with each other that they could apply straight away, giving the whole programme a much more practical feel. This was especially important as the participants were active folk who spend their working lives leading by physical example. It was also an opportunity to explore the whole customer experience and the roles and responsibilities of the employees to maintain service standards whether the customer touch point was online, in-store or on the telephone.

Traditional retailers spend years in the equivalent of customer-service “labs” trying to understand and dissect in-store customer journeys – shoppers’ missions, mindsets, behaviours and ultimately their path to purchase. But there’s no longer much time for navel gazing and scenario planning. Different customer journeys are now taking place simultaneously across channels and technologies. It calls for a more enlightened, involving, innovative, open-eared, empathic and customer-focused approach to listening. It also means that the way retailers do things, on and off-line matters as much as the goods they offer. Brand managers would do well to heed those words.

In part 3 – The Future…..

Authors: Ian P Buckingham in conjunction with Chris Hill & David Martin of retail design experts M Worldwide. (Published online in 3 serialised parts & also appeared in specialist marketing magazine Admap M-Worldwide_Admap_ShoppingAsArtForm_1Nov12).

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4 thoughts on “Let’s get physical 2: It’s all about culture

  1. Pingback: Let’s get physical – the critical importance of space and place to brand engagement | The Brand Trilogy (TBT)

  2. Pingback: Let’s get physical Part 3: The Future | The Brand Trilogy (TBT)

  3. Pingback: Engaging customers in retail – The Brand Trilogy « M Worldwide

  4. Pingback: Engaging customers in retail – The Brand Trilogy | Mworldwide

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