Chris Wallace is the President of InnerView, a marketing consulting firm that specializes in internal brand alignment.
In a recent article, I offered some thoughts on the connection between frontline employees and customers. I highlighted that companies need to think beyond just creating “happy” employees and focus on building a deeper sense of confidence in the brand they represent.
Based on research my team recently released, it appears that many brands are not doing a good job of instilling that sense of confidence. We surveyed 1,200 employees across several consumer categories, and we found that of those who serve customers directly, only 38% said they could represent their brand story confidently.
This should catch the marketing department’s attention. How effective can frontline employees be in serving customers if they are not confident that they understand the value their brand offers? This confidence gap presents a great opportunity for brands to improve how they show up in customer interactions and drive better experiences. According to research by PwC, “there’s a mismatch between customer expectations and how employees deliver: only 38% of U.S. consumers say the employees they interact with understand their needs.”
The Marketing Silo
It is clear from our research that the lack of brand confidence and alignment stems from a lack of connection between marketing and frontline teams. Specifically, we asked respondents where they look internally for information about key customer initiatives — product and service launches, pricing changes, promotions, marketing campaigns, etc.
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They were offered six options for sources of support, and marketing ranked fifth. They selected training teams, their supervisors, internal communications and their colleagues (peers) ahead of marketing as where they look for support on brand and product messaging.
We know from previous research that marketers view frontline teams as crucial to the brand’s success. Yet only 52% of the employees we surveyed recently saw themselves as important to the success of new brand initiatives. This indicates a clear disconnect between marketing — with their brand vision and objectives — and frontline perceptions.
Building A Better Internal Brand Dialogue
If companies are going to create better alignment between their brand and their frontline teams, the marketing department must put more attention into internal efforts. Here are some steps marketing can take to close the gap:
First, marketers can proactively share both customer research and customer feedback with frontline teams. We found that companies that regularly share customer insights with frontline teams are up to twice as likely to have confident employees. This makes complete sense. If employees feel like they have a clear understanding of customer needs, they feel more confident explaining how their brand meets those needs.
Next, marketers can ask frontline employees for their input on customer needs and preferences. Our data showed that this can lead to employees being 33% more likely to be confident in their brand. Once again, this makes sense. Employees interact with customers every day, and they see things that market research doesn’t capture. If their company is asking for and incorporating their feedback, they feel better about representing their brand.
Essentially, marketers need to engage their frontline teams in a regular two-way dialogue about customer needs. They need to listen to what frontline teams know about customers, and they need to share the insights they have on customer preferences and habits. We found that this approach alone can more than double frontline confidence in the brand by tying the value proposition to the customer’s needs and preferences.
Brand Matters To The Customer
According to Forrester, 52% of U.S. consumers consider a brand’s values when making purchasing decisions. How can brands expect their customers to feel good about doing business with them if the people serving them lack the knowledge and confidence in what makes their brand unique? By building a better dialogue with their frontline employees, marketers can play a big role in driving better customer experiences.
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Author: Chris Wallace, Forbes Councils Member