Henry Ford famously said, “Quality means doing it right when no one is looking.” The same can be said about company culture. Fostering a positive brand experience both inside and outside the organization can be almost invisible, because – when done well – it’s an integrated and holistic element of a brand’s identity and promise. When done poorly, however, it’s the most obvious thing in the world to employees and customers, alike. One scroll through the social media landscape and it’s evident to even the casual observer that there are some shining stars and some D-students in the culture classroom.
Why does culture matter so much if your product or service is stellar? In short, your product or service cannot be stellar without culture to back it up. Brands that want to flourish should have their attention focused squarely on creating and developing a positive culture. According to a 10-year long study on employee engagement and company results by Queen's University Centre for Business Venturing, organizations that fostered an engaged culture saw a 65% greater share-price increase, 26% less staff turnover, 15% greater employee productivity, and 30% greater customer satisfaction levels.
Bad culture – once the hushed secret of the corporate world – now has the ability to ruin a brand’s reputation both inside and outside corporate walls. What used to be whispered gossip among job-seekers is now out in the open with platforms like Glassdoor inviting direct employee feedback about what it’s really like to work for an organization. Whose supervisor micromanages them? Does a company care about work-life balance and job satisfaction? What company provides continual training, fosters brand buy-in and helps employees feel part of the overarching mission? One search tells all.
At the same time, the internet also ushered in customers giving direct feedback about their brand experience through Google and Yelp reviews in addition to communicating directly with brands about their products and services via social media. Thanks to the internet, a brand’s dirty (or clean) laundry is all out there for the world to see. Just ask any of the brands on The 9 Most Cringeworthy Brand Fails or The 10 Worst Companies To Work For lists. Once something quietly handled by HR, culture is now part-and-parcel of every brand touchpoint – identity, product, reputation, and experience.
While ideally culture should be foundational and ongoing, most brands usually have a triggering event that shines a spotlight on the pressing need for developing and deploying culture programs within their organizations. One of those occurrences is often a rebrand or retail renovation. Rebecca Doepke, Adrenaline's Director of Culture, says, “When we're talking about changing retail environments, I think that presents large challenges for clients. It’s a great new space, but how are employees going to use it and how will it translate into a better customer experience? Staff needs training and immersion in the environment. It's a big shift for any brand’s staff.”
“We partnered with Adrenaline to redesign our branches to provide a consistent customer experience. As we addressed our facilities and branch technology, we were also transitioning to a universal banker model. This was a lot of change for our employees and customers. The culture transformation program has been a tremendous resource. Scripting and role-playing exercises have equipped employees to convert many customers who were leery of change into brand loyalists.”
- Woodie Tipps, EVP and Chief Retail Officer, Citizens National Bank
Particularly with a new physical retail space, employees can feel nervous about their jobs and roles. Jules Hefley, Adrenaline’s Vice President and Senior Account Executive, says, “In a lot of ways employees can feel like things may be taken away, especially if the operational model is changing dramatically. They may no longer have their own office and they’re being asked to behave differently. So, the culture piece – that retail immersion – is really about empowerment. The goal is to have the staff understand why these transformations are happening, so they can embrace change and truly serve as brand ambassadors.”
The other big challenge for brands is that there are no cookie-cutter solutions to developing and deploying a cultural program. Each brand has individual culture needs that should be aligned and authentic. In retail immersion, how the space is designed and how the staff operate in it go hand-in-hand. Jules Hefley says, “In Retail Experience Design, we help brands understand functionality and staffing. In any retail store, there's an attract zone calling customers in, then they flow and experience as they move through the space. What we help brands do is design and train to those zones.”
At the forefront of all brand culture programs is an understanding of how a brand wants a customer to experience the retail environment and the brand offerings. The next step is training employees for their roles and responsibilities to that ideal brand experience. Rebecca Doepke says, “We believe the employee is our clients’ most valued asset in delivering brand promise and cultural experience to customers on a daily basis. We tailor programs – be they Brand, Leadership or Retail Immersion – to suit each client’s desired brand, environment, employee and customer experience.”
In our next installment on creating culture, we will look at the dynamic challenges and processes brands go through to develop impactful and responsive culture programs. To learn more, reach us at firstname.lastname@example.org.