Imagine this C-suite scenario: it is budget-cutting time. On the chopping block are training and marketing. The prevailing opinion is that training doesn’t provide enough tangible benefits, particularly when employees leave soon after they have been trained. Similarly, marketing is regarded as an expensive cost that doesn’t deliver a robust return on investment or generate revenue in the short term. However, these views are short-sighted: customers stop buying from companies when there are gaps between what they experience and what they have been promised in marketing and advertising communications. Both training and marketing are therefore key to how customers perceive an organization.
THE PROMISE VS. THE REALITY
A company’s brand promise is what customers can expect from an organization. Typically, marketing communications portray a brand in a positive light. However, the dark shadows of malfunctioning back-office operations and cumbersome procedures can prevent front-line workers from delivering the benefits promised by the brand. Problems arise when the brand promise is defined by marketing but is not understood by other areas of the business.
The flight reservation system failure at Delta Air Lines in August 2016 illustrates this well. Delta failed to deliver on its brand promise that “We don’t cancel flights” when its reservation system crashed and forced cancellations worldwide. Investigations indicated that the system crash could have been avoided, but the airline’s back-up arrangements failed. There were widespread reports of passengers missing weddings, funerals and important work engagements as Delta employees struggled to deliver on their broken promise. Delta’s CEO was roundly criticized for his delayed apology. The company was also denounced for relying on its corporate newsroom and social media to disseminate information to customers, which certainly lacked a personal touch.