Hospitality Column
By Carol Ruddick
Carol Ruddick is co-owner of The Cypress Inn, a AAA Four Diamond bed & breakfast located in Conway, South Carolina.

Branding is Buzz Word for Quality and Service

by Carol Ruddick, The Guests Column - Myrtle Beach Herald, Myrtle Beach, SC

Back in the 1970s, "customer service" became the buzz word for many businesses. We all grabbed onto this with great gusto.

The new 2005 buzz word is "branding." Many people are now jumping on this bandwagon with the same gusto.

Branding is not very complicated, but it is all encompassing. Branding is finding that distinct personality of your business and incorporating that personality into everything you do.

Branding starts when the telephone rings.

"Companies spend millions on advertising, public relations and brand building activites to make the phone ring. But when the prospect calls, they're greeted by automated voice systems with prerecorded voices that share little with the brand they've worked so hard to create in the consumer's mind." Marcus Graham (CEO, GM Voices).
The first step in branding is to take an inventory of how our companies are perceived by our customers. How is the telephone answered? How are customers treated when they walk through the door? What is the quality of the materials that fall into the hands of the customer?

We spend tremendous amounts of money on advertising and marketing to create a vibrant personality.

However, a good percentage of business is lost through inexperienced and poorly trained phone personnel.

When a customer actually walks into your place of business, are the employees too busy to greet them professionally and cordially?

My most frustrating experience, when I lived in Atlanta, was my visit to the dry cleaners. I dropped off my laundry at least once a week for more than a year. Yet, everytime I walked to the counter, I was asked my name and how I wanted the shirts cleaned (my husband's shirts - light starch) every single time!

I would have been ecstatic if one day they actually said, "Hi, Carol," when I walked through the door.

In business, we aren't given scripts to tell us how to act in every situation in which we find ourselves. Instead, we rely on our instincts to live in the moment and spontaneously react to the situation that confronts us. Reacting to the moment is about looking, listening and reacting. That is how we build our brand.

What does the company's printed materials say about the company? How can we say we are a professional business that will take care of our customers' needs when we have brochures or materials that are photo-copied, wrinkled, mismatched, out of date or poor quality?

The company name and logo should be key in adding to the image and company brand.

Everything that we do and say is a reflection upon our business. That is "branding."

But branding is not just about name recognition, marketing and advertising. It's about building an image in the hearts and minds of your customers. Once that image is created, it is very tough to change.

Do you know what the key ingredient is for great branding? A great product!

Customer loyalty and branding starts with a great product. If you are a service industry, the service you deliver to your customer must be better than your competitor. If you have a tangible product, your producct must be a great product to be able to survive.

Oprah Winfrey and General Motors "made dreams come true" for 276 specially picked audience members who were escorted out to the parking lot where they saw rows of beribboned Pontiac G6s to drive away.

This PR event generated millions of dollars of free pubicity to kick off the 19th season of The Opra Winfrey Show and put General Motors at the top-of-mind of fall car buyers.

However, according to the Detroit Free Press (March 22, 2005), sales of the G6 are at least 30 percent below expectations. And six months after its induction, Pontiac's marketers are getting desperate to move G6 inventory by offering $3,600 in incentives to goose sales.

As Seth Godin has taught us "...a low price strategy is the last refuge of a marketer who is out of ideas."

The Opra giveaway may have generated a lot of buzz for Pontiac, but it hasn't generated a lot of bucks for Pontiac.

Excellent customer service and a great product are the building blocks of building a great brand.

Carol Ruddick is co-owner of The Cypress Inn, a AAA Four Diamond Bed & Breakfast located in Conway.


Carol Ruddick, Co-owner
The Cypress Inn
16 Elm Street
Conway, SC   29526
phone: 843-248-8199
website: http://www.acypressinn.com
email: info@acypressinn.com

Also See: Knowing Your Customers / Hospitality Column / Carol Ruddick / April 2005

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