Serving our customers

Serving Our Customers

We are pleased to share this guest blog from long-time Letter M collaborator and community champion Curt Hammond at Four Simple Words is a growing movement to embrace leading through a service-focused culture. These principles align well with strong brand management: effective brands – whether individuals, communities or corporations – can best meet our goals when we clearly define and live our role in service to customers, partners and community.

Over the past year, the Four Simple Words team has been on a journey exploring what it means to be in service to others. We have learned a lot from talking with hundreds of leaders in a wide range of sectors. (What are the four simple words? Read on…)

All our research has come together to create a new way to think about personal and organizational success: Service Leadership. There are two tenets of Service Leadership that we think successful brands need to pay close attention to. 

The first is having clarity on what we are in service to. While this seems like a simple concept, it is vitally important for branding, organizational and individual success. As a leader, the clearer I am in my own head about what I am serving (and why) the easier it is for me to be of real value to the person or idea I want to support.

Let’s think about this with a marketing lens. The most successful brands (including the usual suspects like Apple and Starbucks) clearly know what they are in service to. That is, they can articulate the value they want to bring their customers and have intentionally designed all their business systems (not just marketing) around that goal. For Apple, it is technology that is seamless and just works. For Starbucks, it’s creating a ‘third space’ where we can (hopefully soon) socialize, reflect or work. 

Let’s point out the obvious: most successful brands are not in service to making money. They are in service to delivering products and services that their customers want or need. They are in service to building relationships, experiences and systems that align with the story and value they want to share. Successful brands have the patience and courage to think longer-term knowing real revenue follows when the entire organization understands what they are serving and why. 

Another tenet of Service Leadership that successful marketers need to embrace are the four simple words that are the secret ingredient to Service Leadership: It’s Not About Me. Just like good Service Leaders, successful brands are not focused on their own needs. Instead, they are committed to the value they bring their customers. Apple knows that customers are not really interested in the speed, pixel density or chip design. They are interested in what the MacBookPro will allow them to do for school, home or work. Similarly, Starbucks customers are less interested in how the beans got into their mugs and are more focused on how drinking those beans makes them feel. 

Apple focuses on the value they bring really well. While they do make a big deal of the (impressive) technology in their computers, they never end the conversation there. It always connects back to the alignment of my personal values and their brand. They make it entirely about ME (not them) every step of the sales and support process. Anyone who has opened an Apple product for the first time knows that Christmas day excitement of opening a personalized gift that is exactly what they want!

How else can brands not make it about them? They can listen better. Marketing falls flat on its face (and has earned a valid reputation of arrogance) by assuming we know the needs of those we are trying to connect with. Good marketers are constantly listening to their customers asking the right questions to understand how their brand is aligning with personal values. Successful Service Leaders and brands know the less they make the conversation about their product, and more about why that product matters, consumers will turn into brand advocates. 

We think and hope Service Leadership can be a powerful tool to help tackle our 21st Century challenges. Successful brands in this new future will think less about how they can take from their customers and more about how they can genuinely serve them.

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