Since it was established in 1970, the BCFA has observed the impact of multiple brand tactics on its members’ value – both that perceived by the public and stakeholders, and that evidenced financially through sales and profit. In the fourth of a series of articles exploring brand building, Jeremy Stein describes the ongoing importance of a brand’s value …

Each of the aspects involved in building a brand explored in previous instalments – personality, identity and physique – are essential to a company’s success, yet are in no way finite or final. Brand value is something which has the potential to change, mutate and develop, therefore building brand value must be a continuous and constant progression.

Each customer experience, and every new product needs the same or improving quality to guarantee success. Leading brands know that building value is a continual and evolving process which never ends.

Service with a smile
Customer service is, and always has been, the backbone of a successful business and brand. If an interaction with a customer falls short of supporting and reflecting a company’s brand personality, identity and physique, it has the potential to cut short the client’s journey with that company, undermining all the good work that has gone before.

The most successful brands know that every customer experience is as important as the last. Whether new or old, placing an order large or small, each individual should be treated equally and provided with the same quality of service.

The best brands also know that providing excellent service relies on identifying the potential problems and concerns which are unique to each client. Asking questions and truly absorbing the answers, as well as intuiting concerns through cues such as body language and tone of voice, all help ensure the service provided to customers is bespoke to them and truly meets their needs.

It is no coincidence that the titles of the previous instalments in this series all contain words corresponding to human qualities – customers trust and return to brands which recognise and treat them as unique individuals, and make them feel listened to and understood.

It is also important that good customer service is consistent and of the same high level at every stage in the customer’s journey. It can be useful to have specific guidelines and procedures in place to ensure customer service of the highest quality is consistently provided. 

“The introduction and rapid rise of social media channels and online forums has allowed more people to have their say on companies easily and publicly, and customer service is one of the top factors people are typically quick to criticise”

Apple is one top global brand renowned for its unique and effective strain of customer service. Infamously having stated “you’ve got to start with the customer experience and work backwards to the technology,” the late Steve Jobs illustrates perfectly how the customer is the company’s top concern.

As well as providing Genius Bars at every store, where shoppers can ask questions about products they have purchased, Apple staff are also renowned for offering helpful, personalised and timely solutions to problems. Named by Interbrand as the premier Global Brand of 2015, Apple illustrates the undoubtedly beneficial results of prioritising customer service on brand value and success.

Get social
Of course, ‘word of mouth’ reviews these days do not always come via a face-to-face conversation, but rather via a screen. The introduction and rapid rise of social media channels and online forums has allowed more people to have their say on companies easily and publicly, and customer service is one of the top factors people are typically quick to criticise.

From this perspective, customer service has become more important than ever. On the other hand, social media has also made it easier for businesses to showcase positive customer interaction. Brands now regularly deal with queries and complaints in these arenas and, if handled well, this can have a positive impact both on the customer being dealt with and the handful, hundreds or even thousands witnessing it online.

Online is undoubtedly an essential component of building brand value today. As well as responding to queries and concerns via social media, the most successful brands are using the medium to proactively build their brand personality, add value to consumers’ relations with them and engage and attract both new and existing clients.

Coca-Cola, one of the most recognisable brands in the world and voted number three in Interbrand’s 2015 global brand ranking, is known for its social media skills. Its strategy rests heavily on customer inclusion – which is essential for social media success. As well as sharing content created by customers on its social channels, Coca-Cola is also stringent in ensuring it replies to everyone who tweets to it on Twitter – no mean feat when you consider that the company has 3,200,000 followers.

As in life and face-to-face conversations, a personal approach which makes customers feel valued and listened to is essential to social media success.  

The place of product
Although it has not been mentioned in this series until now, the actual product or service a company provides is another element crucial to its success. As well as providing the functions it promises perfectly, products must also take into account tastes and trends, and embrace the latest in technology and innovation. Like brand personality, identity and physique, this is something which must be a constant concern, and is all-important to brand success and perceived value.

In order to create an effective product, it is essential to stay up to date with industry, consumer and societal trends, and to be able to translate these into designs. In addition to this, it is important to be able to stay ahead of the trend curve and predict what will be popular in the future, and to keep abreast of technological developments.

Brand value has the potential to be in a permanent state of flux, and should be a constant consideration for companies. As we have seen, there are some key elements which are essential to building brand value – consistently high quality customer service, which is truly bespoke and personalised to each customer, adding value through engaging, informative and personalised exchanges, through mediums such as social media, and maintaining an innovative, original and functional product offering, are vital to brand development.

Get these values right, and your brand will definitely develop and grow.

Top customer service tips
First, know your product. Being well versed in your company’s product choice and offerings will allow you to make tailored, relevant recommendations which truly fulfil customers’ requests. 

Next, ask for feedback. Although the aim should always be to provide customer service of the highest quality, there is always room for improvement. Asking customers for feedback and reviews on their experiences, and then truly listening to and acting on this information, will ensure your next client receives service of an even higher quality.

Finally, smile! Being friendly and making customers feel welcome, valued and looked after is essential to any interaction.

Jeremy Stein is MD of the British Contract Furnishing Association (BCFA), which boasts over 250 members including manufacturers, suppliers and designers. In the final article, posted next week, Jeremy will explore how a company can broaden their horizons overseas.