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Kiwi Co-Authored Business Book

25 October 2004

Kiwi Co-Authored Business Book Could be Next International Best Seller

“Educate” staff and don’t “train” them about your brand, says the kiwi co-author of a new, internationally launched business book which could become a global best seller. That way you’ll have staff equipped with skills and allowed to use their best judgement in customer interaction.

“It’s like the difference between sex education and sex training. Which would you rather your adolescent daughter has?” says new kiwi co-author Paul Stewart, based in Auckland.

His advice is meted out in a new book that carries New Zealand and US case study material. “branded customer service” by Janelle Barlow and Paul Stewart was launched in twelve countries last week, including the USA, UK and Australia. San Francisco based publishers Berrett-Koehler have also signed contracts for translation of the book into Russian and Chinese.

The book is founded upon the premise that a single, “off-brand”, 20 second customer experience can undo the millions of dollars spent on marketing, advertising and advocating a brand. All too often customers’ experiences don’t match their expectations, say the co-authors. “Off brand” experiences can leave customers mistrustful, and the emotional connection with the product or service promised by the brand, undermined. Ultimately, the organisation’s reputation is lost and intangible value destroyed. Thus the authors assert that effective branding resides in the HR department, at least as much as in marketing.

The biggest challenge of all facing businesses, then, is how to ensure that staff consistently deliver customer experiences aligned with marketing promises?

“branded customer service’s” co-author is Las Vegas based Janelle Barlow, already well known for her international best seller “A Complaint Is a Gift”. She and publishing newcomer Paul Stewart chose to write a practical “how to” book. It contains a toolbox of exercises that businesses can undertake to help their staff really understand how they can carry out what their brand promises.

Stewart’s amazing journey to international branding authority has taken him from Chief Economist for the ANZ Bank in New Zealand, via a kayaking business in the Bay of Islands and executive roles with Baycorp, to a directorship with international multinational consultancy TMI. (Janelle is International President of TMI US).

On the journey, Stewart and the book have crossed the great divide between marketing, human resources, financial management and strategic management to produce what he says is “a book that speaks the language of all these disciplines. Finally, it’s a way to join the dots in the organisation.” Case studies in the book include: the consumer uproar that occurred when Auckland District Health Board tried to change the name of Starship. Stewart argues that because brand “Starship” had come to signify all that was best about the personal delivery of children’s more….

kiwi book….2 healthcare by world-class specialists and staff, “customers obviously feared that with a name change, the experiences associated with the brand would be lost as well.” Vodafone New Zealand’s internal brand value development, including getting executives to make deep commitment to these values. Over time, this extensive programme has assisted Vodafone to nearly triple their market share. How ASB Bank has managed to stay at the forefront of global banking performance by building the connection of its people to its brand promise – One Step Ahead.

These New Zealand examples are profiled alongside international case studies and examples, including Southwest Airlines, Apple Computers, Isle of Capri Casinos, Pret a Manger, Nordstrom and the World Bank.

In the book, Stewart and Barlow advise: Transform your brand from the inside out, by helping staff stay “on brand”. You can’t predict how customers will interact with staff, so don’t tightly ‘script’ their interaction. Customer service is a dynamic interchange. Instead, educate staff about your brand and what it really means.

Help them understand what the customer needs to feel and experience about the brand, then let THEM judge how to interact. Staff can unwittingly undermine promotional promises. In one (New Zealand banking) example, Stewart says a colleague followed the bank’s TV advertising and sought a pamphlet on property investment from the retail banking counter. He was confronted by a staff member who had no idea about the ad, or what it offered. The promise of the advertising and the bank’s slogan – in which knowledge was said to be power – were undermined in one short encounter. Customer service is like white water rafting with a group of people.

You give them initial skills, tools and communication processes to help, but once you get on the river, the group can see only to the next bend. You don’t know what’s going to happen. Similarly, policies and rules in customer service are not enough. Service is a feeling and, branded service is a unique type of feeling. And the only one who can create that feeling is the one who’s interacting with the customer “in the moment”. A great business allows space and freedom for the staff member to actively represent the brand.

In New Zealand, the book is available from most Dymocks bookstores,

ENDS

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