Individual, isolated bad experiences can ruin a brand

Grant McCracken recalls a recent experience on a Virgin Atlantic flight:

I was trying to charge my phone on my Virgin Atlantic flight home from London and one of the attendants descended on me to insist that I cease and desist.  I tried to explain that a cell phone was essential to meeting up with one’s car service. She didn’t care.

We’ve all had a similar experience; a power tripping individual having a bad day. Trivial as it may seem, he makes a great point about all the work a company does to build a brand (and Virgin, generally, has a pretty good one) only to let it be quashed by a bad-adituded employee enforcing sketchy policy.

Rules are rules; until their mashed up with awareness. Grant suggests another approach:

Natalie could have found a way to give me an extra 5 minutes of charge.  "Our little secret" and “this is an exception I make only for you” would have augmented the brand wonderfully.

Two thoughts:

  1. Is anyone in your organization tasked with parsing policy to eliminate the largesse and communicate the changes appropriately? Most (all?) of the organizations I’ve had experiences with only create more policy, never eliminating any of it.
  2. This story serves as a great defense of spending appropriate dollars on training and education. Yes, it’s hard in an organization with thousands of employees to ensure everyone understands their role in advancing the brand, but that’s usually because enough effort isn’t paid to the programs (I think Tom Peters advocates transitioning 10% of your capital dollars to the effort, or some such). Most organizations don’t do nearly enough in this arena. It’s sad really, all that work by all those people to build and communicate your brand to patients only to be ruined by isolated, relatively routine experiences with individual employees.

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