August 4, 2010 by Chakib Bouhdary and Seth Halpern
How much is a strong brand worth? Just ask any corporate executive or key decision-maker: A strong brand can help achieve price premiums, promote customer retention, and attract top talent to the workforce. Yet in times of economic ambiguity–when growth is uncertain and costs are rising–there is a temptation for companies to trim costs around efforts such as brand building.
There are many elements that impact a company’s brand. Concentrating on a select few lets you control financial investment while maximizing the returned benefit. In order to establish key areas that will strengthen brand value, decision-makers must answer the following:
Target Your Brand Improvements
Branding is typically associated with marketing elements such as advertising, logos, and events. But a brand is actually defined by a combination of factors, and like an iceberg, only a small piece is exposed to customers. While traditional marketing is an essential component of branding, there are other actions companies can take to help deliver on their brand promises. By making targeted investments in select areas, companies can continue to improve brand perception. This includes exceeding customer expectations through the strategic use of customer information and supply-chain excellence, and hiring, developing and retaining talent that is driven towards delivering the brand promise.
Keep Your Customers Close
Every interaction with customers or prospects influences their perception of your brand–a sales meeting, a customer service inquiry into a call center, or even an invoice. Yet delivering a consistent, high-quality customer experience is increasingly challenging, especially for large organizations with geographically disparate operations and customer locations. To do this well, consider the following best practices:
Companies with the strongest brands truly know their customer and are committed to delivering an excellent customer experience at every opportunity.
Take a Holistic Approach to Customer Processes
Brokers, customer service representatives and producers know that the efficiency and effectiveness of the back-office operation is tied closely with customer experience. And customer satisfaction issues, such as data accuracy, premium consistency, and policy availability definitely reflect on a brokerage’s brand reputation. The ability for customer-facing resources to quickly and accurately look across the business, for example, enables a company to promise satisfactory solutions to customers with greater confidence.
To deliver the right output to a customer, it is essential to consider the end-to-end business processes supporting that delivery.
To deliver the right output to a customer, it is essential to consider the end-to-end business processes supporting that delivery. Various functions that contribute to the process must be tightly connected. For example, customer support should be able to check on a policy request or a policy amendment without having to go through the same process as a new quote request.
When solving a particular back-end problem, consider the upstream and downstream effects of that problem within the end-to-end business process–even if they occur in different business functions. Thinking through such issues holistically and ensuring end-to-end data integration can have a strong impact on your ability to serve customers and drive brand success.
Develop Your People, Grow Your Brand
Ultimately, companies depend on the strength of their workforce to grow their brand. Your employees drive the innovation required to stay a step ahead of the competition, and they represent the face of your company to customers. Even when finances are tight, there are several things a company can do to grow talent:
Your employees drive the innovation required to stay a step ahead of the competition.
Provide Needed Insight
Even the most talented worker needs the right tools for the job, and in rapidly changing times maintaining the status quo is not an option. For example, sales and marketing organizations must understand changing buying patterns. Carriers (and reinsurers) need current data to effectively match supply and demand amid mercurial business conditions. And brokerages developing new customer segments require insight into emerging markets that will drive new business. Putting the right information in the hands of your best people also provides a sense of empowerment and helps smaller firms compete and larger firms become more nimble.
By supporting customer service initiatives and attracting and retaining top talent, brokerages and carriers can nurture their brand and become value-leaders in the minds (and hearts) of their end-user client: the policyholder.
Adapted from “Protecting and Nurturing Your Brand: Maintain and Grow Brand Value in a Time of Crisis,” a SAP Executive Insight paper, written by Chakib Bouhdary, chief value officer at SAP AG and founder of SAP’s value engineering framework, and Seth Halpern, senior principal in the SAP value engineering team.
There are a number of specific steps that companies can take to protect and nurture brand value relative to the customer service focus and nurturing top talent. These include:
© Copyright 2010 Rogers Publishing Ltd. This article first appeared in the May 2010 edition of Canadian Insurance Top Broker magazine.
This story was originally published by Canadian Insurance Top Broker.