How can I get our customers talking positively about our team and our company?


Word of mouth is the most valuable form of marketing; it is the one that consumers trust above all others and the one that is most likely to drive sales. So you don’t want to leave it to chance. You need to get employees to behave in a way that differentiates your brand to those that matter to your business: customer prospects, clients, partners, colleagues and recruits.

You can tell your employees what you want them to be but it doesn’t always work. You are more likely to get the effect you want by flipping things around and being specific about the outcomes you expect. For example, I can tell my children I want them to be honest, hardworking and well-behaved.

Or I can tell them “I want your teachers to say you’re honest, swim coach to say you’re hard-working, and grandparents to say you’re well-behaved. Not just think or feel it but actually say it.” The latter has a much more profound impact. By articulating exactly why you want your staff to behave in a particular way, you are giving them goals to work towards, measures of success that will focus their attention.

Expectations will vary between role, industry and position but here is some guidance on how to get your customers saying the right things about your employees:

Change accountability

It’s no longer about ticking a box. Employee responsibility doesn’t end once they’ve said or done something from a script you have given them. It ends when they’ve created the outcome you’re looking for.

Set clear expectations provide adequate resources and then give your employees the task of delivering; make sure they understand that they are accountable and that they cannot blame anyone once they have accepted your challenge.

Account for the unexpected

If the focus is on what someone is going to say when he or she walks away, then it really doesn’t matter what the situation is that they’re walking away from. The consistency is not in the behavior but in the goal.

Outline the kinds of statements you think would help build your brand and encourage your staff to find ways to create this experience for your clients. Statements like “they were 100% focused on a solution” or “they really went the extra mile” or “they far exceeded my expectations” will create a framework for your staff to work within.

Activated their cultural knowledge

This is highly relevant for South Africa - everyone is different. And how you interact with someone to make him or her think you’re honest or hardworking or well behaved, may be very different from how I would do it. It’s another freedom-within-a-framework idea and it puts the onus on your employees to figure it out and be emotionally and culturally aware.

Make it specific

By identifying the audience and the outcome, you’ve moved brand behaviour from being a vague  concept to something a little more concrete.

Take a retail bank as a case study. Its leaders wanted the brand to be known for three things: ingenuity, simplicity, and humanity. So, instead of doing the usual — pressuring employees to be ingenious, be simple, and be human, they translated those three things into what they should strive to get others to say about them (and, by association, the brand).

  • “I didn’t expect him to do that, but I’m glad they did.” (Ingenuity)
  • “That was easy and well worth the effort.” (Simplicity)
  • “Wow, she gets it. She knew just where I was and what I needed.” (Humanity)

Of course, you have to supplement all of this with training focused on positive examples and parameters around what’s acceptable / allowed and what’s not. But by starting with the end and thinking about what you want the public to say about your brand after they walk away, you’ve made good progress.

That’s the WHAT and WHY. For the HOW TO, contact [email protected]