Sheridan Orr

Posts Tagged ‘brand’

The Curious Incident of Employees, Social Media and a Brand

In Brand, Customer Experience, Retail on July 18, 2012 at 5:44 pm

Burger King was thrust into crisis mode when a photo of an employee abusing the lettuce went viral

How can three employees, a smart phone and a social website throw a major company into crisis mode? You might want to ask Bryson Thornton, director of global communications for Burger King that question.

Thorton and his team have been doing damage control since a picture of an employee standing in lettuce went viral.  The caption read,  “This is the lettuce you eat at Burger King.”

The photo was originally posted on the site 4Chan, which allows users to post and comment anonymously.  The image outraged enough people on 4Chan that they used the photo’s geotagging to identify the store as the Mayfield Heights, Ohio location.

Soon social media was flooded with comments and shares and the franchise with calls from angry customers and inquiring media. By the time Burger King communications could spring into action, the picture had gone viral and global news outlets were covering the story.

Rogue Brand Impressions

Brand strategists frequently define a brand as the emotional connection you create with your customer and the space that you occupy in their minds.  It is impossible to think of how a picture of an employee standing in food about to be served to customers can create anything other than disgust. Therefore, the Burger King brand and the emotions created by this image are forever linked in consumers’ minds.

Once the photo spread and Burger King corporate became aware of it, they immediately issued a statement, which said:

Burger King Corp. has recently been made aware of a photo that shows a Burger King restaurant employee violating the company’s stringent food handling procedures. Food safety is a top priority at all Burger King restaurants and the company maintains a zero-tolerance policy against any violations such as the one in question.

While the statement is well worded, timely and reaffirms Burger King policy on food safety, it cannot erase the image from dinner’s minds.

Brand, culture and employees

The modern reality is that people share even the most intimate details of their lives.  Things that weren’t said aloud 20 years ago are conversation starters on social media today.

A workplace prank can suddenly become a public relations nightmare.  All it took to spawn the Burger King crisis was a simple image shared on one site.

While significant damage can be done to a brand through social media, there is no getting this genie back into the bottle.  It has become the way in which Millennials or Gen Y prefer to communicate.  In fact, many manage their lives though social media.

Progresses companies like T.G.I. Friday’s have recognized that employees will share. Instead of trying to quash this with Draconian policies, they have embraced it and provided a positive, sanctioned outlet for dialogue and expression.

Fridoids is a site where Friday’s employees can share stories about celebrities  who visit their locations, tips for customer service and fun pictures that exemplify the culture.  Moreover, the policy around this site is simply “don’t do evil.”  Employees self-police and share in a way that embodies the Friday’s culture and brand.

The reality is that companies can’t silence employees.  Instead, they need to provide positive outlets buttressed by a well-defined social media policy.

This may not stop rogue employees.  However, many companies, like T.G.I. Friday’s, are recognizing that building a positive culture of engaged employees who self-police is the way forward in a social sharing world. You can bet your Whopper that Burger King will be considering how they could have avoided this incident.

 

To Ignite Your Customers, Fire Up Your Employees

In Uncategorized on May 8, 2012 at 7:51 am

The connected customer can find anything they want. Your employees can differentiate the experience and your brand.

I’m one of those connected customers.  I scan QR codes.  I read product reviews.  I’m never without my phone and it is loaded and ready with Google Shopper, Red Laser and Barcode Hero.  I write reviews on Trip Advisor and Yelp!  I seek feedback about products  from my friends on Facebook and Twitter.

My son is an avid soccer player. He probably knows  as much about the merits of different products as most people who sell soccer products.  He’s a keeper and therefore his goalie gloves are superstitious item (I won’t even talk about his sock ritual!).  They have to be Reusche. Period.  If they are not, then his goalie mojo will evaporate.

In short, we are connected consumers who are crystal clear about what we want.

So why are we in the car on Saturday morning driving to a store 12 miles from our house when I could easily purchase what I want online?  One simple reason.  The employees at the Soccer Post.

If I’m being honest, I don’t usually like to talk to store clerks.  It’s not that I’m anti-social.  It is more that I really like to do things for myself.  I have all the information that I need at my fingertips.  What I want from them most times is to be courteous and let me settle my bill quickly.  So why is the Soccer Post different?  Because the employees are passionate.

It is clear they love what they are doing.  Their enthusiasm for the latest Joma shoe or ‘epic’ goalie jersey is contagious.  They know who has which patents on which type of finger saves in everyone of the goalie gloves they carry.  They truly understand the crazy sock ritual–something even I as the mother don’t get.

A CASE STUDY

 Much has been written about the loyalty and caliber of Chick-fil-A employees.  The turnover among Chick-fil-A operators is only  5% a year. Among hourly workers turnover is 60%, compared with 107% for the industry.  They don’t pay any more than other fast food chains.  They don’t have any greater benefits.  The career path and training at McDonald’s is far superior.  So why are Chick-fil-A employees so much better?  The answer is not merely that they have a religious foundation and they recruit and hire from church communities.  It is not that they are closed on Sunday.  It is more than that.  They hire employees who believe in what they stand for.

IGNITING YOUR EMPLOYEES

Retailers don’t need to shut down their stores on Sunday and stand outside of churches with job applications as their new HR strategy.  The Soccer Post in Raleigh has the same type of employees and they were recruited from the elite soccer players in the area.

So what is the formula for getting employees excited?

Clarify what you stand for

It does not have to be a religious principle, but it should be clear and something that is easily understood.  In truth, if your brand is well done it should be instantly obvious.  It doesn’t have to be a lofty goal that a future Miss American contest quotes.  It can be simple like the Soccer Post—performance soccer gear for all levels.

Hire only those who believe

Once you’ve articulated what you stand for you, only hire those who have similar values.  We’ve all made bad hires because we were time crunched, dying for an extra set of hands, afraid that the headcount would go away if we didn’t act quickly or various other rationalizations.  I have been guilty of it myself and have always ended up regretting it.

When I asked the owner of the Soccer Post how he recruited such good employees he said “I find those who love the sport and I figure I can teach them retail.”

How often have you looked at a job application and tossed it aside because they had no retail experience?  Or worse does your HR team do this and you have no idea?  If you are unsure, should call your recruiters right now and give them some additional screening criterion rather than ‘previous experience.’

When you make bad hires, you are not the only one suffering.  Your brand and your customer are the victims of these poor choices.  Wait until the right candidate comes along.  Recruit from communities where people with your beliefs congregate.  This is  much easier than ever before with social media.  Moreover, these communities are global.  Leverage Linked In, Facebook and Twitter to find people who match your philosophy and aspirations.

Create a Culture Around Your Beliefs

Let’s say you are a struggling consumer electronics retailer.  You spend a lot of time hyping new products to your customers.  Do you also do that for your employees?  They are the ones who are going to be helping customers select products.  Do your employees exude enthusiasm about the latest television or video game?  Do you celebrate successful product launches of what you are trying to focus on?

If you are a women’s apparel store, do you get your teams excited about the latest in fashion?  Do you send them Twitter updates about the trends live from the runways?  Why not?  If you’ve hired well, then these people will want to hear this type of information and will eagerly share it with your customers.  Think of it is quick, inexpensive employee training.

 Make the Tough Choices

I’m sure Chick-fil-A has heard the business case from every freshly-minted MBA on why they should open on Sunday.  However, Chick-fil-A is steadfast in remaining closed so that employees can attend church and be with their families.

If you clarify what you stand for and something comes along and opposes that, you have to be willing to say “No.”  For instance, lacrosse is becoming big where I live.  What would happen to the experience at The Soccer Post if they started carrying lacrosse gear?  I’m guessing they would have to hire lacrosse experts too.  So when I wanted to know the specs on the new Reusch gloves, I’d have a lacrosse player trying to help me?  Or perhaps they’d go back to the old reliable “Must have retail experience.”

SUMMARY

If you want your customers to be passionate about your brand and what you do, then your employees have to feel that enthusiasm as well.  In a connected world, customers can find lower prices, free shipping, etc.  Focus on things that can differentiate you and having great employees is one of the easiest ways.

Resources:

http://www.forbes.com/forbes/2007/0723/080.html

http://www.consumerpassion.com/consumer_passion/2007/12/the-chick-fil-a.html

http://www.truettcathy.com/pdfs/5%20Step%20Recipe%20for%20Success.pdf

%d bloggers like this: