How to Make (or Break) a Service Brand

B-to-B Strategist Spells Out the Four Steps to a Winning a Service Brand

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The rise of the service economy is changing the way we do business. We need to think differently about branding, too. Service brands are executed as something heterogeneous, perishable, intangible -- and inseparable from the service provider. This makes defining the brand and delivering a consistent experience even more vital to success.

Four Steps to a Winning Service Brand

Service brands that get it right have a few things in common:

  1. They address an underserved market need.
  2. They root their offering in customer insights.
  3. They provide value.
  4. They differentiate from similar offerings.

If you have a service brand, you can't be focused on the four P's of yesteryear: product, place, price, promotion. Instead it's about your customers, providing solutions they need and convenient access to these solutions. You need to emphasize value by highlighting your benefits and engaging and educating your customers about the value you provide.

Successful service brands, moreover, are doing it with a style all their own. They know they don't have the luxury of defining themselves through product attributes. They need to stand apart from competitors even when there might be little difference between one another.

Identifying a unique brand personality that resonates with customers will help ensure your offering is unique among the competition. Brand personalities should reinforce a different service experience and brand position.

You've Got to Deliver

With service brands, customer evaluation isn't limited to product performance. Instead, they have a much wider lens to assess your offerings. They take everything into consideration -- your people, your physical environment, your communications. It's all important for shaping your brand image.

Your brand image is strongly influenced by your employees and their interactions with your customers. It's the meaningful relationships forged between the two that give your brand meaning. In fact, nothing is more important to your brand's equity than customer service.

Your customers expect consistent, personalized, high-quality service each time they interact with your brand. Desired brand attributes must be clearly and consistently supported by every customer-employee interaction. Think about it this way: Your brand represents a promise about a future experience with your organization. You rely on your employees to keep that promise with every customer contact.

Hiring the right talent is key to successfully delivering a consistent experience that your customers value. Your brand's success depends on how well your employees create superior customer experiences. If you can't get it right, your options are limited. No amount of promotion can fix weak service.

Company culture and values matter, too. From the CEO to front-line contacts, all of your employees need to be brand evangelists in a service organization. They need to understand and buy into your processes to successfully and consistently deliver services.

Giving It a Try

Inspiring trust is at the heart of enticing customers to give service brands a try. From testimonials to referrals and even virtual experiences and word-of-mouth marketing, tactics that underscore your credibility are central to driving customers to take a chance on your service.

Even more important, though, is your company's reputation. Your customers want to buy from a trusted brand, especially when purchasing services. A strong reputation inspires confidence. There's no faking a good reputation.

The Good News

To establish a successful service brand, many elements need to come together. When it does, it's extremely hard to copy. Corporate culture, personnel, marketing and customer insight all work together to create and deliver a service brand -- and your competitors will have a hard time replicating your efforts, giving you a competitive advantage.

When it comes down to it, you have to serve your customers better than anyone else can or will. So what's the first step? Getting to the heart of what your customers want, need and value.

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