Damn…on hold again.
And what‘s this goofy on-hold music? It’s September of 2016, but I feel like I’m on a long elevator ride to the 1980s.
I wanted to speak to a human. I had called Thursday morning to make an appointment with Dr. Ratti at Stanford Health Care. The staffer who answered the phone said “Do you mind holding?”
I did mind a little, but I said OK. After nearly 10 minutes, I hung up and called back. Again the operator asked, “Do you mind holding?”
I explained that I had already been on hold close to 10 minutes and thought they have forgotten about me, so I would rather just make an appointment with Dr. Ratti and not hold. That’s when she said it:
“And now, you’re back in the queue!”
Click. More hold music.
I could not have been more surprised if she shouted “No soup for you!” With the push of a button, she cast me back into an inferno of hold-music hell. Who knows how many tortured souls are in queue ahead of me?
Screw the queue. I hung up.
Thoughts on brand image
Some backstory: In April 2015, I got a cheery announcement from my local medical facility, ValleyCare. The company had agreed to a merger with Stanford Health Care. As a result, ValleyCare would assume the Stanford Health Care brand.
Good move, I thought. Incredible brand equity in the Stanford name, plus the association with the innovative Stanford Medicine program. Besides, ValleyCare seemed to be struggling with operations and service issues.
I’m no branding expert, but I know that brands are defined by the actions they take each day, not logos, taglines or value propositions.
Our story continues
Returning to September 22, 2016: I called back Thursday afternoon and the person who answered was polite, and took my appointment for Friday at 8:45 a.m. I considered venting about the person who had cut me off that morning, but decided to move on.
Friday morning at 8:35, I show up at Dr. Ratti’s office. I don’t recognize anyone. I am confused. No one at the reception desk has heard of her. I walk outside and Google Dr. Ratti to find her Suite number, and in the search results, I see two Yelp reviews.
- Review 1: Dr. Ratti is “a very cold, unfriendly, insensitive, uninformative doctor”
- Review 2: Dr. Ratti is”easily the worst doctor I have ever visited”
My search results also reveal that her office has moved to the second floor. Would have been good to know that.
I check in at 8:45, make my co-payment and I am shown into a small, featureless room. I get the usual blood pressure check, temperature, and the doctor will be with you shortly.
Turns out my definition of “shortly” is different than the doctor’s office.
There’s no Wi-Fi, so there’s no catching up with emails. No TV, no ESPN. I read a book until 9:15 and open the door. No one in sight. I am getting annoyed at the memory of being cast into the phone queue of despair the day before.
At 9:30, I walk to the reception desk and tell the staff that I have a 10 AM meeting and need to cancel my appointment. I ask that the co-payment be refunded to my Visa card.
The gentleman behind the desk looks surprised by this (but doesn’t apologize), and asks if I want to make another appointment. I say no, because I’m not coming back.
Soon I have a voicemail from Dr. Ratti explaining that she was sorry to miss me, but she was in a staff meeting. I like to imagine that this staff meeting was called by a pointy-haired boss to brainstorm ways to increase patient satisfaction.
Customers own your brand image
Brand experts may debate whether this issue is about brand image or brand equity. To me, brand image seems more relevant because it is defined from a customer’s perspective. It’s not one thing, but the sum total of many individual brand perceptions.
“A positive brand image can be built up quickly in the mind of the customer through various touchpoints,” says John Seroka, a financial services brand strategist and consultant. “Today, that means coordination and consistency between web, mobile and brick-and-mortar touchpoints. Your blog and social media properties must provide answers and helpful resources, not just promotions. That’s the path to creating a well-respected brand, one customer at a time.”
Brand equity is related, but it’s often more from a management or investor perspective – how brand weakness or strength impacts an organization’s monetary value. Investopedia says that brand equity can be gained very quickly through a lesser-known company partnering with a larger and more visible entity.
Brand equity can also be lost very quickly if there is an ongoing pattern of bad user experiences. The concept is similar to what author Stephen Covey called the Emotional Bank Account.
Brand Image deposits and withdrawals
Covey taught that relationships interactions — business or personal — are analogous to a deposit or withdrawal. In business, too many negative user experiences in a short time can trash brand equity that’s taken years to build.
In 2016, the customer journey has evolved into something much faster and more complex than just a few years ago. Customers are always connected, through an ever-increasing number of channels and devices.
As customers evolve so must the role of brand marketers — and all marketers. Building and maintaining a posittive brand perception is a bigger challenge than ever before.
I’ll bet if you were to attend a fancy brand-building workshop at Stanford d.school, they might mention something about that.
Thoughts? Speak your mind in the comments below.