by Libby Gill
As much as people love to over-complicate the topic of branding, simply put, a brand is a promise of value. The most successful brands – the ones I call Mindshare Brands – are those that deliver or over-deliver on that value promise consistently over the long haul. Think Coca-Cola. Think Mercedes. Think Apple. Think any brand that you count on to deliver what you want every single time – or pretty darn close to that. Even the big guys slip occasionally, though mistakes well handled can actually be terrific branding opportunities.
So how you do you continually commit and re-commit to going the extra mile for your customers? How do you stay focused in the face of crazy busy workloads and constant change? The key to providing consistent value, despite the obstacles you will inevitably encounter, is to build a culture of collaboration where everyone’s goal is to delight the customers and ensure their swift return.
In today’s highly competitive business climate, it’s nearly impossible for anyone to succeed by going it alone. So it’s well worth the time and effort it takes to create a collaborative atmosphere based on trust, respect, and openness. Here are some strategies you can employ to jumpstart the process:
- Establish high standards for communication. Set the tone for the highest levels of communication, which include candor and kindness. Don’t let anyone indulge in badmouthing or finger pointing – it’s non-productive and destructive. Yes, people are human and you can’t eliminate all bad behaviors, but you can let it be known that respect for others is not only expected, but demanded.
- Set ground-rules and enforce them. It’s hard to play by the rules when you don’t know what they are. But if you want to create a more collaborative culture in your organization, decide what’s fair and what’s off-limits and communicate it clearly. Lead by example and let people know that you don’t operate in silos. Instead, you pitch in when needed and you share your wins – and losses – as a team.
- Share information appropriately. Information is the organizational life-blood on which decisions are made – and customer value created – within every company. Except for confidential or proprietary data that can’t be shared, pass information readily both up and down the pipeline that can help others make timely decisions.
- Expect – and invite – conflict. Encouraging collaboration means that you’re also inviting conflict, that is, if you are the least bit authentic in your interactions. If you stick only to your inner circle to discuss challenges or to brainstorm possibilities, you are likely to get answers similar to the ones you’ve come up with in the past. But by broadening the collaborative circle and inviting opinions from people who might offer dissenting views or new information, you may open yourself up to more conflict, but you’re also a lot more likely to enterprise new solutions for your clients.
- Manage collaboration with the proper tools. Once you’ve opened the pipeline of rigorous conversation and idea sharing, you’ll want to capture all the great insights you’re having. Put the proper tools in place, or you risk losing all that great brainpower. Try customer relationship software, project management programs, or whatever captures your ideas and helps transform them into action. Even in a small business, systems like Salesforce.com or Zoho.com can ensure that your ideas stay flowing and organized – to the ultimate benefit of your customer.
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An internationally recognized executive coach and branding expert with over 20 years of industry experience, Libby Gill is the former head of communications and PR for Sony, Universal, and Turner Broadcasting. She is known as the “branding brain” behind the launch of the Dr. Phil Show. Her clients include ABC-Disney, Nike, PayPal, Royal Caribbean, Wells Fargo, and many others. Libby’s previous books include Traveling Hopefully: How to Lose Your Family Baggage and Jumpstart Your Life and award-winning You Unstuck: Mastering the New Rules of Risk-taking in Work and Life, which has been endorsed by business leaders including Zappos.com CEO Tony Hsieh and Dr. Ken Blanchard.