And in less than six months! It seems the returns of suspicious business, but far from it. This is the returns of an investment that a Ritz-Carlton employee did on solving a situation of one of the hotel´s guests. This person detected that something was not right, did an honest effort and went out of his way to make possible that the guest could watch an important sporting event on television. Few months later, this satisfied guest held a large event on this hotel worth $300.000 in direct sales. This is one of the 8.000 WOW stories that Diana Oreck can proudly explain.. Oreck is the vice-president of the Leadership Center of the Ritz-Carlton where ladies and gentlemen are trained to serve ladies and gentlemen.
I have had the opportunity to speak with Oreck to learn the key success factors of this program and she has answered assertively: “If this employee could have just being doing his job, this WOW story would have not happened. He was doing his job well because he was focused, aware of client wellbeing and, when he noticed that something was not completely right, he took upon himself to alleviate – if not solve – the client´s discomfort. He took action, invested $75 in making guest satisfaction possible”. Do your numbers, she recommended me.
This behavior only happens in two circumstances. The first type of behavior happens when an employee takes upon his/herself, motivated by his/her own professionalism, to act beyond his/her duty. We have all have been lucky enough to find an efficient employee! When an employee steps out of his way to improve the quality of his work, probably has intuitively understood that the quality of the relationship between the client and the brand depends, to a large extend, on the quality of his/her relationship with brand. In the situation described above, the client was satisfied with the person that responded above the expectations but, maybe, not with the organization the client is attending to. In other words, how could the organization benefit from client satisfaction if not planned?
The other instance when this proactive employee behavior happens is when it is the result of a well-planned and brilliantly executed internal branding program. When the organization trains employees on how to deliver brand benefits, when they take ownership of their job description, when they are encouraged to engage with clients, the organization is improving the quality of the experience of the client with the brand. Oreck sums up Ritz-Carlton approach to client/brand relations through managing adequately employee/brand relations. For her, to invest in employees so they can become the best professional engaged partners with the organization generates a better business environment and hence strengthening the organization´s intangible assets. It is not only about short term results; it’s about long term returns. It´s not theory; nor it´s a highly complicated idea either but it is far from being a reality in most organizations. In fact, it´s so obvious that it hurts! Oreck is also surprised that organizations do not take into account, normally, the added value that employees represent in delivering the brand promise because of its positive impact on the P&L and the balance sheet of the organization.
Yet, one of the biggest obstacles to adopt internal branding programs is the apparent difficulty of quantifying the returns on the investment. I have chosen the word apparent because there are methodologies, processes and tools to measure the return on the investment on internal branding programs as Oreck explains. They have developed and implemented successfully ways to measure, control and evaluate the investments made to add value and to improve client/brand relations that support the efficiency of the philosophy and strategy oriented to manage how the employee delivers the brand promise. They believe – and the results show it – than employees are a critical and an inherent part of the brand promise and, through them, the value of the promise is qualified if not enhanced. Efficient management of the organization’s intangible assets strengthens its competitiveness because generates more satisfied people, internally and externally.
All organizations, regardless of type, size and or market reference have intangible asset to manage and they should because they are elements and vectors of differentiation that have a significant impact on the organization´s profits and value.
The question then is: what inhibits organizations in managing employee relationship with the brand as a source of sustainability of the organization’s competitive advantage as well as a profit motivator? We all know that it is not a matter of having or not a large budget!