What’s your flavour? Building Service Brands that taste great!
One of the jobs I have enjoyed was as the Marketing Manager for Baskin Robbins where I took great delight trying out the many delicious ice cream flavours on offer. One thing I discovered early in my journey with the brand was that people are very passionate about the ice cream flavours they love. If someone asks for Rum n Raisin, they will not be happy if you serve up Choc Chip Cookie Dough!
When we buy ice-cream, we can be confident that the flavour will be the same each time. This is because the ingredients are easy to control, and the manufacturer can stick to a familiar recipe to make sure my Love Potion 31 (yes that is really a flavour) tastes the same each time I buy it.
However, when we go shopping for a service there are a lot more variables involved. For example, at the hairdresser I always have a little fear that my hair might not end up as I imagined. The hairdresser could be having a bad day, my hair could be having a bad day or there could be a miscommunication or mistake along the way.
This is because unlike a product (like ice-cream) a service (like a hairdresser) involves people in the transaction and as such is variable in nature. A service is also a very personal purchase because most of the time myself or something I own (and often love) must be present for this to take place. For example, I can’t take off my head and leave it for an hour while they cut my hair!
What does this mean for service providers? If you are selling a service such as education or hairdressing this means that your customers are taking a risk to trust your organisation each time they purchase. We can help reduce this risk for customers by putting plans in place to make their experience predictable and consistent over time and by developing a strong flavour profile, so customers know what to expect every time they step inside.
To develop this strong flavour profile (or brand) for our service we need to start by answering four questions:
- Who is our customer?
- What flavour of ice-cream do our customers want to buy?
- What flavour of ice-cream do we have the ingredients to make?
- How do we consistently make this flavor over time (and with a number of different chefs)?
By starting with an understanding of our customer first we begin from a point of empathy which helps to focus on developing our offering to specifically meet the needs of those who are coming to us to be served.
For example, I found that lots of customers loved Rum n Raisin even though I can’t stand it! To develop an offering for people that have different tastes to my own I must first seek to see the world through their eyes so that I can then understand how to best meet their needs.
One way to develop this understanding is through the creation of Customer Personas. To develop these a team can work with current customer and industry data as well as undertake interviews with staff and customers to build a profile of groups of customers who share similar characteristics. This information is then put into a simple visual format which fleshes out the personal characteristics to help represent a typical user within this customer group. Some of the information collected might include their goals and aspirations and what frustrates them. This is also a good chance to consider the type of media they consume and their daily routine. By starting with this in-depth view of the customer it is then possible to see the world through their eyes and understand their motivation for taking part in the service.
How does this help? By developing a strong view of different customer groups, we can then seek to understand the type of flavour that best suits their needs – it is no good creating a fabulous Rum n’ Raisin if your customers really want Strawberry Sherbet.
Once we start to understand the similarities between groups of customers and the flavours they are demanding, we can then match this with the flavour our organisation is in the best position to make. If we have a flavour match, then we are on our way to creating a winning combination.
What’s next? Much like good ice-cream the key is to ensure that the flavour we promise to our customer groups stays the same over time. It’s all about consistency – if I get Choc Chip one day and Vanilla the next it is confusing. So, our next goal is develop a plan to make sure that we make the same flavour consistently over time. But that’s a story for another day.
So, my question to you is – What’s your Flavour?
Author: Felicia Limmer is a Lecturer in Marketing with CHC.