Brand: The role of Service, Courtesy and Respect

By: Joan MacDougal - January 28, 2016


Brand – Have you ever considered how service, courtesy and respect impact it?

On a recent business trip to New York I had an experience that brought these brand elements crashing to the fore. So much so, that my love for the big apple has been seriously diminished. On a social trip to Staten Island my sister and I approached a police officer at the ferry terminal to ask where the ladies rest rooms were. My sister was very polite in asking but in her approach addressed the officers using “excuse me chaps”. A very large and heavily armed officer exploded in fury at the way he was addressed and demanded we address him as officer or sir. He demanded that as a New York City Police Officer he be treated with respect! The rant went on for quite some time, he was so enraged I feared he was going to pull out one of his weapons and shoot us. His partner, clearly embarrassed but also equally intimidated discreetly pointed us in the direction of the rest rooms.

The experience shook me enormously but also really got me to thinking and I had a revelation. Service, Courtesy and Respect underpin every single brand. As a brand manager if you get these elements right in your company culture and your customer experience, you will always have a winning business. Here’s how I came to the conclusion…

Service – everyone should expect and receive good service. This is a customer entitlement.

Courtesy – is a right. Everyone; both service provider and customer have an obligation to be polite and courteous in every exchange.

Respect – is earned. Respect is not an entitlement it has to be earned. It is based on the individual and not the position, title or uniform.

If we consider this in light of our experience with the police officer and then the impact on New York City brand, you can see how it plays out.

My sister and I were the customer’s of the city of New York. We considered that a Police Officer was a member of the organisation and their role was as a service provider. This is why we felt it appropriate to approach them at the ferry terminal.

The police officers had every right to expect to be treated with courtesy and for us to be polite. As the customer, we felt and do feel that these police officers were treated with absolute courtesy. One of the police officers disagreed.

He went on to demand we respect him. The outcome was that any hope he had of us respecting him was gone. Furthermore our respect for all New York police officers diminished and our love for the city and the country was also tarnished.

Remember we are talking about brand here… there could have been lots of things at play. He could have been having a bad day. He might have misheard my sister or his definition of courtesy and ours may have been different. Despite this, what of the impact on the New York City brand?

Firstly, I’m writing about this experience and sharing it. My sister and I have shared the experience to anyone prepared to listen to us and so on. Similarly, New York City could come to the conclusion we are just two people in a city of millions and visited by millions, no big deal.

In your business however, could having your people really understand and embrace these brand pillars improve how your business is perceived and enhance your business success?

I am convinced the answer is yes!

Service – everyone should expect and receive good service. This is a customer entitlement.

Courtesy – is a right. Everyone; both service provider and customer have an obligation to be polite and courteous in every exchange.

Respect – is earned. Respect is not an entitlement it has to be earned. It is based on the individual and not the position, title or uniform.

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