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Creating a connected, brand-aligned team

April 21, 2016 by Julie Mitchell

Twelve years after I started up my first business, I’m at it again. This Spring, Torq Ride—an indoor cycling studio—will open its doors in the Leslieville neighbourhood that Parcel also calls home. For selfish reasons, I’m excited to have a best-in-class indoor cycling studio steps from my front door. But I’m also excited to put to personal use the dog-eared road map for creating brand platforms that our team has honed at Parcel.

As we head into Torq’s opening, one thing I’ve been putting into place are the conditions for creating brand alignment with employees. Transforming those you hire into brand champions is important no matter whether the business is a retail one like Torq, or a B2B enterprise where your customers are other business owners. And we’ve found that aligning staff with a brand isn’t something that just happens — there’s internal tactics that can be put into place to encourage it.

First things first

Gearing down for a moment, the first thing a business owner needs to do is identify the core values and drivers with which your team should be aligning. During the first phase of the brand mapping process that we use with all our clients, we identify what we call a brand’s subtext. That subtext is best described as the feeling a person gets any time they come into contact with the brand. And once you have that subtext in place, any brand exercises that follow—including internal alignment—need to be expressions of it. At the end of the strategy sessions for my new business, we defined Torq’s subtext as “Connected.”

First Impressions

As they say, you don’t get a second chance to make a first impression. The first time someone comes into contact with an employee at your business will likely go a long way towards creating their permanent associations with your brand.

At Torq, first impressions will be made both at the front desk and the first time a newbie sits on her bike for a ride and meets the instructor. At another company, it might be an interaction with customer service or a sales representative. And while friendliness and other general standards of customer service obviously are going to apply to these encounters, it’s also key to ask how your brand’s subtext will be a part of them.

The last thing you want to do is to give your staff a restrictive script they have to follow. But general guidelines—or possibly aspects of your brand language—can be used by them in a natural way. At Torq, since we focus on being connected, front line staff will be doing things to communicate this. Whereas at some cycling studios I’ve visited, front desk staff are detached and formal, at Torq they will greet everyone who comes in with a sense of casual familiarity. (After all, the hope is that they will become familiar!) Then, to create a larger sense of connectedness among customers, front desk staff and instructors will be notified whenever a new guest has signed up for a class. When that person arrives, they’ll make sure to introduce that person to at least one returning guest. They’re small things, sure, but these regular actions are exactly the kind of things that give a person that feeling of your brand.

Empowering your brand ambassadors

Inevitably, people will often come into contact with your business’s employees when they have complaints or problems with your product or service. So on top of creating rules and policies for customers, you also need to train your staff’s responses to align with your brand.

At Torq, we want to keep people feeling connected through difficult situations. Maybe someone thinks they booked a bike, but in fact they had forgotten to. Although the written rule is that forgetting to sign up means no bike for you, a strict adherence to that doesn’t fit with the brand. Instead, front desk staff will ask the instructor to give up her bike. Or, if the person can attend an upcoming session with open spots, we’ll pass over a gift certificate for a free latte across the street while they wait. (Which, by the way, helps us to connect to other neighbourhood businesses). Importantly, all of this can be done without ever needing to involve any kind of manager or supervisor. And this is just one example of the potentially challenging situations that we train our staff to handle in ways that suit the Torq brand.

Reinforce through rewards

Another key method for creating brand champions for your business is to link compensation and rewards directly to your brand’s core values and subtext. For some clients, we’ve suggested ways that regular staff reviews—and resulting bonuses—can include consideration of how well that person’s work is aligned with the brand’s values. Or, regular perks for staff beyond salaries can be designed to reflect and reinforce a business’s subtext.

At Torq, the instructors are such a critical part of making people feel satisfied and connected after a ride. So instead of compensating instructors solely on a completed session, we’ve put into place higher rates based on the amount of regular riders each instructor attracts. Beyond that, we’ll hold regular team events to connect and build a sense of community—something that isn’t common for fitness services employing part time staff.

Whatever overall program is devised to align your staff with your brand, it’s important that it be ritualized. Indeed, if you make this key aspect of your business part of each day, it’ll never get lost in the day-to-day.

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