It is a rainy Friday morning in January, with heavy grey skies. The wind rips my clothes and the rain feels like needles against my face. It is one of those days you’d rather not have gone out at all. I am on my way to a business meeting, and I‘ve got a few minutes to spare. What to do?
Conveniently, there is a café just around the corner. Their ad board by the entrance stating their promise catches my eye: “With us, Friday feels a bun crumb better off”. I wonder what it means, but at least there is a promise of a Friday feeling embedded. Cosy and homey comes to my mind.
Weekend … Friday! The best day of the week. A Friday promise always feels nice. Surely, I am worth a bun! It is Friday after all, and the workweek is almost done. Early weekend celebration. And I’ve got time. I step inside and immediately sense a nice and warm atmosphere. I feel instantly better. Maybe a bun crumb better off. Lounge music is playing quietly and some of the customers are working with their laptops, while sipping their coffees and munching on their … Friday buns.
The employee at the counter greets me friendly, and smiles. “Would you like to start your weekend with a nice cinnamon bun,” she asks me and chitchats something nice about the (awful) weather. A cosy vibe settles over me. I go for the bun. Indeed, now I feel many bun crumbs better off than a few minutes ago. Clearly, the café has done their promise gym. The employee knows what she is doing. Says and dos are aligned.
That is not always the case. On a daily basis, we as customers are targeted by a myriad of promises companies make. Brand promises, service promises, sustainability promises… The list is long. All these promises that more often than not fail to be kept. Unfortunately, research shows that this is the name of the contemporary marketing game. And of course, as marketers we know that marketing is, among other things, about making promises. But, also about keeping them, and in practice that is often the tough part.
Promises are often fuzzy and vague. Such as: “The best service in the field,“ innovative service solutions” or “better than our competitors”. What we as customers expect, based on these promises, varies but research shows that customers expect that companies live up to what they promise. Today companies overpromise heavily. I had a good Friday bun experience. I felt many bun crumbs better off afterwards. Even if my expectation at first was fuzzy, my experience became exact to the bun crumb point better off.
Research shows that employees want to deliver service that is aligned with what the firm promises. Imagine yourself in the role of an employee. What does the best service in the field really mean? How am I to keep a promise that feels unclear, confusing or fuzzy to myself? Promises of the fuzzy kind do seldom motivate employees to perform accordingly: In my case the employee clearly did know how to contribute to my experience. Plus, she seemed motivated and happy. This made me feel many bun crumbs better off.
Research shows that employees want authentic, honest and keepable promises.
Research shows that employees want authentic, honest and keepable promises. Employees prefer promises that describe actual activities and atmospheres in customer interaction. Research also shows that employees want to participate in promise design. This does, in their view, ensure authentic promises that are aligned with service activities and vibes, such as being a bun crumb better off. At best, employee co-active participation in promise design will result in promises that have an authentic energy embedded. Promises that communicate the actual feelings and vibes companies want to expose to their customers.
I have been chewing this “bun crumb better off” promise quite a bit and have come to the conclusion that it is a nice, small and indeed a rather precise promise. In its fuzziness and smallness. A promise the employee seemed motivated to live up to.
If you are interested to know more about employees’ motivation to align with promises and value propositions, please read our article: Liewendahl, H.E., and Heinonen, K., “Frontline Employees’ Motivation to Align with Value Proposition” in Journal of Business & Industrial Marketing, ISSN: 0885-8624, Publication date: 13 February 2020.
PhD, Service-strategy pedagogue