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Sheba Will Hear!!! - Customer Awareness

Written by  on Monday, 08 July 2013 06:00
"Now when the queen of Sheba heard of the fame of Solomon..." (2 Chronicles 9:1a)

Somewhere in the world today, your name or that of your business, organisation, NGO or church will come up. Someone will hear, watch or read something about your organisation. The Queen of Sheba had a great customer experience visiting King Solomon but it all started with awareness. She first heard about the man, his wisdom and achievements. We are unable to measure the media channels or means of communication available in Sheba's time but it is likely that if Solomon was as wise and famous as the passage described, everyone channel of communication might have been awash with his exploits.

To be aware is to be "concerned and well-informed about a particular situation or development." A person who is aware is alert and has the ability to perceive, to feel, or to be cognizant, informed and conscious of events, objects, or sensory patterns. According to the Longman Business English Dictionary, customer or consumer awareness is a term used to describe "the awareness of a potential or current buyer about a particular product or company."

There is a great value in creating brand awareness within the marketplace. The point is, whether you create it or not, there is a sense of awareness about you. You are therefore far better off taking charge of the process. The good news is that the process itself is relatively simple. If a company has any sort of customers that already use its services it is ahead of the game. Having a strong online presence is also vital to success in today's marketplace. Promoting your services or products should be one of the most important things that every organisation or business must seek to do. People who deal with you want information almost instantaneously. The first thing most people do when they hear about a new company or a new service is to check out the website or social media page of the organisation. They expect to find information there that will help them make an informed judgement about the organisation and its services.

The way the company is perceived is extremely important within the market. Promoting and protecting your reputation should be something that every business, NGO, sporting club, religious and any other service organisation must be concerned with. Sheba will hear about you. You are therefore better off doing what you can to ensure that the right kind of information goes around about your organisation and its services. That way you give yourself the best chance that what the average person hears about you will be accurate. The following represent the key dynamics in the customer's hearing process:

  1. How Does Sheba Hear? There are a plethora of communication channels available in today’s cosmopolitan world. A typical business, organisation or event will communicate about its brand or transmit its product message through traditional advertising channels like radio, television, print and even online through their website. New options like social media have emerged that have totally revolutionised the advertising and corporate communications landscape. Apart from advertising, information is also passed on through references from other customers and satisfied users. Commit to giving exceptional service to every single customer you interface with. You may never know what they will say or where they might be required to speak about your service, brand or organisation.

    According to the A.C. Nielsen Co., the average American watches more than 4 hours of TV each day. That is the equivalent of 2 months of nonstop TV-watching per year or for a 65-year life, that person will have spent 9 years glued to the tube. Considering the similar behavioural patterns in Ghana where we live, one can surmise that these figures probably represent the situation in several other countries. Over 20,000 30-second TV commercials are seen in a year by an average child. That means that the average person by the age of 65 would have seen 2 million TV commercials. That is the sheer power of television. It also gives you an idea of the potentially negative impact of a poor advert or a bad story about your organisation appearing in the news or some other prime television programme.

    However, if you thought that was mind-boggling, try this… The sheer power of the internet is evidenced by the fact that every single day on the internet, 168 million DVDs of information are consumed. Also 294 billion emails are sent and received, 2 million blog posts are written, 172 million people visit Facebook, 40 million visit Twitter while 22 million visit LinkedIn. In all, 4.7 billion minutes are spent on Facebook every day, 532 million statuses are updated, 250 million photos are uploaded while 864,000 hours of video are uploaded onto YouTube.

    Anyone who chooses to ignore online platforms and social media must additionally note that 66% (2 out of 3) of online adults are on one or more social media platforms. 50% of social media users check their favourite network every morning. It is projected that sales generated from social commerce will hit $30bn in the next couple of years. There are currently over 2.8billion social media profiles while 4 out of 5 internet users (80%) visit a social media or a blog. These are really compelling reasons to fully integrate various communication channels especially social media into your planning especially as you project into the future of your service organisation.

  2. The Power Of Perception. In corporate communication and branding, truth is important but perception is critical. What is the significance of perception? Should you ignore what people think because you feel it is not in sync with reality? Maybe not! The truth is, if you’re not in touch with the perceptions of meaningful constituencies, your success will be impeded by your tunnel vision. So what exactly is perception?  It is "a belief, theory, hypothesis, feeling, appearance, opinion, observation, insight, awareness, or sensitivity." It may or may not constitute reality, and initial perceptions often change with the passing of time, the changing of circumstances, or the receipt of additional information.

    Many people tend to be myopic when it comes to the subject of perception. They understand their own perceptions, but are quite often uninterested, ignorant or intolerant of other people’s perceptions. In his article "Leadership & Perception," Mike Myatt, Chief Strategy Officer of N2growth suggests that "If you understand where someone is getting their inputs, and which filters they use in creating their outputs, you’ll be able to better understand and impact their perceptions, and ultimately, this will lead to greater influence over their decision process. This is very simple, but very powerful, and should be understood by anyone in a leadership position."

    The challenge for every leader will be to take time to understand the various constituencies and spheres of influence they come in contact with. Whether you agree or disagree with someone’s opinion is not the point. Understanding the perceptions of others affords you a source of intelligence, a learning opportunity, and the ability to keep lines of communication open. That way you can win people over by your subsequent choices and actions, where necessary.

  3. Who Do Men Say That I Am? The Lord Jesus Christ who lived a perfect life called His disciples to Him one day and enquired about public perception. Matthew 16:13-14 says, “When Jesus came into the region of Caesarea Philippi, He asked His disciples, saying, “Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?” So they said, “Some say John the Baptist, some Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” ” Not only was He interested in the public perception about His personal brand and ministry; He actually went out of His way to find out about the details. That is an active interest. Why is that so important? Very often, when you design and execute your corporate communication strategy, you assume that it has been effective. However, several distortions and socio-cultural nuances battle your message along the channel and sometimes significantly alter the intended meaning to your disadvantage. Being aware can help you make the necessary corrections. In Jesus’ case, it emerged that people thought He was someone entirely different because they were not too sure of what to make of His brand and His entirely new ways of doing things.

    It is common to hear people say a particular politician, pastor, CEO or public figure is arrogant or unfriendly. This may be totally misplaced and could be a result of a single event or situation. It may even be a perception deliberately fuelled by competitor communication. As long as you remain unaware, it would not even occur to you to do certain simple things that could easily correct the misconception. Whether you are aware or not, your actions and that of your organisation are consistently affirming or contradicting a certain perception about you. When you receive positive feedback, it also assures you that you are doing something right and should therefore invest more in the same thing.  When you find out that people are getting your message correctly and your brand is appealing to the target audience, you are likely to be encouraged to work even harder.

    Do not take customer perceptions for granted. Your organisation or hard-earned personal reputation could suffer the consequences if you did. Brainstorming meetings, questionnaires and systematic surveys can provide useful feedback about what the market is saying. Sometimes experts conduct surveys that provide general and specific information about your industry. You may disagree with some of the findings but it will still be worth your while to buy and study such reports. It is a common practice for larger or service-oriented organisations to contract a fully-fledged research company to periodically conduct such a survey.

  4. And Who Do YOU Say That I Am? Apart from the outsiders, you must also look at the internal perception of your brand. After Jesus finished measuring the external brand perception He turned to His own trusted lieutenants with the same question. In Matthew 16:15-16, “He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter answered and said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”” One of the most important links in your communication chain is your internal customers. These are members of your team or internal stakeholders who are supposed to be the ones promoting the service or brand to outsiders. If they themselves do not believe in your service you are doomed.

    We visited a top hotel one evening to enjoy dinner and some quality time out.  It was a packed night and our order delayed for over an hour. When we called a member of staff and complained to him, he responded that it was normal on such occasions and that he had tried several times to draw the attention of “those who matter” but they were too arrogant to listen to a mere nonentity like him. In a few words the unsuspecting guy did some significant damage to the corporate brand.

    This kind of scenario happens every day with shop assistants, waiters, security personnel and even with supervisors or managers. They freely tell the customer how unresponsive another department is and how helpless they feel about it. They obviously think in departmental terms without realising that the customer sees the company as a whole and not as individual units. Try finding out how well informed, aligned or excited your team is about your service or brand and you might end up being surprised at how your most experienced team members do not even know your mission statement or your lead product. 

    Take a phone from time to time, disguise your voice and call your staff or colleagues pretending to enquire about your own services. Take note of how excited or otherwise they are about the enquiry and how informed and willing they were to assist a stranger. Reward and commend those who do an exceptional job of positively selling the brand. If you don’t like what you see or hear, do not ignore it. Train, develop and orient your team until they align their thoughts and attitudes with the brand promise.

    We held a training session for a church on customer service using this Sheba Model. There were five different groups participating in the session. We asked each of them independently about the public perception of the church. It was thrilling to notice that members of the various groups came up with similar descriptions and in over 80% of the case, actually used the same words or expressions. The next question was whether this was how they wanted to be perceived or whether it just happened to be the prevailing perception. In this instance, the perception was consistent with the organisation’s mission and how it wanted to be seen by its stakeholders. This kind of congruence is not always the case. In several instances, people find out that the message out there is totally different from what they seek to project.

  5. Re-tune The Channel. When you realise that there is a wrong perception in the market about your brand you need to systematically change it. This does not always require a radical overhaul. Remember that a massive ship is turned or directed by a small rudder. A small shift in the underpinning variables or assumptions of your communication can totally transform the entire outcome. The analogue radio sets (known in Ghana as “Akasanoma”) that were previously in vogue involved a bit of trial and error in tuning to the various channels. One could sometimes listen to a station for an entire hour before realising that you were on a different channel from the one you were interested in. In such situations, a slight tuning to the left or right would land you at the intended destination. The same principle could apply to your corporate communication. A slight shift in positioning, a more friendly face on your billboards, a change of font type, an exciting social media page, a different kind of music or jingle could easily bring a different perspective of your brand to the marketplace. Do what you can to ensure that Sheba hears the right thing about your service or organisation.

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