Thoughts on entrepreneurship, startups, and tech.


Never Overlook Form When Dealing With Your Customers

I think it’s become “trendy” to talk from the hip with customers in the digital economy. And I don’t think it’s the right way to do long term sustainable business. Disrespect, lightness & irony lead to shallow relationships, infidelity & ignorance which inevitably finishes up by destroying any brand reputation you might have had and punishing sales. All because of “form”.

Most companies spend truckloads (too much) on compelling marketing copy and stunning visuals to communicate with their customers and as a result, completely forget the people side of their brand, whether that might be sales, customer support or maintenance. Sure a lot of emphasis is put on hiring the “right chemistry” but once those people are on-boarded, they end up getting “hazed” by the incumbents who having being left alone for years, have created their own eco-system and more importantly, jargon and tone. And set aside the paper thin wisdom on showing off your talent when freshly hired, a newbies future depends (unfortunately) on their capacity to integrate the ranks, not stand out from them.

So how do you maintain “form” when so much pressure is on “function” and “results”? First of all, make sure that the “how” is part of the company culture. If you think that’s just another dull mantlepiece ornament in corporate prose that any organisation forgets when things get choppy, check out how Army Special Forces train, lead and talk with their hosts when in operations in hostile territories. The point being, if it’s part of your brand to treat people in a particular fashion, then it isn’t hard to make sure that at every point of contact things are held to those standards. Making people accountable, measuring, training and motivating are all “means”, but if the result isn’t hard wired into the brand, then it won’t hold together under pressure.

Form is also a way to stand out from competition and even price differently. Nespresso sells coffee, but so does Starbucks, Lilly & a slew of others. Ok, George.C is for something (according to my other half) but when you enter a Nespresso boutique, there’s a certain “tone” that is shared by everyone you cross during your visit. I’m not going to imply that the product is better because of this, but the underlying brand message is and that’s why so many people flock to their stores and websites.

However you interpret “form”, whether it’s words — style — speed — packaging — taste — smell or design, the level of refinement and consistency of delivery is ultimately what your customers are going to remember during the “journey” (in-store or on-line), and in today’s frenetic society, standing out as a pillar of humaneness and respect will earn you more than you think.