Updated: Aug 28
Have you ever played the telephone game? A popular ice-breaker, players form a line, and the first player comes up with a message and whispers it to the ear of the second person in the line. The second player repeats the message to the third player, and so on. When the last player is reached, they announce the message they heard to the entire group. After the last player has repeated the message, the first person retells the original message. The telephone game is a great metaphor for marketing. Every business is a unique blend of people, products, and places. Although the objective is to deliver to the wants and needs of customers, at times, messages can become garbled along the way. While the telephone game outcome is funny when that happens, for a marketer it’s no laughing matter. Alike the telephone game, reasons for changes in messaging may include anxiousness or impatience (wrong design), inaccurate corrections (wrong CTAs), the difficult-to-understand mechanism of whispering (the channel), and that some players may deliberately alter what is being said to guarantee a changed message by the end of the line (word-of-mouth).
Because of the dominance of the internet in our everyday lives, all businesses are service businesses. With the rise of e-commerce, social networking, and other digital technologies, the globe is your oyster. Geographical boundaries are no longer an issue. As a service business, when developing marketing programs, intangibility, inseparability, variability, and perishability need to be considered. Let’s walk through the telephone ‘brand’ game starting with intangibility.
Intangibility comes into play, even if you sell a certain widget, your differentiator is your brand experience. In order to create your value proposition, it’s important to make tangible the intangible. This can be done through the dimensions of brand experience. The question arises, is your brand experience sensory (appealing to your customer's senses – visual, audio, taste, smell, and touch) or affective (evoking feelings and sentiments), behavioral (resulting in physical actions and behaviors), or intellectual (making your customers think)? Thinking through the intangible service experience of your customer can help to create an experience that reinforces each customer touchpoint.
Did you say inseparability? Understanding inseparability can help you to more effectively lead your teams. Every employee or provider creates an imprint on their recognition of your brand. You and your staff are a big part of your brand, developing processes and experiences for your customer can solidify the brand experience.
As we move down the line, inseparability leads to variability. Quality of service, like brand experience, is unique to each individual. Because of these potential variances, you may offer a service guarantee. However, in order to effectively offer this guarantee, it’s important to back it up by hiring and training staff, standardize processes, solicit, review and follow up on customer satisfaction.
Customer satisfaction is critical and service capacity can’t be stored for sale. Like the milk in your refrigerator, that’s what we call perishability. Offering the right services to the right customers at the right place, time and prices contribute to sustainability. Losing sight of this combination, like the final result of the telephone game will lead to the wrong result.
Now that you’re aware of the benefits of including intangibility, inseparability, variability, and perishability when developing your marketing programs, next week we’ll discuss technology-enabled service delivery. Technology is rapidly changing the rules for service delivery and offers some great benefits for your business. Do you have the 7 “essentials” for your marketing tech stack? Can you guess? Stay tuned, we’ll serve it up next week. Have any other questions, comments, or conundrums? Let us know. We are here to provide you with the tips, tech, and tools to help you better serve your customers and create a sustainable venture.