My sister just got back from Tesco.
"Something weird just happened," she said.
Little did I know 'something weird' would involve a red pepper.
"I went to the self-service checkout, pressed the button for red pepper and the screen went blank. I tried it again but the same thing happened.
"So I turned to a member of staff on the tills and explained that something wasn't working. She told me that it was because red peppers have barcodes on them. I told her that mine didn't have a barcode."
Want to know how the member of staff responded to my sister?
"You'd better go and get another one then."
Are you serious? This is how Tesco treats their customers? (Not least while in the middle of a profits scandal that's likely to result in the loss of hundreds of jobs.) I say Tesco because even though this was only one member of staff, she represents Tesco 'the brand'.
It's the staff that deal with the customers every day that are the true face - and voice - of the brand. That's where you find the genuine interaction between the business and the buyer.
So the words this particular charmer chose speak for the company as a whole. I don't care whether she likes her job, how much she gets paid, or how often she plucks her eyebrows, I just care about my sister and her red pepper being given a bit of respect.
Sure, it could have been oodles worse (I witnessed an actual physical fight play out between a group over-enthusiastic teenage girls outside Asda a couple of weeks back), but good communication is absolutely critical to strong customer relationships.
And if there are other staff that communicate like that, then I think Tesco bosses need to re-think their training programme.
A brand isn't a name or a logo. It's a perception. It's the thoughts you have when you hear a name or see a logo. It's the feelings you get when you go through a customer or client experience.
Those thoughts and feelings are entirely influenced by the behaviour of the business that controls the brand. That's where the connection comes from. That's what closes the gap between being a prospect and being a customer. And that's why businesses like John Lewis are so successful. They understand that providing exceptional customer service is a brand behaviour that's more likely to get people to buy from them.
Oh, the simplicity.
But what's the difference between positive and negative brand behaviour?
That's simple, too.
Just a few little words can mean the difference between a perfectly satisfied customer with their credit card out and one that's pissed off and more likely to take their custom to a competitor. (Like Lidl. Where they don't even have self-service checkouts. Win! You only have to queue for about half an hour to be served by a human.)
The right words can make someone's day. (Happy person = more willing to buy in the future.) The wrong ones can ruin it. (Annoyed person = less willing to buy in the future.) My sister's day wasn't ruined by the red pepper incident - she's not quite that dramatic - but you get my gist.
People are flaky. They change their mind. And most of them have principles. So, every time your business uses words, consider how those words are making people feel. Because the smallest thing can make the biggest impression.
And when your market is bubbling with competition?
First impressions aren't the only ones that count.
To see other words I've somehow written, take yourself over here.