Service = Brand, Part 2

Customer service. We know that it is not one size fits all – it is the art of aligning your service with your brand. It’s the consistency of experience that a customer feels every time they interact with you. And what is brand? It’s what you stand for, it is how you differentiate yourself. Bruce Temkin from Forrester blogs a lot about this.

We seem to agree that not all companies need to provide exceptional customer service – just good enough service that is in-line with their brand. Think back to the IKEA and Apple examples in my last blog.

But what about industries where there is little differentiation between products and services? Like banks or telecom providers? Is there any true difference between the banking products and services at Wells Fargo, Citibank, or Bank of America, just to name a few? They also offer an undifferentiated customer service experience that makes it hard to for you, as a customer, to individualize them.

One deviator in the banking space is ING Direct. They are a non-traditional, internet bank where all business is done via web self service, ATM or email. They have no branches, and you cannot visit a live agent. Even without this traditional personal touch, they know who their customers are, what they want, and deliver what they need. Everything about the banking experience is slick, comprehensive and targeted to a good customer service experience. However, they only target the tech savvy customer with relatively straightforward banking needs – they are known to fire “high maintenance customers” who do not fit into their service mold.

ING Direct, in a sector of undifferentiated products and services, differentiates themselves by their exceptional service experience. This experience is aligned with the bank’s business model. And this service differentiation becomes their brand. Once again, service = brand.