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Companies Only Deliver on Their Brand Promises Half the Time

A company’s brand promise lives and dies by its employees

Published: Tuesday, May 19, 2015 - 16:33

A brand promise is an agreement between a company and its customers. Yet Gallup finds that companies are largely failing to make good on their agreements. Only half of the almost 18 million customers Gallup has surveyed strongly believe that the companies they do business with always deliver on what they promise. The other half, not so much.

A brand promise represents everything a company stands for—or does not stand for. It is the unique statement of what the company offers, what separates it from its rivals, and what makes it worthy of customers’ consideration.

Gallup research shows that brand promises have a profound impact on business outcomes. The highest-performing companies in Gallup’s database deliver on their brand promise 75 percent of the time, according to their customers. These companies have greater levels of customer engagement, which enables them to surpass their competitors in terms of share of wallet, profitability, revenue, and relationship growth.

Only 38 percent of customers are fully engaged. Fully engaged customers have a strong emotional attachment to a company. They’ll go out of their way to locate a favored product or service, and they won’t accept substitutes. As true brand ambassadors, they are a company’s most valuable and profitable customers.

But the majority of customers (62%) don’t feel or behave this way. They’re indifferent or actively disengaged, which also means they’re open to switching brands. Companies that can create strong brand promises and consistently deliver on them have a legitimate opportunity to sway these customers and gain a greater share of the market.

Keeping up with the brand promise keepers

A company’s brand promise can fall short for many reasons—it may be too similar to its competitors, it may be out of line with the company’s greater purpose and culture or it may be unclear and uninteresting. In Gallup’s experience, most companies come up empty on their brand promise because they overlook the single most important component of the promise—their people.

Whether a company is product or service-oriented, its brand promise lives and dies by its employees and their ability to consistently act on it. Yet Gallup’s research reveals that the majority of employees aren't the brand ambassadors their companies need them to be. When asked, only 27 percent of employees strongly agree that they always deliver on the promises they make to their customers.

Most employees have good intentions, but their actions can be disconnected from their company’s brand promise and what they should really be saying and doing. For example, a pharmacy employee may tell a customer that a prescription will be ready in 10 minutes when the wait will really be 30 minutes. Or, a business-to-business manufacturer may promise to deliver construction supplies to its customer by a specific date and then fail to communicate when those supplies end up on back order. In both cases, these employees believed they were fulfilling the brand promise, but they only ended up frustrating their customers.

Delivering the brand promise from the inside out

Employees are the driving force behind a brand, but only if they understand that promise and deliver on it consistently. The challenge many companies have in engaging their customers has more to do with the company’s workplace than with the marketplace. Leaders and managers can tackle this challenge through immediate and long-term actions that help connect employees to the brand promise.

Audit the brand promise
The promises that companies make to their customers today must be deliverable today. Leaders should objectively assess their company’s brand promises and ask themselves:
• Which promises are easy to keep?
• Which promises are harder to keep?
• Which promises are customer-focused?
• Which promises define the brand?
• Which promises are gratuitous and could be eliminated?
• Which promises differentiate our brand from its competitors?

Armed with the answers to these questions, leaders can better define their company’s brand promise and ensure that it is truthful, compelling, and unique. They can eliminate any promise that is false or difficult to maintain, and focus solely on the promises that their employees can consistently deliver.

Help employees deliver on the brand promise
Employees embody the brand experience for customers. Companies must ensure that employees present that experience the right way by providing them with ongoing tools, education, and support. Frontline managers, in particular, should discuss the brand promise with their team and help them understand how to deliver on it. Delivering on some promises will require employees to partner with co-workers from other teams and departments. Managers should help their employees make these connections and understand how their relationships and actions affect the brand and the business.

Gain a greater understanding of customers’ needs
Companies must focus their long-term efforts on gaining a deep understanding of their current and potential customers’ needs, and figuring out how to deliver on those attributes. Gallup recently worked with a business-to-business company that learned of a gap in its market. The company conducted a service audit that identified services none of its competitors were providing and was able to sell more hardware as a result. Companies that invest in analytics—not just gathering data, but mining insights from it—can gain a substantial edge over their competition. Equipped with this knowledge, companies and employees can devise and act on strategies that build the brand by delivering products and services that customers want and need.

Copyright © 2015 by Gallup Inc. All rights reserved. The content is used with permission; however, Gallup retains all rights of republication.


About The Author

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Gallup has studied human nature and behavior for more than 70 years. Gallup’s reputation for delivering relevant, timely, and visionary research on what people around the world think and feel is the cornerstone of the organization. Gallup employs many of the world’s leading scientists in management, economics, psychology, and sociology; and their consultants assist leaders in identifying and monitoring behavioral economic indicators worldwide. Gallup consultants help organizations boost organic growth by increasing customer engagement and maximizing employee productivity through measurement tools, coursework, and strategic advisory services. Gallup’s 2,000 professionals deliver services at client organizations, through the web, and in 40 offices around the world.