Scott Cook, the co-founder of Intuit (the company credited with QuickBooks and TurboTax), once remarked, “A brand is no longer what we tell the consumer it is – it is what consumers tell each other it is.” This has become true in our social media-driven environment where one positive or negative post can go viral in a matter of moments, and the fate of a multi-million dollar organization hangs in the balance. Public relations have moved to the hands of the consumers, and its power has gone on to include the volunteer experience. Word-of-mouth has taken on an entirely new meaning in the 21st century, with people now having their very own platform to share their opinions and experiences. Power has shifted to the consumer, and their findings are not always accurate facts, but more often, perceptions from their unique tunnel visioned encounter.
It doesn’t matter if they only see one portion of an organization, once they’ve interacted with some section, their opinion has been made for better or worse and they are armed with their conclusions to share with friends, family, and followers. If this sounds depressing, don’t worry. Just as one bad experience can go viral the same goes for a good encounter! One good interaction with a guest can have the same viral effect, spreading as they share their experience on social media and through word-of-mouth.
Volunteers are often on the front lines of guest relations, so it’s up to them to create customer service experiences that lead to positive buzz. A good experience will slowly begin to build the brand up positively in customer’s minds; a negative interaction will have the opposite effect. Marketers tell us that one way to develop brand loyalty is by encouraging customers to create an emotional attachment. Researchers have found that an emotional brand attachment may be formed when a particular brand becomes a part of an individual’s self-concept. In other words, people get emotionally attached to organizations who embody characteristics that they either desire or believe they already have. When people identify emotionally with a brand, they cultivate deeper loyalty ties. As volunteers, we have the opportunity to create positive, emotional experiences. We are in unique positions to interact with guests face-to-face, and that personal interaction is where emotional connections take place. The more memorable encounters we provide to people, the stronger the bond becomes to the organization.
Christina Angelakos has a doctorate in Strategic Leadership from Regent University. She loves working with teams in both the corporate and nonprofit marketplace. Follow her on Twitter @ChristinaAngel