What Makes for a Great Brand Experience

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In my final post about our recent trip to the Gran Bahia Principe El Portillo in Samana, Dominican Republic, I will touch on what are the key ingredients to creating a positive and lasting brand experience for your customers. What goes into making a positive customer experience can be unique to each individual. But there are certain aspects of the brand experience that most people would agree are crucial and the El Portillo does it right.

* Consistency – Great brands like Apple, BMW and Coca-Cola understand that their brand image is a precious commodity and they all go to great lengths to protect it and ensure the messaging is consistent across all mediums. Whether online, in print or on radio – the devil is in the details. Even if people only subconsciously notice strategically placed logos and the use of corporate colours and taglines, these elements go a long way to promote and solidify their brand in the consumer mind. Case in point, the Gran Bahia corporate symbol is a sun graphic. This symbol can be found throughout the resort. From signage, headboards on their beds, to slippers and robes – the brand is everywhere. No one would ever forget which resort chain they are visiting. Even the sand ashtrays around the resort are emblazoned with the sun symbol every morning. Now that’s attention to detail!

* Cleanliness is Next to Godliness – Just like you clean and prep your home before having guests over as a sign of care and respect, businesses can send the same message by rolling out the red (and clean) carpet for visitors. My wife and business partner Sandra had the pleasure of working at the Epcot Theme Park (formerly Epcot Center) in Orlando, Florida early on in her working career. One of the things that really stuck out in her mind was how much focus was put on keeping the park immaculate. Not just the grounds, but the employees too. Only recently were male employees allowed to grow facial hair! All part of the clean-cut, all-American brand experience that is Disney.

The same can be said for the Gran Bahia El Portillo. It had to be one of the most well maintained all inclusive resorts we’ve ever stayed at. The sheer number of house keeping staff members was huge, as were the landscape maintenance employees. While we were visiting, a whole 20 metre long row of shrubs was being removed and replaced with a new variety to be consistent with the rest of the border shrubs on the property. And this switch was completed over a few hours. When we returned to our room, the whole project was completed, including the sidewalk being swept of every last granule of soil. Very impressive! When drinks were spilt, someone was there to clean up the mess in seconds – literally. This sends the message to their guests – we appreciate you visiting with us and we want your visit to be as pleasant as possible. What business wouldn’t want their customers to have that type of customer experience?

* A Smile Goes a Long Way – You would think that having a smile on your face is a given for people working in the customer service industry. But obviously, that is not always the case. Visiting a store or restaurant and being greeted with genuine warmth and enthusiasm pretty much guarantees a positive brand experience for a customer.  And this is the one thing that really stood out in my mind while staying at the El Portillo. Having visited numerous all inclusive resorts in the Carribean and Mexico, the staff at the El Portillo were by far the most helpful and friendly. I had read on a few travel sites that people were complaining about the number of employees that didn’t have a good grasp of the English language. I have to admit, that this was pretty apparent to us. But even with our rudimentary understanding of Spanish, we had absolutely no problem communicating with the staff.

As previously mentioned, the Samana region is still a relatively under-developed area of the D.R., so many of the employees are from surrounding towns where speaking English is not really a priority. To me, a big smile and a friendly “hola” goes a long way to connecting with someone. Whether it was a gardener, security guard or house keeper, you could not pass by one person without them saying hello. And it seemed like the restaurant staff actually liked interacting with you during meals. Although we always tipped our servers, they were very appreciative, but never seemed overly concerned about money. This approach should be adopted by more businesses. A positive customer and brand experience is always about the customer. Making the customer feel appreciated, making the customer feel important. This will always bring people back. For now, back to the cage.