Exploring the employees’ perspective on service branding
Al Olayan, Najla Khaled
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This dissertation investigates how employees can help their organization build service brands. For service brands, employees play a big role in communicating the brand meaning and the brand values to the customers. Based on the employee-customer interaction, customers form attitudes about the brand and thus decide to choose the company and remain loyal. Many organisations train employees to interact with customers, but often never specify how they want employees to deliver the brand promise. This study aims to uncover how employees deliver the brand’s values to customers. The research question is “How do service employees facilitate the creation of successful service brands for an organisation?” The research question is answered using semi-structured interviews of 12 employees of a fitness centre in Auckland City Centre. These interviews are then examined using content analysis which provides answers as to how employees convey brand values to customers and create brand equity. The categories of content analysis are achieved by a series of coding and grouping words found in the interview answers. The analysis found five categories by which the employees created brand equity. These categories are: ‘Employee Behaviour’, ‘Social Connection’, Customer Satisfaction’, ‘Branding’, and ‘Employee Commitment’. The findings suggest that employees believed they had significant influence on customers when it came to communicating the brand values to customers. The approaches they employed were focused on the customer as a priority. Customer loyalty and brand retention are achieved through customer satisfaction and establishing social connections with the customers. Superior interpersonal skills were also seen as an important way to gain customers respect and ensure brand loyalty. The employees also felt it was necessary for the management to empower them with training and support, and create a positive working environment for them to commit to building brand equity. Employees expressed reasonable knowledge on branding, and believed they created brand equity by providing customers with the best gym experience and reaching their fitness and health goals. It was interesting to note that while the three interviewed branches, operating under the parent brand, shared the same brand guidelines, exercise programs and brand philosophy, they demonstrated obvious differences in branches’ culture, way of doing things and approach to customer service. This dissertation provides the marketing discipline with evidence on the perspectives of service brand employees, and their significant role towards branding and creating brand equity for a fitness company. While these insights are not exhaustive by themselves, they also provide knowledge on the delivery of brand promise, marketing programs and employee recruitment for the fitness industry in specific and for the service sector in general.