Keeping it real

A few years ago, I attended a training course based around the premise that the best leaders are those that are authentic. At the time, it seemed like common sense, but just as authenticity is a key component of any great leader, it is also a critical constituent of the success of an organisation. And it continues to surprise me both how many people, but also how many businesses behave in an unauthentic manner.

Those organisations that have a clear vision of what they stand for and hold true to this across all their customer touchpoints, as well as their employee commitments, are the ones that will continue to thrive.

authenticity

The Cambridge English Dictionary defines “Authentic” as,

“Real, true or what people say it is”

Companies that can articulate the experiences their customers can expect to receive and have clearly defined service standards that they consistently maintain will both attract and retain more customers. Despite “Authenticity” being an increasingly over-used word, customers value it more than ever, using both their feet and social voices when they feel they are either being treated unfairly or when a company is seen to have been corrupt or dishonest in some way.

With so much accessibility, through so many channels, customers and consumers are unwilling to accept contradictions between how a brand portrays itself and the experiences they receive. They are also far less willing to be ‘talked to’ by a brand, preferring to engage with, or talk about it. There is little room to hide any more for an organisation that doesn’t deliver on the brand promise and service commitments they make.

Perhaps the most reviled companies are those that claim to be authentic but don’t demonstrate it. And this is where the term has become abused and over-used, as companies that have betrayed their customers claim “authenticity” as part of the brand re-building process. For those companies that do it best, it goes unstated, because it is demonstrated continuously through their behaviour and service delivery. Marketing Week published a great checklist of the rules of authenticity.

Authenticity not only applies to the customer experience but it needs to carry through to an organisation’s employee commitments as well. Not being true to employees will quickly become the downfall of a company that claims to be authentic, as it will be impossible to carry through on the brand promise with an employee base that doesn’t believe in it.

An authentic brand knows what is stands for and understands what it’s customers want, constantly working to be the best at providing it.  Honesty, transparency and engagement are key. And for the most authentic brands, those rare mistakes that happen to even the best of companies will be forgiven if they stay true, real and honest.