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Brand intimacy is a new paradigm that leverages and strengthens the emotional bonds between a person and a brand among six markers that identify the character and nature of ultimate brand relationships: Fulfillement, Identity, Enhancement, Ritual, Nostalgia and Indulgence.

1- Apple

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2- Disney

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3- Amazon

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4- Harley Davidson

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5- Netflix

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6- Nintendo

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7- Samsung

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8- Whole foods

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9- BMW

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10-Toyota


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Source mblm
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Relationships make the world go round—from that first flicker of attraction in high school or college to walking down the aisle on your wedding day. From landing your first customer to striking the business deal that takes your startup to the next level.
 

Relationships are key to every aspect of our lives.
 

So why is it that so many business owners rest on their laurels when it comes to customer relationships?
 

How can we future-proof ourselves against developments in the world of customer relationships? Well, the first step is to understand them.

New platforms, new opportunities

Advances in technology have blown customer interaction wide open. While such interactions were once limited to face-to-face in-store interactions, telephone conversations via customer service channels, or email marketing communications, modern customer relationships are played out across a variety of different fields. These include:

Social media

Social media is a vital tool in your customer relationship arsenal. Over 80% of adults in the United States are engaged via social media.

Adopting a diverse approach by utilizing the benefits of Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Instagram, Pinterest, and others pays dividends for businesses.

Mobile devices

Mobile devices are similarly important. The percentage of online interaction handled via mobile devices is increasing year-on-year. Mobile marketing revenues now exceed $20 billion.

Optimizing your online presence for mobile browsing, deploying applications to support the needs of customers, and integrating mobile into your consumer nurturing strategies are effective ways to prepare for the future of customer relationships.

Feedback loops

Developing feedback loops are also important. High-quality communication transforms your client base from a steady source of income to a rich resource of information which you can use to develop the services you offer.

Build feedback opportunities into the structure of your customer interactions – either via CTAs deployed amongst your content marketing pieces, or by reaching out directly after a purchase – and use the information gathered to hone the service you provide.

CRM software

It’s not so easy to go it alone with so much data to process across a variety of different fields and metrics. This is why a good quality piece of customer relationship management – or CRM – software can help to lighten the load.

Track customer interactions, iron out grievances, and optimize your firm for success in the market; a good CRM platform is worth its weight in proverbial gold.

The all-important efficiency factor

A business cannot survive without its customers, but nurturing relationships with those customers must be cost-effective. This is the endless balancing act; the high-wire performance that we must undergo each and every day.

It all comes down to value. Automating all of your processes, blasting out a ton of identical marketing emails to clients, and stripping back your customer service and nurturing departments is surely the cheapest way to develop customer relationships, but is it effective?

Of course not. No one wants to be treated like that, and this approach will simply turn customers off.

Your customers are human beings; they respond well to a personal service and to high levels of care. It is up to your department to place a value on that level of care, and work to achieve it in a way that is not only cost-light, but also efficient and effective.

Source Digital list mag

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How often have you been to a reputable store or service company, hoping you will get the right product with the pampering service you feel entitled to as a ‘regular’ - or shall I say ‘true loyal’ customer? Instead, you are quickly disillusioned by the lack of proper attention, poor display of product knowledge, and bare minimum service.

 

Yet as you proceed to check-out, you will proudly present the store loyalty card to earn points. Points that you will likely forget about, or lose track calculating and translating them into an actual return of value on your loyalty.

 

This is probably the only positive note you will take from your visit, having spent a substantial amount of money in a short amount of time. So, you leave without feeling as though you have been recognized as a true loyal customer.

The question that always arises when facing situations like this is:

 

“Why do these companies invest so much in building loyalty program systems and fighting for share of voice, and so little on building a genuine, simple yet efficient service experiences that delight customers?”  After all, it is the little things that count, right?  “Why these companies spend so much energy & money on building loyalty program systems and spend large advertising & promotional budgets to fight for share of voice and so little on building a true, simple yet efficient experience that delights customers & makes them spend more money, repeat their visits and refer friends & peers?”

 

Why don’t they invest their resources in better recruitment, competitive salaries, better work environments, incentives and training to engage their staff? Why don’t they try to understand and recognize their customers’ needs, aspirations and expectations, and deliver on those consistently?

 

Treating the staff and the customers equally poor seems like a bad retention strategy, which these companies believe can be compensated by offering discounts or rewarding customers with a Chinese toaster for spending the equivalent of the latest iPhone!

 

Covering up poor customer experience with ‘points’ won’t retain customers. Good service will.

 

Companies might think that they have customers trapped in their loyalty program and this will eliminate the need to invest in improving or innovating the aspects of the service experience that matter most to customers.

This business myopia presupposes that the company is in a monopolistic situation or has a unique offering that brings in clients, regardless of service quality.

 

Very few companies are so privileged, but if one compares their loyalty schemes, most of them are almost identical and offer no true competitive advantage!

 

So, what does collecting points achieve when all the important milestones of the experience are less than satisfactory? Not much, beyond pushing customers to establish an opportunistic relationship with these companies based on deals and bargain hunting.

 

Services can drive loyalty up. Or down. People will come because they like your product, but leave because they detest your service.

 

True loyalty cannot be bought. It must be earned!

 

Customers do not actually consider their purchase of a product or service as ‘loyalty’ to a brand – they are loyal to their own needs – selecting what works in their best interest. Yet, strangely enough, companies still invest billions to ‘buy’ their customers’ loyalty.

Most of today’s programs barely go beyond a transactional relationship, which is based on a superficial understanding of customers. Designing generic or ‘off-the-shelf’ schemes that do not excite customers, and sending out mass emails or SMS offers (that often end up in junk mail) are insufficient.

 

Good service is a powerful way to identify, attract, retain and grow true brand advocates. A better customer experience, including simplified interactions and a feeling that the brand actually cares, would lead to true loyalty that generates consistent revenue growth and costs less to establish.

 

Never assume. Observe and talk to customers in order to understand them.

 

Use service design and customer management tools in conjunction with the data you collected to make their lives easier, to give them personalized treatment and to provide them an experience that reinforces the relationship they have with you. Interacting in such a mindset with a customer is the best way to build a lasting and lucrative relationship.

 

The most commonly practiced customer engagement bait are the discounts or earned points flashed in front of them.  However, the majority of customers say that what they really want is special treatment and well-tailored offers. They want to feel like they matter to your company.

 

Amazingly, the majority of companies accumulate but do not use customer and loyalty program data to develop a proper customer engagement strategy.  This strategy should outline why, when, how the company is to connect with its customers to provide better experiences.  Without such a strategy, it would be exceedingly difficult to build stronger relationships with their customers that leverage their lifetime value.

 

Think ‘customer first’ by mapping a solid and differentiated customer experience strategy, and enjoy the kind of loyalty that generates greater share of wallet, lower costs to serve and the opportunity for customers to share their stories of your brand with families and peers.

Joe Ayoub - Brandcell CEO

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Companies in Lebanon are always praised for being resilient. While this is definitely a quality needed in our country and region, it brought with it a malicious side.
 

According the National Geographic, When faced with imminent danger or death, certain species of ducks will play dead. They freeze any movement, fake death and compress their body structure and temperature until they are out of danger. It’s called tonic immobility, and scientists think that the response is a defense mechanism. Unfortunately, it’s not a very good one: These death-feigning fowl are often eaten anyway.


 So let's imagine then what would happen when this danger last longer than the species had envisioned?

As it is immobilized, it looses its reflexes for normal agility, mobility and exploration for food/growth as well as any sense of hope in surviving to the future. It focuses only on the short term.

 This is exactly the negative side of continuous resilience mode that practiced over a long period could plunge companies in a perpetual status quo that becomes the norm and fossilizes mindsets  even long after danger fades.

 

One of the main side effect is obviously loosing any sense of initiative that is new or unfamiliar as it will be considered a risk taking even if probability of success exceeds by far chances of failure. As failure is lived in our culture  as a weakness exposing self to danger of extermination rather as a training for fitness and prosperity over the mid to long term.

 

The point is that resilience without an alertness on its side effects and establishing a continuous exploration and agility drills and exercises is equally fatal as external threats to any organization.

 Practically top management need to stop using the political and economical downturn as an all out excuse to fossilize their organization and people and bring to a halt any sense of creative and uncharted initiative whether internal or externally induced.

 That is, to a substantial extent, why in my view our youth are emigrating. It's not all true that they do so because of lack of vacancies in our country. The truth is that they can't see themselves prospering and flourishing in a rigid and constantly tuned on short terms and overwhelming negative survival mindset work environment.

 One of the most frustrating and irritating facts is when established and high performing companies refuse upfront to embrace new ideas and suggestions brought to them by theprogressive thinkers and just want to do business as usual. The usual being few decades old! They claim being different yet they copy the familiar and safe in every aspects and at every level.

These companies have lost their childhood like sense of curiosity and exploration. They want to know and control the outcome of any initiative before they embark on the journey!

Why ? Fear that became their  driving force and second nature. The comfort of safety versus the thrill of new experience. This is where the call comes. Established companies have a duty, yes duty, to give new ideas and the people behind them a chance!

 They have to embrace them not fight them as without new blood and new thinking they would maybe survive but they won't create joy and excitement for our societies, families, customers and future generations and we will certainly drag behind other nations and markets.

Their duty is to be as much cautious on their values as much as progressive in trying new ways and new techniques for managing change and transformation from the old way to the new. Duty is to create R&D labs, innovation labs, ideas labs. bring talents on board to co-experiment together. Explore the latest techniques and technology that will ensure their healthy longevity, competence and prosperity for all stakeholders.

 What is the cost of trying and prototyping a new way of doing business compared  to the cost of missing the train of progress and differentiation. A question worth asking!

 

Joe Ayoub- Brandcell, Business design consulting.

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Deutsch’s Douglas Van Praet discusses how focus-group feedback, and the whole notion of the consumer, are misguided and how research should focus on understanding the unconscious and improving human lives.


Understanding the unconscious and improving human lives.

Whenever  the word "consumer" is heared, a term unavoidable in marketing, a certain part winces. The label is counterproductive and misguided, suggesting hubris by putting corporate interests over customer concerns. The worst offense is that it presupposes a response you haven’t earned yet. Their purpose is not to consume your product!
Yet this label frames market research, with an emphasis on sales and usage, in other words, the bottom line, market share, or ROI. The ultimate goal is profitability, not helping people better themselves.

How these research studies are done is at sharp odds with what science now knows. The elephant in the room is that the vast majority of our decisions are made unconsciously. What is a no-brainer for any cognitive scientist remains mind-boggling to marketers. The conscious mind is simply not running the show, but we’ve created an entire industry pretending that it does.

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Advertisers are doubling down on this myth, investing in exhaustive investigations of self-reported preferences, attitudes, opinions, and beliefs. These deceptions become guideposts for product and campaign development. For $150 and a ham sandwich, panelists are drilled for hours in formal focus groups before two-way mirrors and cleverly concealed microphones that elicit groupthink and inauthenticity. The best become "professional respondents" glibly dominating groups on the topic du jour—from potato chip to microchip.

What is the problem?

The problem is we’re profoundly social beings having spent 99% of our evolution relying on vital resources from tribal affiliates whose opinions mattered. Group rejection likely meant a death sentence. So it’s no surprise we still only put our best face forward while artfully maneuvering ourselves competitively in the pecking order.

The brain is designed to hide most of our intentions and promote self-confidence, an adaptive function that improves lives and prevents information overload. So we invent stories and believe our lies and confabulations. Social science experiments reveal that we are inherently self-righteous and consistently overrate our knowledge, autonomy, and abilities. We say advertising doesn’t influence us even though sales say otherwise. And we maintain these self-serving delusions when wired to a lie detector, which means we are lying to ourselves and not intentionally to the experimenters!

But marketers cling to these false convictions and post-hoc rationalizations in large-scale quantitative studies that test and track "awareness," "topline" reports that skim the surface because they ignore real motives that lay hidden in the depths of our "unawareness."

This vast data dump is distilled into a target "persona," the "true north" for creative inspiration. Psychologist Carl Jung is turning in his grave because he coined the term to describe the fa├žade we contrive to make an impression on others while concealing our true nature. The persona is the mask of overconfidence that colors reality in our favor to adapt to social situations.

We need to penetrate this veneer. As Jung put it,

"In each of us there is another whom we don’t know." This inner "self" is a term he used to describe the totality of the psyche that includes our unconscious intentions or, in essence, "the real you."


And we all share an inner essence through our DNA. We’re not consumers, eyeballs, non-responders, laggards, Millennials, or Hispanics. We are humans. And by raising our sightline and defining customers more broadly we will not only deepen empathy and relevance but also widen appeal.

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This doesn't imply all research is bad research. Measuring sales and online engagement is very useful because we observe what people do, not what they say they do. And despite the pitfalls of qualitative research we can still observe face-to-face, micro-expressions and body language that belie words. Skilled moderators can unveil hidden agendas and unconscious defenses. But these researchers are rare. Strategists who inspire through traditional methods make subjective leaps beyond the data. They succeed in spite of current research protocols, not because of them.

A 7-step process was developed, shedding human insight on how idea becomes action:

1) Interrupt the Pattern
2) Create Comfort
3) Lead the Imagination
4) Shift the Feeling
5) Satisfy the Critical Mind
6) Change the Associations
7) Take Action

Source Fastco Create
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Balance Goals

Today's top employers are doing much more than providing a good salary and basic benefits to recruit and retain employees. In fact, some employers are trying to empathize with employees' personal needs as much as they focus on their professional needs. You've heard of on-site fitness classes — but how about on-site health clinics? Unlimited vacation is nice — but wouldn't a flextime schedule better match your work-life balance goals?

For companies that offer these and other "personal" benefits, the potential payoff is promising — based on a recent report, UK consultant group Lady Geek found that the most empathetic companies increased in value more than twice as much as the least empathetic companies in 2015.

How do you measure "empathy"? Lady Geeks defines the term as "a cognitive and emotional understanding of others' experiences" and consults clients on how to engage with customers and employees holistically. Their analysis uses a variety of metrics, such as CEO approval ratings, gender ratios on the board, brand controversy (such as scandals and fines) and sentiment on the company's social networks. 

Below are the 10 companies that topped their Global Empathy Index — and a little something to learn about empathetic policies from each.


1. Microsoft

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Headquarters: Redmond, WA

Monetary value: $436.4B*

Number of employees: 118,584

Empathetic policy highlight: Microsoft offers a lab program, Microsoft Garage, which both encourages and supports employees' side gigs and creative ideas. The program allows employees across any department to brainstorm, plan and develop projects outside their primary job or function at Microsoft.

2. Facebook

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Headquarters: Menlo Park, CA

Monetary value: $289.1B

Number of employees: 11,996

Policy highlight: Facebook allows employees to select their own workday start and stop times. The flextime program provides employees with the opportunity to align their hours on the job with their lifestyle, which Facebook believes leads to greater flexibility and productivity.

3. Tesla

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Headquarters: Palo Alto, CA

Monetary value: $29.2B

Number of employees: 12,000

Policy highlight: Tesla pays 100 percent of the direct plan costs for employee health plans. The plans come with high deductibles, but with an in-house medical clinic, employees can avoid unnecessary visits through an on-site clinic visit first.

4. Alphabet (Google)

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Headquarters: Mountain View, CA

Monetary value: $515B

Number of employees: 59,976

Policy highlight: Mom or dad-to-be? Moms get up to 18 weeks of paid leave, while dads get six. To help out even more, the company provides "baby bonding bucks" to help with expenses, such as formula and diapers.

5. Procter & Gamble

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Headquarters: Cincinnati, OH

Monetary value: $213B

Number of employees: 118,000

Policy highlight: Life happens. And when employees are going through a difficult time, Procter & Gamble offers a personal leave of absence. Employees can take up to three months off periodically without pay — but with continued benefits — allowing employees to take time for personal needs and the company to retain valuable talent.

6. Apple

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Headquarters: Cupertino, CA

Monetary value: $587B

Number of employees: 66,000

Policy highlight: Apple prioritizes employee health by offering a wellness center at its corporate headquarters, which includes doctors, physical therapists, chiropractors and dietitians. Don't work full-time or at corporate locations? No worries — even part-time and remote employees qualify for benefits.

7. Johnson & Johnson

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Headquarters: New Brunswick, NJ

Monetary value: $278B

Number of employees: 126,500

Policy highlight: Johnson & Johnson is a leader in understanding how employees' movement while working affects physical health. They've built an ergonomic workplace and implemented strategies to improve productivity as well as long-term health and wellness.

8. Walt Disney

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Headquarters: Burbank, CA

Monetary value: $170.2B

Number of employees: 180,000

Policy highlight: Employees receive free and discounted admission at many Walt Disney theme parks across the country, which can save workers' and their families thousands over the course of one's career with the company (not to mention provide some pretty cool vacations for theme park enthusiasts).

9. Prudential Financial

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Headquarters: Newark, NJ

Monetary value: $35.8B

Number of employees: 48,331

Policy highlight: Being a caregiver for a parent or relative is a tough job, but Prudential makes it easier by providing adult care in an employee or loved one's home. In addition, the company provides geriatric care services (in-home care and facility assessments), elder law services and adult care-giving seminars.

10. Audi

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Headquarters: Herndon, Virginia

Monetary value: $28.8B

Number of employees: 80,000

Policy highlight: The Audi Veterans to Technicians Program is designed to bring veterans back into the workforce. Participants in the program receive individualized support, advice and assistance from a team of dedicated program staff.

Source REWORK

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In today’s connected world, customers have more power than ever before. Social media is how we share & talk about our experiences. They influence our perceptions of brands & the choices we make just as much, if not more, than, traditional media. In the wake of the economic strains, companies are seeking to streamline operations. The best way to achieve this is to be customer centric. But what does this really mean? In reality most businesses actually fail to grasp the answer. For one, It’s not simplistically instruct-ing your employees to put on a smile and give a warm greeting. In fact, it’s vastly deeper than that and works across the three distinct yet essential following levels:

The Customer Perspective

In a recent survey conducted by Brandcell, “efficiency, quickness, and responsiveness” emerged as the most important elements of a great service (63%). As such, understanding the customer perspective and then bringing it inside the company is key to start. Some companies may proclaim to be doing customer satisfaction surveys. This can only give a partial view; ‘the What’, but lacks to answer ‘the Why’; why people or customers behave & feel this way. More so, people tend to say one thing & do another.

You may have lost customers who have traded down from you, but gained others who have upgraded to you. Do these new customers value same aspects of the brand experience as the previous customers? What mechanisms are in place for quick feedback, so you can find out? Just at the time when understand- ing the customer is most important, marketers tend to know the least.

To understand them companies need to dive into customers lives, observe customers in situ & ‘listen with an empathic eye’ to uncover insights that identify elements of dissatisfaction more than satisfaction, and to deeply discover what customers really want, need and aspire to.

Next is data collection. Here again businesses are missing the real value, with most not really knowing what to do with all the data they collect & store in their CRM system beyond sending out SMS or emails. Data needs to be correlat- ed & cross-examined with the consumer perspective from level one for building further knowledge of behavioral patterns. Once such information has been gathered & synthesized, the company is in a better position to devise new solutions and experience improvements that can enhance custom- ers’ lives and really engage them.

Identifying critical insights with data allows you to study your cost structure and determine which expenses can be reduced with minimal incidence on customer satisfaction and re-allocating resources on the actions & aspects that has substantial positive impact on customer’s experience with your brand. 

The Organizational challenge

The organizational challenge involved with being customer centric, necessitates alignment of policies, systems, staff training and back office with front end. A customer having to repeatedly give the same information across different touchpoints of one company will inevitably find his experience frustrating. Customers expect their interaction, regardless of whether by phone, internet or in person, to be seamless. Again, it’s about bringing the customer metaphorically inside the company and building everything around them, a process that is known as business design. One sobering way of looking at it is that with every business action that takes place, it can either add value to the customer or cost to the company. Additionally, if any company policy doesn’t impact the customer directly, does it need to exist?

Can we replace it with a step that adds value to customers & their experience with the product/service of the organization? 

Delivering delightful experiences

When the actions cited above are applied to bring about customer centricity, the result is that business plays a meaningful role in its customers’ lives. It also allows companies to reduce complexity and frustration, while unlocking innovation and opportunities, plus decreasing the cost of serving those customers. Today, customer reviews and social media mean you’re now only as good as your customer’s experience. Over 70% of buying experiences are based on how the customer feels they are being treated. This is very significant as it validates the importance for brands to get their customers ‘service experience’ right as the traditional product/price proposition is no longer good enough.

So to improve net earnings and margins, the answers lies in how your customers (your source of wealth) are experiencing your organization’s delivery on its promise. 

Joe Ayoub - Brandcell CEO

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Discover your customers ‘Job to be done’ with empathy interviews

People buy product & services to fulfill a need or for a ‘job-to-be-done’.
These jobs can vary tremendously:
Small things - pass the time while queuing; to regular tasks - pack a fast healthful lunch for my son to take to school; to the Self-fulfilling - buying a new premium watch.

Understanding why customers chose product A & not B is deeply related with the job this product is ntended to achieve in a given circumstance at both functional & emotional levels.
To uncover the insights that drive people’s behavior, relying on big data alone would only describe patterns & empirical correlations that often miss the true inner motivations. 
When asked directly, people rarely know what they want, which makes traditional Q&A interviews unsuccessful. To overcome this barrier, empathy interviewing focuses on establishing a regular conversation, which encourages subjects to speak from the heart and talk about what’s really important to them and reveal why they behave a certain way.
Like a therapist, skilled empathy interviewing can draw out what the subject really thinks and feels about the human experience. The information we extract will show you where your customers are coming from and how they experience your brand.

Brandcell_Empath-map.jpg

The empathy map - One of the many mapping tools used by Brandcell


Observe users in their natural environment

When we pair this technique with other approaches, we gain a deeper sense of who your customers are and how you can deliver smart solutions:
Seeing your customers in a natural setting is an authentic approach that exposes not only which products they use, but also their feelings and utility for those products.it also gives you instant snapshots of the interactions they have with your touch points uncovering the irritations or frustrations they may experience.

Understanding customers’ insights is key to develop innovative solutions, differentiating your business from the crowd and build a meaningful conversation with your audience leading to true brand loyalty that generate lasting revenues.
 

For additional information on how Brandcell's research methods can benefit your organisation or for any other details, please email us at info@brand-cell.com or call us on 01 335417.

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How can you, in a tough economy, make the right decision, fast, while minimizing risk?

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The SPRINT is a quick & proven process that brings together customers, employees, management and designers in a joint effort to improve business experience, strategy & tactics.  Developed at Google Ventures, it’s a “greatest hits” of business strategy, innovation, behavior science, design thinking, and more—packaged into a battle-tested process that any team can use.

brandcell_Business_Design_Sprint-iterate-(1).jpg
Working together in a sprint, you can shortcut the endless-debate cycle and compress months of time into a single week. Instead of deciding on a course of action on a product or service to understand if an idea is any good, you’ll get clear feedback from a realistic process. The SPRINT gives you a superpower: You can fast-forward into the future to get some insights & reactions, before making any expensive commitments.

brandcell_Business_Design_Sprint-week-(1).jpg


Brandcell consulting will be moderating the sessions. The ideal team will be composed of decision makers, finance, marketing, customer service, product/service designer/manager and IT/logistic executives.
 

For additional information on how the SPRINT method can fit to your organisation's case, to book your session or for any other details, please email us at info@brand-cell.com or call us on 01 335417.

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Brandcell Consulting has conducted a survey to investigate what consumers believe are the qualities of great service. The online questionnaire revealed the way services make Lebanese consumers feel and what matters to them most about the quality of service delivered to them. 

These are the 4 best and worst performing sectors as perceived by Lebanese customers.

 

The Best Sectors in Customer Service:

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1.Food & Restaurant

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2. Hotel

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3. Leisure (Cinema, Gyms, etc...)

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4. Retail

 

The Worst Sectors in Customer Service:

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1. Public Sector

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2. Telecommunication

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3. Banking

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4. Air Travel

The full study has already been published on the website, and can be read in its entirety here
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