Sometimes brutal honesty can become part of a brand and even become the most important part of a brand. If you are in an industry where customers are highly likely to experience inconvenience or dissatisfaction from your service or your product, this can be a bizarre yet successful marketing angle.
Consider airline companies. We all understand why we must wait for several hours in security, and most of us don’t really mind trading a little time for the security. However, most of us wait for an equal amount of time at the airline check in before we even reach the security checkpoint. Airlines are incapable of processing their customers in an efficient or timely manner. For this reason, most of them admonish customers to allow several hours to get from their taxi to their gate. We have accepted this as a fact of airline travel and are in fact pleased when we only need to spend an hour to get through the tedious process.
Imagine that you are the owner of an airline instead of your current business. Would you handle this issue in the same way? Would you instead bill your brand as the speedy, full service brand even though you can’t deliver on your promise? In this case, brutal honesty seems like the best plan. Telling customers to expect unreasonable delays is an interesting branding choice, but it works in this case.
The moral of this story seems to be that if there are inherent drawbacks in your industry, taking an open and honest approach is the best possibility. This allows your customers to decide how they will deal with the inconvenience: in this case, either by arriving early for flights or expecting to rush through the various steps of getting on an airplane and possibly miss their flight anyway.
If this seems like an approach that only airlines could get away with, rest assured that more and more businesses are taking this approach to what could otherwise be customer service nightmares. A South Florida hospital (and many like it) has started communicating honestly and accurately about how long potential patients can expect to wait before being seen by a doctor. Most people are unhappy with the amount of time that they spend waiting in an emergency room, with national averages at about an hour and much more than that normal in many areas.
Although Aventura Hospital has a much lower average, at times just a few minutes, it nonetheless has erected large billboards throughout its area. These billboards tell potential customers how long the wait at the emergency room is at that time, so that people know what to expect before they even enter the parking lot. People who are at home wondering whether their emergency is serious enough for the investment of time can also check on the hospital website. The estimates are texted to both sources every half hour from the hospital itself.
Apparently brutal honesty works in this case as well as the airline one. Since starting this program, emergency room visits to the hospital have increased by a quarter. While the wait times may not always be low, customers at least know what to expect. This is a key part of a brand promise—letting your customers know what to expect and then following up consistently to ensure satisfaction every time.