Folks who work in your Customer-facing organizations have a lot of different names.  Agents, technicians, associates (which always makes me chuckle a little bit), service providers, and others.

One that often makes me think is:  Representative.

It’s curious to me because it can go either way, can’t it?  Whenever I get a ‘representative’ on the phone, I wonder:  A representative for whom?  Does that ever cross your mind?

Pull it apart:  If that person is a representative for the brand, then he or she is kind of like an ambassador:  “Thanks for calling us.  Like a concierge at a hotel or the maî·tre d’ at a fancy restaurant, I’m the first person representing [literally!] our brand that you’ll meet.  I’m here as the face of our brand to help you, inform you, or basically be the brand in human form.”  This individual should personify the brand, embrace your values and priorities, and concern himself or herself exclusively with delivering your organization’s Brand Promise for every Customer who calls, writes, DMs, or walks in.  He or she should take the responsibility of representing your brand seriously.  For your part, you have to enable and empower these people with the right tools and authorities to deliver that Brand Promise, and then trust them to do so.

But also consider:  These people are representing the brand, and so are also representing all the rules, policies, and procedures your Customers have to navigate.  A challenging part of representing the brand is having to make excuses to your Customers for why you do the things you do, and (often…sadly so very often) why “there’s nothing we can do for you.”  Sometimes when I get on the phone it feels like the representative is representing the brand against me!  That representative represents the impediments purposely put in the way of my receiving the help I need or the solution I’m seeking.  The representatives are representing the legal or finance offices of the company with which I’m doing business…and as such, their job is to stonewall, stiff-arm, or even defeat me.  Hm…now that’s representation!

On the other hand, have you ever (that’s rhetorical, my answer is never) been on the phone with someone who calls himself or herself a ‘representative’ who seems at least to be representing you to the brand instead?  As in an advocate for you?  As in, “Thanks for calling.  I know the ins-and-outs and procedures and rules and pitfalls that may be ahead because I work here.  No, I’m not here to give away the store.  But I am here to [again, literally!] represent you as you navigate your way through the minefield.  And if necessary, I’ll also be here as your advocate and representative in front of the machine that is our vast corporate menagerie of rules and systems and policies to solve your issue and get a resolution that will satisfy you.”  I wouldn’t expect this representative (of me, this time!) to break rules on my behalf or unfairly offer things the company wouldn’t otherwise allow.  This is a representative for me, not a mole somewhere imbedded in the opposition’s organization.  But I would expect this person to speak on my behalf, fight for what I should receive, and like a good sherpa, shepherd me through the twists and turns.

How does your brand consider your “representatives”?  Do they represent you, or do they represent your Customers?  It’s some food for thought.