Does your brand score high on “kindness”?

It’s a running joke in my family that my dad would shop at five different stores before he’d buy new underwear. Nothing was ever purchased without painstaking research and if it took a couple of tanks of gas to get it done, then so be it.

Funny, how we all eventually turn into our parents. I’ve been accused of reading online product reviews for sport. So it’s no surprise that when I recently bought my son a meat smoker, I first interviewed several barbecue experts and then dove with zeal into the blogosphere. I wanted to get the skinny on their recommended smoker from hundreds of other users.

The next thing I knew flashing red lights and submarine dive alarms were going off in my head. Seems the smoker is great when it works. When it doesn’t, the would-be chef is thrust into a customer service nightmare peopled by the rudest, most unkind minions of hell to ever answer a phone. If a brand is where your company lives in the consumer’s mind (and it is), then this company is dwelling at the intersection of Lucifer Lane and Brimstone Boulevard.

Needless to say, I didn’t buy it. The low score on the friendliness scale was a deal breaker. And I’m far from alone in allowing “kindness” to be a driver in my purchasing decision, especially these days.

In The Power of the Post-Recession Consumer, Booz + Co, a leading global consulting firm, shares results of its BAV (Brand Asset Valuator) survey. It  indicates that the recession has accelerated significant shifts in demand among consumers for certain brand attributes. These include “kindness and empathy” which rose a whopping 391 percent, and “friendly” which rose 148 percent compared to pre-recession standards.

“The desire for companies to be more empathetic toward consumers is the biggest shift in any attitude that we have ever see during the BAV survey’s two-decade history,” reads the Booz + Co report.

In other words, if your brand is made, or broken, at every touch point with your consumer (and it is), then it’s high time to be certain you have “friendly” covered. Are you a grocer who’s put up too long with a snarky butcher? A financial organization whose customers are forced to trip over “bankease” on the way to the simple answers they need?

Make it stop. Examine every door through which your customers come to ensure the welcome mat is out. It will be a big list – from the tone of your tweets to lighting in your parking lot. But, if customers won’t be loyal to a brand until they like its personality (and they won’t), it’s the ante to stay in the game.