Ankkalampi suffered a hit on its brand image but a good customer experience is an effective shield

The events in the care industry have frequently populated the newspapers. And for a reason: negligence and greed have been the guiding stars for many operators. That is unforgivable – especially, as the people most affected by it are the weakest of our society, the old, the sick, and our children.

Merja Tervo

The bubble in the care industry took its sweet time to burst. There was news about operators that disregarded good – or even sufficient – practices. When Valvira shut down Esperi Care, the time had finally come.

I’ve worked with the health industry for a long time and from a myriad of perspectives. I have met hundreds of its leaders and heads of marketing and communications. I argue, that in no other industry do companies disregard, or even act arrogantly towards their own brand as crudely as in the health industry.

The “we don’t need to do anything” attitude still prevails. The majority of the industry thinks (and it used to be like this) that there will be customers and demand regardless, so no investments in the brand or customer experience – or, in many places, even in the basic operations – are needed. Of course, exceptions make the rule, and there are good examples as well. However, the health and care industries need to wake up, roll up their sleeves and get to work.

Committed customers do miracles

I’m not gonna get stuck on the case of Esperi Care. It is a simply unbelievable story and the crisis communications were such that all communications professionals nearly spilled their morning coffees on their laptops. A more interesting, albeit smaller case is the one of daycare chain Ankkalampi. It also got its fair share of the negative press. For a good reason, too: basics, such as building permits, need to be in check.

However, where Esperi Care got to experience the anger of its customers and all Finns, there is a community defending Ankkalampi. The parents whose children are in Ankkalampi pushed the responsibility for the case on the City of Helsinki that has neglected its monitoring duties. In media, the parents brought up how they were happy in all aspects in the daycare chain’s services. For the record, I’m not depended on newspapers only about this: I personally know many families with children enrolled in Ankkalampi, and the message is the same everywhere – the daycare’s customers are happy.

The fact that Ankkalampi’s customers are happy with the daycare services is on itself already good news. Especially in the Helsinki area there are plenty of issues with many daycares. In the daycare unit where my own child is enrolled in, a crisis meeting for parents was held just last week because of the personnel turn-overs high speed.

The time of only outwardly golden brands is over

But what did Ankkalampi do totally different than Esperi Care? It seems that the daycare chain has kept its promise to its customers – “Quality everyday life for your children” – at least to a sufficient level. As a prerequisite for its operations, the brand names “satisfied customers”. They truly did fulfil this condition, although the brand did forget that you still have to obey the legislation as well; a quality everyday life encompasses also a safe, up to standards environment for the child.

Although Ankkalampi’s brand definitely took on a massive hit, there is no options but to be amazed by the meaning and real-life implications of a committed customer base.

To build its brand, Ankkalampi did its everyday operations well enough and possible utilised its networks, considering that funds were not spent on polishing its looks – just check Ankkalampi’s website and visual look yourself. A little refreshing wouldn’t hurt. But here’s the main takeaway: being outwardly golden is not enough, a brand is not just about looks. Finally, here’s a small checklist about the important things when building a brand:

  1. Clarify your basic functions and promises to your customers and focus on delivering these.
  2. Clarify also the following: Why are you important to your customers? What are the core values of your brand? If you understand this, you are able to make your customers commit to your brand.
  3. Put efforts into guaranteeing a good customer experience at every touch point. It will protect you also during a crisis.

PS. My own child is not in Ankkalampi, despite us applying there twice. After the issues raised by the authorities are fixed, perhaps we’ll give it one more shot.

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