Reputation v customer service… do we need a reputation strategy a part of customer service?

You’d think that a brand perceived as aspirational would work hard to maintain customer service and their reputation wouldn’t you? And yet my experience with my car is a million miles away from that: since I bought the car its spent more time in their workshop than with me… the lack of updates, clarity around the issues and someone who cares about me has rocked my belief in the brand and I’ll certainly think twice about buying the brand again.

Can they afford to lose a customer probably yes, can they afford the knock to their reputation possibly. We all know that stories about bad customer service will be passed on far more than stories about excellence and so potentially there is a much wider impact.

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In their blog on reputation management Tochin relate a very similar story with a moral for businesses for each issues; where the moral is in how to give excellent customer service even if there are issues. The final comment was ‘keeping a customer’s confidence is paramount to any reputation management strategy’ and observes that ‘a company’s reputation is a fragile thing and customers can be quick to judge’. And that’s the key – where a customer loses confidence the overall impact to a business can be significant especially for smaller and medium sized businesses.

I’m sure that like me you can reel easily off all the times you’ve experienced poor customer service but the excellent customer service takes more effort after the first couple of instances. And as we’ve discussed before the feeling we have outlasts the memory of the detail of the actual event.

Research in late 2013 suggested that current account customers were switching banks based on reputation and customer service even where the banks are spending £ms on advertising, incentives and special offers. The big 4 losing many customers whilst others gained including the newly set up Metro Bank, which saw 100% increase in customers switching. And why wouldn’t we want excellent customer service and to bank with someone with a good reputation not only in how they treat their customers but their business ethics and ethos too?

Its been quoted that a satisfied customer is only 65% loyal compared to a very satisfied customer who’s 95% loyal. For any business the cost of acquisition of new customers is far greater than the cost of retaining customers. And when it comes to service businesses that loyalty is even more important as the cost of acquisition per customer can be expensive not just in physical cash terms but time and energy too. And in smaller businesses its often the same people who are doing the sales, marketing and some of the customer support and so any effort that can be used to nurture existing customers reaps many benefits.
How a customer will rate the service they’ve received is often subjective since so much is about perception and feelings. Small things such as calling to see how things are or even to say thank you for being a client will make someone feel more valued than if you sent a bunch of flowers. The flowers are faceless and could have been arranged by anyone; a personal call shows that you’ve taken the time to reach out to them.

Ted Rubin says that ‘all the pretty colours, slogans and commercials don’t mean a thing if the experience given to customers from the very first contact through to post purchase satisfaction is lousy’. And brand and marketer Bryan Kramer has demonstrated that it’s no longer B2B or B2C but H2H i.e. human to human. After all it’s humans who make decisions, experience the service, have feelings about the service and the brand. He goes on to say that ‘businesses do not have emotion; people do’.

The difference between great and good customer service is about doing what you say you’ll do when you said you’d do it.

In my experience we often self sabotage the bridge between good and great by not living up to, yet alone exceeding, our customers’ expectations.

So in essence our reputation as a business is derived if not equal to our customer service. And being dependable is one of the most important aspects.

Here are some thoughts on being more dependable, increasing customer service and brand reputation:

  • Record all the actions you’ve agreed to take no matter how small. Be accountable for the actions, it might seem small to you but to the other person the outcome can be massive
  • Use reminders in calendars to include travel time (there and back) and set second reminders so that no one books in meetings for you during the time either side of a meeting
  • Set autoresponders to emails advising that you will respond within ‘x’ time to manage expectations, if its urgent people will pick up the phone
  • Always follow up when you’ve taken an action – checking in that the customer has everything they need and if there’s anything else that you can help with
  • If something urgent is impacting on a deadline or for some reason delivery won’t be on time then manage expectations and renegotiate deadlines. Don’t wait until something is late. And if you need to renegotiate pick up the phone, don’t hide behind email.

Remember the best way to manage your reputation is by offering excellent service…

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