As Warren Buffett is famous for saying, “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently.”
In that context, your company’s brand is a massive liability. It is incredibly difficult to build up its reputation, and in the world of 24/7 internet reviews and viral sensations, it can only take one misstep to completely destroy it.
If you want to protect your company’s reputation, and prove that you’re a reliable provider to both current and future customers, you need to utilize these four strategic tools.
1. Facebook and Twitter Customer Contact
When a customer has an issue, they’re going to tell friends and family. In fact, a recent study found that customers are 95% likely to share a poor experience with others. Only 85% of those surveyed could recall telling someone about a positive experience with a brand or service. In the world of smartphones, tablets and computers, that sharing is happening via social media.
Your company needs a proactive social media policy that accomplishes the following:
- Identify positive and negative brand mentions and interactions online.
- Establish contact with dissatisfied customers, and thank satisfied customers for the mention.
- Publicly invite dissatisfied customers to make immediate, personal contact with a team member that can resolve their issue.
- Create content that positively highlights the brand’s USP’s.
2. Proactively Monitor Service Reliability
If you want to identify a hero at creating reliable customer solutions, look at Apple. The Cupertino firm leads the traditional PC manufacturers by double digits in customer satisfaction and component reliability according to Consumer Reports. This is a big part of why Apple is sitting on more cash than the US Government has on hand.
Depending on the type of company you operate, and the services you offer your customers, your needs for monitoring your reliability in real-time will change slightly. Here are a few tools to consider implementing:
- Database Management and Monitoring Software
- Independent contractors must be utilized to reliably survey customer satisfaction.
- Hire mystery shoppers to test your systems and product experience.
- Actively monitor customer engagement; repeat orders, average basket size, etc.
3. Perform Background Checks on Business Partners and Outside Vendors
When your company expands and scales, you’ll inevitably end up working with outside vendors to supplement your existing offering. As you bring on partners, carefully perform background checks to thoroughly vet potential relationships. Creating a partnership with a company that drops the ball will directly impact your company’s reputation.
For example, Verizon, T-Mobile, AT&T and many other cellular service providers utilize a company called Asurion to administer their hardware insurance services. I can tell you from first-hand experience, working with them to fix or replace a broken phone is a nightmare. I have switched to an alternate provider on more than one occasion due to their failure to provide quick and reasonable service.
Don’t let your company fall into the trap of outsourcing to shoddy vendors. Your customers will punish you for it. It could be the thing that keeps your business from becoming an iconic brand. One of the most iconic brands, the world over, is Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Media. The vast majority of their business revolves around licensing arrangements, which resulted from the reputation of the brand.
As a recent article points out, “Virgin’s popularity as a brand in the eighties far outstripped its market size and it achieved this simply by challenging everything that our well-established long-haul airline market was built on, publically upsetting the applecart in the process. It has stood by these values ever since and people continue to love the brand for flying in the face of the establishment.”
Becoming an iconic brand requires strong partnerships with reliable 3rd parties, especially if you’re looking to “upset the applecart”.
4. Utilize Strong Security Software and Policies
Customer data breaches are becoming increasingly common. In 2015 alone there were 781 individually reported data breaches of customer data at a corporate level. This means hackers are able to penetrate a corporation’s firewall and access credit card information, billing addresses, names and potentially social security numbers of customers that utilize a product or service.
According to some reports, the average data breach causes at least $3.79 million dollars in damage to the companies that fall victim to these attacks. These damages take the form of lost sales, higher operating costs and customer losses due to the attacks. Don’t leave your company vulnerable to this kind of loss.
To protect yourself and your company, there are some basic protocols that can be followed:
- Limit personal devices connected to corporate infrastructure.
- Mandate randomized passwords that are changed monthly on all systems.
- Encrypt corporate data before transmitting.
- Aggressively limit employee access to internal data.
- Insure that terminated employees lose access prior to termination.
- Use robust hosting with powerful hardware, software and 24/7 support.
- Educate employees on common tactics used by hackers to gain entry through phishing scams and other illegitimate means.
In A Connected World, Reputations Are Lost in A Flash
Your company and your personal reputation are incredibly important to your ability to conduct future business. Don’t let software snags, hackers, or unreliable vendors cause unnecessary damage to your brand’s reputation for providing a reliable service. You have the power to protect your company, and the four steps mentioned above offer an excellent starting point.
Are you prepared to do what it takes to provide excellent service and protect your company’s reputation?
Featured photo credit: Cydcor via flickr.com