Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Reputation Management or Customer Experience Management?

Background image courtesy of Unsplash
Which should you focus on: reputation management or customer experience management? Or both?

With sites like Yelp, TravelAdvisor, Angie's List, and more (not to mention Twitter, Facebook, blogs, etc.), companies have a myriad of options for listening to customers online and uncovering when and where good and bad experiences are taking place. At the same time, customers rely heavily on online reviews before they buy a product, eat at a restaurant, stay at a hotel, and more; they want to know the good and the bad, as well, in order to make informed decisions.

This is great for customers, but some companies aren't thrilled with these review sites or with social media; they often don't have the staff to manage it all, and they don't want their dirty laundry aired in public to millions of people. Sites have even popped up where businesses can review customers! And just last week, California's governor signed a new law into effect that protects customers by prohibiting companies from going after those who write negative reviews about them.

What on earth is going on?!

In walks reputation management. What is it? Let me share a couple of definitions.

Reputation management is defined on Wikipedia as:

The practice of monitoring the reputation of an individual or brand, addressing contents which are damaging to it, and using customer feedback solutions to get feedback or early warning signals to reputation problems. Most of reputation management is focused on pushing down negative search results. Reputation management may attempt to bridge the gap between how a company perceives itself and how others view it.

That last sentence reminds me of this Abraham Lincoln quote: Character is like a tree and reputation like a shadow. The shadow is what we think of it; the tree is the real thing.

TechTarget defines reputation management as the practice of attempting to shape public perception of a person or organization by influencing online information about that entity.

I found one site that defined it as having three components, depending on where you are in the maturity of your business: building, maintaining, and recovery. In our world, I think we focus mainly on the latter.

What's the point of this post? Reputation management is an important tool in our customer experience management (CEM) coffer, but I've heard some companies say it's the only tool they need to listen and to improve the customer experience. This is erroneous thinking.

I'm not saying that reputation management should be discounted - it's an important tool in the customer listening and service recovery arena, but it's not the only tool.

Why?
  • It's reactive, not proactive.
  • It's too late.
  • If we focus on the experience, specifically on delivering a great customer experience, the reputation will follow.
Reputation management falls into the category of listening tools at your disposal for your CEM strategy, right next to surveys and other customer listening methods. It is not a strategy on its own that supersedes an overall, umbrella CEM strategy.

What should businesses do instead? Focus on that CEM strategy and what it takes to deliver a great experience. What does that involve? All the same stuff I'm always writing about:
  • Outline and share your CX vision
  • Understand your customers (personas)
  • Know customer preferences
  • Treat different customers differently
  • Map the customer journey
  • Listen to customers
  • Measure your performance
  • Act on what you hear
  • Watch for signs of emerging trends (industry and customer experience) and changing (customer) expectations
  • Take a holistic, not siloed, approach to customer experience
  • Innovate and differentiate
  • Improve processes
  • Hire the right people
  • Train employees on what a great customer experience looks like
  • Communicate and live the brand promise
  • Stay focused and obsessed
  • Always save a chair for the customer
If you need help getting started, take a look at my CX Framework for more-specific details.

Let your experience - and hence, your reputation - speak for itself. Build a bank of trust and relationship currency so that, if/when things do go wrong, you can recover more easily. Create those raving fans, who...
  • Are less price sensitive
  • Will pay a premium for a better experience
  • Stay longer, spend more, churn less
  • Expand their purchases/relationships to other/new products or services you offer
  • May overlook product shortcomings
  • Are more likely to forgive occasional/infrequent service shortcomings (just make it right, though!)
  • Cost less (e.g., marketing, advertising, promotions)
  • Have fewer complaints
  • Provide feedback and want to help you improve and succeed
  • Become technical support for you by helping other customers (answer questions, solve problems)
  • Will evangelize the brand for you
When you consistently deliver a great customer experience, when your customers work for you and not against you, you won't need reputation management, right?

It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you'll do things differently. -Warren Buffett


6 comments:

  1. Excellent and timely post Annette. In my experience many "reputation management" practices are shameless manipulations by SEO specialists in self-serving battles for search engine positioning. Using your metaphor - they focus on a shade without any regards of the tree.

    When a company aspire (and act) to be customer centric, they don't need to worry about managing their reputation. Their customers will defend their "character" without prodding.

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    1. Well said, Gregory. Thanks for commenting.

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  2. Hi Annette,
    Hmmm.... Reputation management. I'm pretty sure that if you have to use this 'tool' or engage a reputation management firm on a consistent basis then you've probably got bigger problems that need addressing.

    I'm not a particularly religious man but here is a quote from St. Gregory the Theologian that sums it all up: “Grace is given not to them who speak [their faith] but to those who live their faith.”

    Adrian

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    1. I agree with the thought that they probably have bigger problems. Love that quote... very fitting.

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  3. Annette,

    Several years ago a bomb went off at Heathrow airport. The following day I had to fly to Germany. It was one of the most excruciating experiences of my life. The airport was packed full of policemen with machine guns and nobody moved until they had been searched 3 times.

    I made a comment about it to one of the police officers. He looked at me wearily and said "yes sir, we are calling it operation Stable Door".

    It strikes me that reputation management is similarly futile.

    James

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