Personal reputation is everything that is known about you: the value you have created, what people have said about you, public information about you. The same applies to businesses and brands. Reputation is fundamentally people’s impressions of your brand. This usually means the sum of what they have experienced, what they have heard and what they can find about you when they search, either via search engines, or using social media to gather views.
Reputation matters because it is one of the key factors in buying decisions in both B2B and B2C. If potential customers have a good impression of your brand, they are more likely to consider it favourably when making purchase decisions. It follows that it makes sense to work on your reputation if you wish to attract customers.
Building a reputation
A few years back, building a reputation was easy. Companies asked their customers to post reviews on sites like TripAdvisor, or software ratings sites. Buyers were encouraged to leave reviews after a purchase on Amazon or eBay. The problem is that those sites became tarnished. Companies realised that they could manipulate ratings by posting their own anonymous reviews of both their own products and those of their competitors.
Reputation management companies (and software) sprang up, offering to help you manage and monitor what was said about you online. Unfortunately, however, it is relatively easy to monitor, but harder to crack down effectively on critical content. Users of the internet, and social media in particular, positively delight in preserving bad reputations when their owners are trying to remove them.
What, then, can companies do to build a strong reputation?
Customer success in the reputation construct
Michelle Frechette, Director of Customer Engagement at StellarWP (a collective of WordPress innovators), suggests that the key may be customer success. This does not mean success with customers, or your business success via your customers, but helping your customers to succeed in using your product or service.
A customer success team is a bit like a concierge service. It answers questions about the products from new, existing and potential customers. However, it also has a more crucial role to help to bring new customers fully onboard with using the company’s products or services. The customer success team will be available to existing customers, but the most important group that it serves are new customers. Why? Because new customers are the people most likely to leave reviews about your company or products.
Customer success teams should be available in response to queries, but they should also be proactive. She proposes a structured programme of onboarding, to encompass presales demonstrations, purchase, outreach and welcome, including either an email or telephone call, an email containing resources for the customer, some training, and then ongoing checking in.
The makeup of the team itself is important. The team members need to be cheerful, helpful and friendly, and above all like working with people. They will be in touch with customers throughout their interactions with the company, and hopefully over a long period. The company’s reputation rests on their shoulders.
A customer success team can also proactively engage with existing customers. For example, they can check in with customers periodically to ensure that they are still using the product, and still happy with it, and to answer any questions. They should also be available if customers approach them with queries—and crucially, customers should know that they are there.
The customer success team may also take responsibility for regular customer surveys for anonymous feedback. They could also provide information about training opportunities (and training itself) to new and existing customers.
The proactive slant to customer success in reputation build
This role in delivering and supporting customer success is a key part of reputation management for many companies. It is a move away from the old reactive approach of monitoring and responding to complaints or negative reviews. Instead, companies pursuing customer success have chosen to move to a proactive approach, engaging actively with customers to address any problems and issues before they arise. Instead of trying to damp down on negative comment, they are building positive and ongoing conversations.
This is, in fact, a logical extension of the move from seeking ‘customer satisfaction’ to trying to delight customers. The only aspect that is surprising is that more companies aren’t already doing it.