One Unhappy Customer Can Ruin Reputation

“A brand is what a business does, reputation is what people remember.” – Ted Rubin

With the surge of social media and on-line business, it is obvious now that even one unhappy customer can ruin reputation. That one negative comment, post, picture evidence, or all of these would be enough to hurt a company and bring down business. If a company fails to manage this one unhappy customer, she or he could turn vindictive and go on a rampage, making the destruction of your reputation a ‘mission’. No company should ever underestimate the damage even one unhappy customer can heap on it – it would extremely easy to influence others to believe that the company and its service are terrible. We know that customers would be more easily convinced by what other customers say rather than believe the claims made by the company. With so much at stake, it would seem highly imprudent to ignore even a hint of negativity since with on-line visibility it can very easily turn to a tidal wave of disapproval and bring your company down.

Customers now are a lot more intelligent, have fast-paced lives, and want that companies keep up with their demands and pace. Companies have no choice but to comply and in doing so offer customers, a variety of channels and options through which customers may buy and or connect with the company. Customers can make their purchases through company website, smart device apps, social media, email, and even the traditional method of ordering through a phone. With so many channels catering to a wide range of customers, that one unhappy customer becomes inevitable. The question is which channel of customer service would be the quickest, easiest, and most efficient to get a response across to the customer. It is imperative that companies manage these channels well else, they make themselves vulnerable and could end up with not just one unhappy customer but many such customers.

At first the one unhappy customer could be just that – unhappy. However, if there is a time lapse with no response, this same customer soon becomes irate and even vengeful. This is when they begin spreading negativity and amplify their ‘miserable’ experiences by letting everyone know about the company through comments on-line. Some may even go to the extent of lashing out at the company via the press. The result – a badly tarnished reputation, from which a company may find it hard to recover and could easily be on its way to closure. The fact is customer service is not easy – in fact the subjectivity it carries, based on each customer’s needs, requirements, and what they perceive as good customer service. A company may claim to be contactable via all the channels of communication: online chats, call back, website form, social media pages, and many others. However, in reality, they are unable to keep up with the demands of these channels leading to slow and inefficient service, and before they know it – at least one unhappy customer emerges. This is true of not just small businesses, but large companies with a number of employees to manage the huge customer base.

In order to prevent the emergence of even one unhappy customer, a company must carefully decide which channels to use and how many resources would be required to manage them efficiently. A friend would usually connect with this company online but when out of home or office, she always preferred to call. However, she would always be unsuccessful in connecting with the company via the phone and on one such occasion, when she required to connect with the company urgently and received no response, she decided that she had had enough. An angry email followed, and she even posted her experiences on-line with a copy of the email she wrote. Unexpectedly, her comments brought many more such complaints to the fore and soon the company was flooded with negative comments and ‘swears’ of never to do business with them again. One unhappy customer that went vocal created a chain reaction, leaving the company struggling to save face and its reputation.

When a company ‘promises’ that customers would receive an immediate response via online chats, what customers understand is that someone will be available to chat with customers. The premise of online chats is to provide customers with immediate solutions at a time that is convenient for them and hence it would be highly preferable to have someone available to ‘chat’ round the clock. If this is not the kind of service a company can provide, the timing of the service must be expressly mentioned. No company can afford even one unhappy customer for a trivial reason such as limited hours of online chat.

The other forms of communication too must be managed well. When a company promises a call back, it must deliver on that promise. Customers hate it when companies make them feel unimportant and make them wait for something that is their right. It seems like a given that if a company has promised a minimum response time via any channel, they would keep to those timelines. By ignoring customers, the company comes across as impersonal, uncaring, and not worried about creating even that one unhappy customer. Well, if your company asks for trouble, it can be sure that customers will give it to them. Dealing with people is a function of managing emotions and ensuring that they feel valued. Without providing such ‘feelings’ to customers, no company should be surprised when their reputation is ruined by one unhappy customer – who can stir negative emotions in all others too.

The rise of social media may have come as a surprise to many but the fact is that customers expect that responses on this fast-paced platform are equally swift. The expectation of a response is usually 2-3 hours at the maximum and if companies fail to comply, they could be putting themselves in the midst of a high profile controversy on a high visibility platform. It is vital that a company has a team dedicated to monitor its social media accounts and if managing all of them seems like a problem, it would be best to bring down the number and be accessible only through a few.

Customers can be reasonably forgiving and are even prepared to wait if the company has shown exemplary service and care for them in the past. It is the duty of the company to ensure that their customers receive service – they are investing time and money in the business and deserve the care. There may be times when customers act unreasonably or are demanding, but the fact is that unless the company can manage them, even one unhappy customer can potentially ruin the company’s reputation and change the perception of a large number of people against the company.

One of the best things that a company can do for itself is to learn from market leaders. Companies that have a stellar reputation when dealing with customers and their issues prove to be the best ‘teachers’. Customers would respect a company a lot more if they learned from their mistakes and remedied them instantly – much more than if the company never messed up. The company’s customer facing representatives must be properly trained such that they never let customer complaints reach a point where the customer becomes hell-bent on tarnishing the company’s reputation. Instead, they must be able to placate angry customers, ensuring that the interaction leaves customers happy, and all praise for the company and its service.

We cannot emphasize this enough – one unhappy customer can potentially bring a company to its knees and therefore companies must do whatever it take to provide exemplary service via every channel and every touch-point. With on-line channels, bad news spreads like a forest fire, leaving a badly singed and ravaged company that may take years to find its feet and restore its reputation. Have you checked – does your company have even one unhappy customer?

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