Turning Poor PR into Customers

“When you depersonalize abrasive behavior and see it as a call for help you become a catalyst for the best kind of change.”Marilyn Suttle

Every business wants to grow – and it is an essential requirement of staying competitive. However, there is a flip side to the growth – as businesses grow they also generate more attention and it is not always the ‘good’ kind. Many companies suffer due to such negative publicity but smart companies know that turning poor PR into customers will gain for them an ‘edge’. Proper management of poor customer experiences and other crisis with regard to customers can change the situations from a disaster to an opportunity to build brand credibility and make customers for life. PR is not just about announcing the achievements or highlights of your company. It can be used effectively also to mitigate negative situations, which could harm the company and tarnish the reputation of the brand.

Building a business and a reputation is no mean task, especially in the current aggressive business environment – every company must have robust practices and strategies in place to ensure that the hard work and years of effort do not go to waste with just one instance of negative press. The harsh reality is however, that not everything happens in the manner that businesses expect and problems are a part of business – irrespective of size. What matters is whether a company manages them badly or is able to effectively turn poor PR into customers and retain its market reputation. The company’s ability to manage negative situations would be the difference between them being a long-term issue or great opportunities to enhance the brand’s credibility and reinforce the company’s promise.

For turning poor PR into customers, a company must remain committed to their promise, values, culture, and vision. Companies that hope to succeed know that it is prudent to put always, customers first irrespective of their situation. A strong and durable relationship with customers at all times will ensure that they stand by your company even during and after a crisis and would even help to get your company ‘back in shape’. A company’s onus is to maintain and remain accountable for their relationship with customers at all times – irrespective of whether customers demand it or not. The fact is that when poor experiences happen, sometimes an apology does not suffice, and the experiences could damage your company. It would be better for a company to listen to its customers at all times and deliver on the promises it makes. While turning poor PR into customers is extremely beneficial, it would be better for a company to keep the number of opportunities for poor customer experiences to the minimum.

When things go wrong, it would be best for a company to let customers decide what they would like to do and what they believe the best resolution would be to alleviate the problem. Putting control directly in the hands of customers is a powerful and impactful method of turning poor PR into customers. Given that most interactions with a company are through online methods, customers tend to forget the ‘humans’ behind the scenes. However, by giving customers what they want and helping them in every way possible especially in tough times, allows a company to exhibit its humane side. It is important to remember, especially when your company has messed up, to avoid messages and behaviours that may seem scripted and robotic. Unfeigned empathy and a true spirit of service are what will help your company in successfully turning poor PR into customers.

It may seem like a lot of work but when customer experiences and situations are messed up, it is in the best interest of the company to make things right before they become a tidal wave of negativity. By reinforcing the commitment of the company for top quality – in products and customer service – a company would save itself a lot of embarrassment, defecting customers, and a tarnished market reputation. Transparency and honesty even in the face of problems and blunders by the company would help in turning poor PR into customers. A negative situation can easily become a great opportunity to build relationships and enhance the company’s reputation, if it is handled judiciously and in favour of customers. It would never be acceptable to ignore situations or avoid addressing them – customers are unlikely to forget unpleasant situations, and would hold the inaction against your company. Losing customer trust – with both existing and potential customers – can prove to be highly devastating for any company.

For turning poor PR into customers and retaining the existing customers, must be a well-thought out and meticulously executed exercise. It is vital that the company owns up to the issues and carefully explains the reasons for the situation to its customers. It must have a clear strategy and plan for the resolution of the issue and provide customers an opportunity to express their thoughts and feedback, and possibly even vent. The company must also be able to provide details of the contact persons of the team responsible and dedicated to the handling of the situation, and there must be a proactive plan that would help prevent the recurrence of the problem in the future. The changes planned must be tangible and measurable – this would exhibit commitment and resolve on the part of the company to ensure that customers may not face similar situations going forward. The commitment for the company should be that it does not lose a single customer but rather its reputation soars through the professional and excellent handling of the situation.

In the business environment, there are situations of bad PR regularly and it would be best for companies to learn from those experiences – the causes, the manner in which it was handled, and the results. It is important to pay close attention to the responses given by companies – which of those worked and which ones fell flat. Learning in this manner is good business sense and would help smaller businesses to understand the consequences of negative PR and the effects of using it as an opportunity to retain customers and evoke interest in potential ones.

Every business must be online – that is where most of the ‘action’ happens and managing the online presence especially in tough times becomes crucial. Customers and other people tend to convey their ‘feelings’ and talk about their experiences through various online channels – especially social media. It would be prudent for companies to monitor such discussions and conversations and be part of them in order to know what people are saying about a company. It is advantageous to participate in such ‘conversations’ and encourage customers to share their feedback, especially if they are happy with the company. A higher number of good reviews would help to mitigate the effects of negative ones and even during times of negative PR, a company would be able to salvage its reputation.

It may seem like too much of an effort to divert resources to managing one disgruntled customer – but the fact is that even one instance of negative PR could potential divert attention to the company’s flaws, overlooking all that is good about a company. This cannot be good in the long-term for any company and hence it is imperative that steps be taken for turning poor PR into customers and staying true to the promises made to them.


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