It doesn't matter how slick your site, how memorable your logo, how many Likes you have or even how outstanding your product or service. If a customer's experience is being on hold for three minutes while she fumes, that's your brand.
You've probably heard the maxim, "People don't care how much you know until they know how much you care." This is nowhere truer than in branding a small business. Everyone from chief catalyst to receptionist to the cleanup crew needs to be concerned with company image, performance, response time, etc., because every action, no matter how seemingly insignificant, affects client perception.
"Likes" Are No Match for A Service Fail
This is the real definition of branding: how your clients see you. It doesn't matter how slick your website, how memorable your logo, how many Facebook Likes you have or even how outstanding your product or service may be. If a customer's experience is being left on hold for three minutes while she silently fumes, that's your brand.
Think about the positioning that describes your core brand. For example:
- What we're known for: comprehensive content marketing, with a specialty in social media marketing
- Our clients: emerging businesses in the health/wellness vertical
- How customers see us: solid experience, broad knowledge, end-to-end programs
- What sets us apart: fresh approach, industry expertise, creative and effective campaigns, measurable results.
Now the key is living up to this promise. Just as you wouldn't appear for a major presentation in shorts and a T-shirt (unless, perhaps, the prospect sells surfboards or beach apparel), you don't want to unintentionally sabotage client perception by ignoring a request for information or failing to resolve a complaint.
Own It, Apologize, Rectify
However, it's also human nature to be forgiving when a business acknowledges its error. Consider this story: a customer ordered a book and card set from a small online retailer and received an e-mail response saying the order would be shipped no later than July 31st. When she hadn't received anything two weeks later, she e-mailed again, saying that unless the package had been sent via media mail, it ought to have arrived by now. She also left a telephone message a day later. Still no response.
Quite annoyed, the customer phoned a second time a day later and reached the company owner, who, it turned out, was a solopreneur. She explained the shipment had been held up due to a last-minute cover redesign and apologized profusely, saying, "It's entirely my fault. Forty lashes! I should have let you know" The customer and business owner spoke for five minutes, and the owner promised to overnight the package at her expense.
The upshot? The customer enjoyed her encounter with the entrepreneur, received the product the next day, and now holds the company in high esteem. However, the entire scenario could have been averted had the business responded right away, and indicated when the customer could expect the order to be shipped.
5 Steps to Put Your Best Foot Forward
- Return calls and emails promptly. If you say you'll respond within 24 hours, aim to make it sooner. If it takes you two days, customer perception will be: you don't care. Respond ASAP. If you're swamped, it may be time to hire a VA (virtual assistant).
- Treat callers with respect. Avoid transferring a call more than once, don't place people on hold unless absolutely necessary (and then, just for a few seconds), and NEVER disconnect them!
- Make the customer right. If someone purchased a defective product, apologize sincerely (send a follow-up email, too), and replace it immediately or issue a refund promptly if that's the customer's choice.
- Create a user-friendly website with a Contact Us page. Include a toll-free number if possible and do your best to staff it with a live person, not voicemail.
- Know your clients. Greet them with a warm welcome when they enter your place of business (whether virtual or storefront) and make them feel glad to do business with you.
Emerson said, "What you are speaks so loudly I cannot hear what you say." He might have been describing the hidden dimension of branding. Your brand is you. Present yourself and your business in the best possible light. Then you'll attract customers who are eager to help you shine.
Copyright July 2016 Amara Rose