“A reputation once broken may possibly be repaired, but the world will always keep their eyes on the spot where the crack was,” said Joseph Hall, 16th-century British bishop and writer. In today’s world of social media where just about everyone is a reporter and critic, it’s difficult for brands not to be a target of criticism.
Add to that the Wall Street frenzy in late January when a group of amateur traders used Reddit to send GameStop shares skyrocketing, forcing popular trading app, Robinhood, to tap credit lines and scurry around for an additional $1 billion in funds to stay in business. Hedge funds like Melvin Capital, Citadel, and Point72 also had to shore up their finances with several billion additional dollars.
Other even larger brands like Bed, Bath & Beyond, Nokia, AMC Entertainment, and American Airlines were also caught in the same frenzy as GameStop. This caused some social capitalists like Chamath Palihapitiya and Elon Musk, along with congressional members from both sides of the aisle to ask the Securities and Exchange Commission to investigate.
While it’s not realistic to think harsh criticism will never fall on a brand, there are ways to prepare for it if and when it occurs. The first and most obvious internal place for brands to assess is its customer service department. How effective and efficient has it been in managing and resolving customer issues and complaints? There are a couple of ways to determine that.
The first is how the issue was successfully resolved. Are those customers still buying the brand? What is the industry average for customer recapture rates with unhappy customers? If the vast majority have stopped buying from the brand, it may be a good time to personally reach out to them to find out why. Phone calls are best, but email can suffice when that isn’t possible. Before doing so, ensure that the team that will be calling is trained, that they apologize for any errors or mistreatment, and are empathetic. Review customer comments and reviews, not just on the brand’s website, but also platforms like sitejabber.com and trustpilot.com for more clues.
The results from the above may reveal reasons for having to retrain customer service staff. Before doing so, ensure that the right culture and managers are present in the customer service department. Staff often reflects the department culture and if the culture isn’t healthy, training won’t change that unless management changes.
On occasion, some brands will be the target of haters and trolls. This is even more prevalent today because even well-meaning brands that have taken positive public stands on issues that most people deem important are being targeted. Know that if that is the case, their intent is to get the brand to step away from its public stance, whether it’s climate change, diversity and inclusion, BLM, etc. Don’t feel bullied into this because another motive is to provoke an angry or embarrassing response.
There are two ways to manage haters and trolls. The first is to ignore them. The second and recommended strategy is to maintain the high ground and avoid direct engagement. Do answer with general statements about the brand’s values as many more consumers will be watching and assessing the brand’s response. Many are loyal customers because they embrace the brand’s values and will be there even longer after witnessing how the brand successfully manages a potentially negative situation.
Brand reputation matters more than ever today. If necessary, hire a specialist who specializes in reputation management and crisis communication to help guide the brand before things go from bad to worse. The main thing is to get in front of a potentially big problem before it occurs.
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