Here is a good check-list to protect your brand. Mostly geared toward product companies, but could also be applied to professional service organizations.

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1. Recognize that a product is only as good as the customer experience

First impressions count. To identify all the elements that contribute to a good customer experience, include production and customer-facing personnel in your product-development process. Then, take steps to ensure that everything is in place.

2. Attempt to anticipate and address potential problems

Before going to market, test all aspects of the product’s delivery. Defects tarnish the company’s brand, and service calls erode profit margins.

3. Provide customers with recourse in the event of a product failure

Mistakes happen. So, always provide customers access to someone who can take corrective action—ideally by phone, with 24/7 availability. Many customers will forgive product failures if they can reach an empathetic support person who remedies the situation.

It’s insufficient to refer customers to prepared “frequently asked questions.” First, company personnel often miss questions that real customers have. Second, customers regard answers that don’t squarely address their questions as defects, rather than signs of their own inadequacy.

4. Treat customers with respect

Avoid keeping customers “on hold.” Staff support lines with sufficient personnel. Many people find it particularly galling to sit on hold while they wait for someone to fix a product they bought to improve their productivity.

When call volumes are especially high, give customers the option of receiving a call back. Also, consider releasing them (and their phone lines) while researching problems or documenting cases that don’t require customer input.

5. Empower employees to take corrective action

My problem was easy to address. The issue was a mismatch between a code included with the product and the company’s database of authorized product keys. The frontline support person could have done exactly what his superior did—resolve the problem right away.

6. Set expectations

This company had sold “fear” of operating without its product, thereby contributing to an expectation that the company would resolve problems quickly. By taking 24 hours to connect customers with support personnel, the company sent a very different message.

Rather than leaving expectations to chance, let customers know how long it will take to get an initial callback. Then, tell them when they can expect a resolution to their problem.

7. Attend to your social media outposts

In the past, dissatisfied customers told 10 people about their bad experience. Today, they can inform thousands with just a few keystrokes.

When they don’t get satisfaction via normal channels, unhappy customers may turn to social media to share their disappointment. Nevertheless, companies that monitor their brands on social media can often turn a bad situation around, before it gets out of hand, if they respond quickly and offer to address the problem.

8. Follow up for continual improvement

Follow up, learn, and improve. Step one is to have a process for capturing and eliminating errors. Step two is to fix the process to avoid future problems.

One company I know classifies a shipment as “dead on arrival” if anything it’s done, or has failed to do, interferes with the customer’s experience. That organization convenes for cross-functional meetings weekly to review DOAs, delve into the root cause of the problem, and develop a course of action to ensure that the problem does not recur.

Source: Marketing Profs & Barbara Bix of BB Marketing Plus

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