Brand reputation is often determined by a customer's last experience with a company or its products. If customers have an exceptional experience, they will likely share it with their friends, family, and colleagues. The same holds true for a poor customer experience. So, it's important for organizations regularly to create positive—even exceptional—customer experiences.
All too often, though, when people think about building a brand, it's easy to direct the responsibility toward marketing—after all, maintaining a positive brand is a marketer's job. But should that responsibility stop with marketing? Industry experts think not. Any interaction customers have with your company is a reflection of your brand.
That would include interactions with customer service reps, who are ambassadors of your brand because your company's reputation can be strengthened or damaged during a customer service call. That's why hiring the right customer service reps, giving them the appropriate training, and equipping them with the right tools are essential not only to delivering great customer service but also to strengthening your brand reputation. Recognizing the important role agents play in delivering good customer experiences, we're featuring our cover story, “10 Ways to Rearchitect Your Contact Center,” by News Editor Leonard Klie. In the story, a customer loyalty expert aptly states, "Especially in today's challenging marketplace, brands that excel at delivering an experience that engages customers by creating and maintaining a strong emotional connection with them will have a distinct competitive advantage."
So, it stands to reason that customer strategists should ask of each customer interaction: Will this experience help or hurt my organization's brand? Most customer experiences can be influenced by the organization, but what happens when your organization is hit with a sudden and unexpected crisis and your brand is under widespread attack?
Generally, organizations would dust off their crisis management guide and immediately put it into practice. But when was the last time your crisis management guide was updated? Does it incorporate ways to handle social media? In today's highly connected world, bad news travels fast—really fast. The feature story, “Don’t Let a Crisis Destroy Your Image,” reveals how Domino's Pizza suffered a sudden and sizable setback to its brand, thanks to a revolting YouTube video that was shared on Twitter and Facebook. The video (which showed former Domino's employees doing unsanitary acts with food) received 700,000 views within the first 24 hours after its posting. So having a crisis management plan that incorporates social media is essential.
Creating great customer experiences, brand building, marketing, and employing social media strategies pose challenges that are not unique to large enterprises. Small businesses struggle with them as well. And, according to our feature “Small Wonders,” there are more small businesses in the United States today (6 million) than there were in 2000 (5.6 million). This story offers advice on how this growing market can increase revenue, maintain profitability, and acquire new customers. It even includes an exclusive interview with the "Cake Boss," Buddy Valastro, on how technology is helping his bakery business grow.
Just because these businesses are small doesn’t mean they’re insignificant. According to Valastro, small businesses "are the backbone of America. And I think that if our businesses do well, the economy will go right back on track."
Valastro landed two television reality shows largely because his bakeries create exceptional cakes. Now, with better technology, he can provide exceptional customer service. Are you consistently providing exceptional experiences across your company?
David Myron is editorial director of CRM magazine. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.