It is not just our actions and the impression that we leave behind that determines the image that other people have of us, it is also the things that they hear and read. Gossip, rumours and slander – all of these have an effect. The same is also true of brand management; no matter how meticulously a company works on its image, placing perfectly edited content on its touchpoints or having the nicest and most capable customer service team, there will always be things that remain out of its control.
With the advent of online shopping, customer reviews have also entered the picture. Nowadays, anyone can go on the internet and share their enthusiasm or air their grievances about a company. Potential customers might then read this online and allow it to influence their decision to purchase, either positively or negatively. These reviews also influence the decisions we make offline. Almost all of us have, at some point or another, taken our phone out in a shop in order to check the reviews for a book with an exciting blurb. If we only see two stars, the reviews written by previous purchasers (touchpoint outside of our control) will then outweigh the blurb (touchpoint within our control). The recommendation of a friend is even more influential than reviews written by strangers on the internet. When a friend praises or gushes over a particular brand and its products, this stays with us, arousing our curiosity or even interest. By contrast, if that friend paints a bad picture of a brand or verbally tears it to shreds, we will discount it and seek an alternative instead.
A greater impact
Everybody knows that companies strive to make the best possible impression. They employ marketing measures in an attempt to cultivate and improve their image. By contrast, consumers are aware that their friends generally have nothing to gain from speaking positively about a brand. Their word outweighs any information found in a company profile or on a website. With the exception of malicious and fake reviews, the same applies to reviews written by strangers on the internet – they have nothing to gain or lose and are therefore more reliable.
No control, but some degree of influence
First things first: No, you should never buy or fake online reviews. If that became known, you would lose the last shred of credibility you have with customers, who are distrustful as it is.
Don’t make promises you can’t keep – manage expectations.
It’s actually very simple: Don’t make promises that your product or service can’t live up to – manage expectations. Nobody will be disappointed in an average product unless they were promised the earth. However, if a customer is promised the earth and does not receive it, they will tell anyone who will listen, and especially those they are closest to – one disappointed customer may result in 20 potential customers deciding to look elsewhere. If something does go wrong, you must be there for the customer after the sale. Mistakes happen, products may be faulty or your customer service representative may be having a bad day; people understand that. Always try to solve the customer’s problem. Outstanding support is key to leaving a good impression, and is often decisive when it comes to customer perception.
Harnessing your potential for the company
Those touchpoints over which you have the least control have the greatest potential to change your public image. But even if your public image takes a hit, as long as you display a willingness to accept criticism and to improve, your company can use this feedback to work on and improve specific touchpoints. In the medium term, this will also help to improve your public image.