I read a great article this morning in the Financial Post, titled, "Lead by example, not words" on how companies need to focus on what they do and not just what they say they do. The article describes how Google has changed the playing field for companies due to the freedom of third parties (i.e. customers) to publish information and opinions about a company on the Internet. No longer is it enough to have a mission statement that describes how much you value your customer, you need to be showing it in your day-to-day operations.
It especially hits home for a small business like ours. Check out a website like Homestars.com where customers are encouraged to post reviews on contractors they hire. One bad review and photo in the Avoid the Worst category and your company's reputation can be tarnished forever.
No company is perfect and no matter how hard you work, sometimes a mistake will happen. The difference is in how you deal with it. Most customers don't immediately go to the Internet and post a negative review or blog about a bad experience. They are pushed there.
How annoying is it to be put on hold for ten minutes listening to a recorded voice repeat how much your business is valued by the company? Lip service in conjunction with a lack of action is probably one of the most frustrating combinations a customer has to endure.
A perfect example is the cable company I subscribe to for all of our television and digital services. A while back, I called them for regarding upgrading a PVR box and happened to deal with a less than helpful customer service representative. By the end of the call I was online looking for new service providers. A few weeks later, that same company called me wanting me to subscribe to more of their services. I told them about my previous experience and that I was not interested in more services and was in fact planning on changing service providers, as soon as their competitor launched some planned upgrades. The sales representative for the cable company was very apologetic. You know what the cable company did? Nothing. Until they called back a month later again, wanting to sell me additional services. Again, I told them the same thing. This has happened three times and every time, I tell them about my past experience and they do nothing to try and keep my business. How many chances do they need to fix my problem? (FYI - I don't feel I need to post the name of my cable company. They'll simple lose my business and that is enough of a statement for me).
Most customers understand if a mistake happens or if there is a problem with a product or service they buy - if the company takes responsibility for the issue and fixes it. It is when a customer gets the repeated run around, sees advertising and promises for great service yet gets the total opposite treatment, that they take actions like negative reviews and bad blogs.
I couldn't agree more with Steve Cunningham when he says, "Your brand isn't what you say it is, it's what you actually do." It is so true.
When Warren and I sat down to write our mission statement for Warline, we didn't talk about goals because goals aren't actions. They are words. We steered away from statements like "we aim to" and "our goal is to" because delivering a product and service that exceeds our customer's expectations isn't our goal – it is what we do.
As much pride as I take in our company's standards for quality and performance, I take more pride in our customer service and our commitment to every customer's satisfaction. Taking a problem situation and turning it around with a positive outcome and a happy customer is an important part of building our brand and it also ensures we don't end up with bad reviews when you Google our name.