Experiencing a PR faux pas is inevitable no matter how hard you try to avoid it for your brand. The risk of making an embarrassing mistake is all the more heightened because customers are constantly engaged with your brand through digital channels. A small mistake can be overblown and become viral on the web within an hour.
“Even the best intentions can be misread by customers, and oftentimes it takes a lot of work to undo even a simple error,” explains Dan Fries, PR adviser at BlueTree. “Repeating small errors can be just as damaging as a single-event faux pas, especially over time.”
You may not be able to completely control how your customers perceive the message, but you can definitely take control of how to handle the scandal. During situations that may be potentially damaging for your brand, it’s up to your agile PR team to manage the crisis and win back your customers’ trust.
Will you defend your mistake or will you be willing to address the problem? Read on to find out the best strategies for reputation management, especially if you’re ever in hot water.
How to win back your customers’ trust
Apologize quickly and sincerely
So, you’ve posted an ill-timed tweet or mishandled a customer experience. Rather than deny the error, it’s best to own up to your mistake and take responsibility to address the issue. The quickest way to lose a paying customer is to become defensive or deny the issue at all.
The moment you find out about the problem, you should be quick to compose your apology.
But a quick apology is not enough. If there’s one thing the internet agrees to hate, it’s a templated non-apology from a cold-hearted corporation. A well-written apology expresses real concern for the problems of the customer and practical action points that address the issue.
In your apology, you should also avoid focusing on your company’s performance and reputation since it callously frames the customer’s concern as a mere secondary issue. Think of what you would want to hear if you were the customer. Would you want to hear the company make excuses for their mistake? Or would you prefer that they actually do things to prevent the problem from happening again?
Learning to say sorry properly is an important step to rebuild trust with an unsatisfied customer. And customer satisfaction increases by up to 15% when an apology is perceived as genuine.
Double down on the quality of your customer service
A customer may have had a bad experience with your business, so it’s your job to make sure no other customers experience that again. Now’s the best time to look at gaps and areas for improvement for your customer service. One effective way of doing so is ramping up your social media presence.
More often, customers use social media as the first touchpoint for your business. They use social media to learn about your products and services, to drop a nice review, or even to voice their complaints.
You don’t have to get onboard every trend online in order to build better customer relationships or to create a welcoming social media presence. The best way to improve customer service is to respond to reviews as well as reply to messages or comments from customers.
Remember, customers love consistency. Don’t offer free shipping if you aren’t going to keep your word. A consistent brand identity entails sticking to your promises.
Give your customers an offer they can’t refuse
Another way to appease and to win back the trust of dissatisfied customers is to offer services that go above and beyond what the customer expects.
There’s no better way to show that you appreciate and value your customer than by sending them a gift. These gifts can be in the form of a discount, coupon, additional loyalty perks, or even a free sample of your product or service.
That’s no surprise since discounts and coupons are the top ranked strategy to foster customer loyalty.
But you can still improve your gifts by customizing them. 59% of customers said that they feel valued when brands offer them personalized promotions that are relevant to their interests. Sure, generic offers can boost engagement and conversion. But personalization builds customer loyalty and trust.
If your business is subscription-based, you can offer a free trial of a premium membership. If your business is not based on subscriptions, you can offer to replace the product for free or offer a refund.
Take a closer look at your website’s UX design
Your website’s design is an important and maybe often overlooked part of the customer experience. A consistent brand is trustworthy since it communicates ease of access. Customers expect something from your business, and they rely on a brand to meet their expectations.
Shoppers are wary of inconsistent branding. Follow consistent and professional branding in all of your content and throughout your entire online identity on apps and platforms.
But a sleek logo and hip colors aren’t enough. If your brand can’t even provide a usable website, how will your customers trust you with their personal information when they order from your online store?
It takes a user-friendly website to establish customer trust. That involves both form and function. Images that take too long to load or websites that are cramped with too much information can discourage a customer from engaging with your brand. 44% of visitors will reportedly leave if the company website does not include its contact information.
Use negative reviews to improve your business
You’ve probably had your fair share of negative reviews on your business’ social media or Yelp page. No matter how nasty the complaints may be, don’t take it personally.
It’s impossible to please every customer, and responding unprofessionally will more likely do more harm for your business. Take a step back and breathe before you reply to that negative review.
Always remember to reply in a professional and respectful manner. Customers read reviews to decide if they’re going to push through with a purchase, and remember that they can also see how you respond.
Plus, negative reviews are not as harmful as you thought. Studies show that online shoppers are more likely to buy products with an average rating of 4 to 4.7 stars than products with a perfect 5 stars. Perfection seems too good to be true, so customers prefer something much more grounded.
Choose your battles carefully
In contrast to popular sayings, the customer is not always right.
Trolls and angry customers may do something to your business that borders on harassment to your staff or defamation to your brand. If that’s the case, don’t be afraid to defend yourself and stand your ground.
It’s easy for an irate customer to go online and air out their complaints on social media. Sometimes, they even go as far as to bad mouth your staff or post their photos or other personal information.
During these instances, be prepared to refute these false claims in a professional manner and learn when to draw the line. Standing up for your staff in the face of harassment is ultimately good for your brand reputation.
Monitor and evaluate the right metrics
One way to engage with new customers is to monitor social media for industry keywords which aren’t just for your brand.
You’ve got to know how your competitors are performing in order to see their weaknesses and turn these into opportunities that you can address for the customer. For example, you can listen in on how customers tweet a brand account that doesn’t tweet back. Take it as a chance to offer your services instead.
Collecting customer feedback is also an effective way to monitor and to improve the customer experience. Ask your customers to complete surveys about their shopping experience and drop an honest rating or review about their purchase.
This data can provide you with much-needed insights to see which gaps you need to address in the customer experience.
In addition, you should consider measuring customer loyalty and retention by monitoring and evaluating particular metrics. Customer retention rate, churn rate, customer satisfaction score, and their net promoter score are just among the many metrics you can use to understand and improve your brand reputation.
You’ve got this
One bad review doesn’t or one cringy social media post doesn’t have to be damaging for your brand. The best PR and customer service strategies can make your brand seem graceful despite an otherwise embarrassing slip.