Are You Building a Reputation or Merely Managing It?

Voice of the Customer

Are You Building a Reputation or Merely Managing It?

By Elaine Cascio, Vice President  |  April 14, 2015

My January column, “Are You a Good Social Citizen?” got me thinking about reputation – how companies get it, manage it, and maintain it. I’m not alone. The field of reputation management has grown enormously since social media came on the scene.

The focus of reputation management has turned into managing search results, review sites, and social media. The goal is to reduce or suppress negative results about a company.  In some quarters, it has become a war of fake blogs, spambots, and astroturfing (meaning, to set up anonymous accounts that create positive posts or respond to negative posts on a third-party site), and in some extreme cases, extortion. 

Are companies taking shortcuts to develop online reputations that may be sugarcoated and misleading because it’s a lot easier than building a solid reputation the old-fashioned way?

Socrates had it right when he said: “The way to gain good reputation is to endeavor to be what you desire to appear.” What good is happy online chatter if you can’t live up to it? 

Reputation management is handled in marketing and PR departments. In the past, marketing and PR were the ones that addressed influencers and stakeholders. But now that consumers have a say in very public ways, it makes sense that customer service play a key role in reputation. To build a reputation the old-fashioned way, you can’t take shortcuts or ignore basic problems when it comes to customer service.

Treat your customers right

Treat them right on all channels and at every encounter. Fundamentally, customers want to be recognized, valued, and treated with respect. And they want you to make it easy to do business. Base your customer experience strategy on “what you desire to appear” as Socrates says. The results will be consistent and compelling customer experiences throughout the organization.

Use data to inform the omnichannel experience

According to Ovum (News - Alert), more than 50 percent of customers use three to four channels to complete a transaction or resolve a problem. In most cases, their journeys are characterized by dead ends and repeated log ins and issue identification. Communication between channels helps keep the transaction moving, reduces total time on the customer’s part, and improves customer satisfaction.

Engage agents

Recent research shows the benefits of engaged employees include increased efficiency, increased revenue, and happier customers. Make sure your front-line employees live up to the company’s reputation through training, coaching, and rewards.

Learn from complaints, don’t ignore them

Customer-centric companies focus on learning from complaints to improve and grow – burying them won’t make them go away. Include complaints in your voice of the customer dashboard and use them in analysis to fix problems, redesign processes, re-examine policies, or change the way agents are trained. Complaints are usually the result of one of these things (process, policies, or training).

While reputation management is a good concept, often it is executed in a reactive way. In the wild west of the Internet, there is no policing of what people say about your company. Rather than build a reputation that may be false on the web, I suggest you look at ways of managing corporate reputation to actively create the company you want to be. (An interesting model is “A Framework for Managing Reputational Risk,” in Harvard Business Review.)

Elaine Cascio is vice president at consulting firm Vanguard Communications Corp. (www.vanguard.net).


Elaine Cascio is a vice president at Vanguard Communications Corp. (www.vanguard.net), a consulting firm specializing in customer experience, self service, contact center processes, operations and technology.

Edited by Dominick Sorrentino
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