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Seven strategies to win back your customers' trust after your brand's reputation has been damaged

Every company experiences a PR crisis. It's what you do afterwards that determines the effect on your business.

By Kevin Payne

Last updated November 12, 2020

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 via 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 it often takes a lot of work to undo even a simple error,’ explains Dan Fries, PR Advisor 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

Apologise 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 that there’s a problem 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 that 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, as well as practical action points that address the issue.

In your apology, you should also avoid focusing on your company’s performance and reputation, as this 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 them to actually do something to prevent the problem from happening again?

Learning to say sorry properly is an important step in rebuilding 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 that no other customers experience this 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 touch-point 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 on board 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 delivery 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 the customer’s expectations.

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, voucher, additional loyalty perks, or even a free sample of your product or service.

This is not surprising, as discounts and vouchers are the top-ranked strategy for fostering customer loyalty.

However, you can still improve your gifts by customising them. Fifty-nine per cent of customers said that they feel valued when brands offer them personalised promotions that are relevant to their interests. Of course, generic offers can boost engagement and conversion. But personalisation 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 free of charge or offer a refund.

Data on customer experience tactics

Source: Smart Insights

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 because 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 colours 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 shop?

It takes a user-friendly website to establish customer trust. This involves both form and function. Images that take too long to load or websites that are crammed with too much information can discourage a customer from engaging with your brand. Forty-four per cent of visitors will reportedly leave if the company website does not include its contact information.

Impact Mapper example

Impact Mapper includes ways to contact the company on the landing page.

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 is more likely to do your business more harm. Take a step back and breathe before you reply to a negative review.

Always remember to reply in a professional and respectful manner. Customers read reviews to decide if they’re going to continue 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 the popular saying, the customer is not always right.

Trolls and angry customers may do something to your business that borders on harassment of your staff or defamation of 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 their complaints on social media. Sometimes, they even go as far as to belittle 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’s reputation.

Actions that people take after customer experiences

Source: Smart Insights

Monitor and evaluate the right metrics

One way to engage with new customers is to monitor social media for industry keywords that aren’t only 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 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 insight into gaps that you may 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 scores and their net promoter scores are just a few of the many metrics you can use to understand and improve your brand’s reputation.

You’ve got this

One bad review or one wince-making 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.

Kevin Payne is a content marketing consultant who helps software companies build marketing funnels and implement content marketing campaigns to increase their inbound leads.

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