Let’s face it. Your brand is not what you say it is, it’s what your customers say it is.
What do you think your customers are saying about you?
Something incredible online that will help drive even more customers to your door?
“Look at these shirts! They are great and we got them from…”
Or worse, it sounds a lot like a Yosemite Sam tirade, and that is also posted online for the world to see. Not to mention, anyone that they happen to bump into.
A Lifetime to Build, Destroyed in Minutes
We all work extremely hard building our businesses over the years. Order after order goes out with machine precision perfection.
Then, someone does something stupid. There is a mishap. A bonehead error.
And instead of looking at it from the customer’s point of view, you get defensive. They just want a resolution. Shirts are needed on Friday.
But with an argumentative flair, the case is closed. You defended the shop. The customer “accepted” the final solution.
But That’s Not Where It Ended
Because nobody was really listening to the customer, this was the prompt for them to lash out.
First, you won’t be getting any more orders from them. Ever. Maybe this matters to you, maybe it doesn’t. But let me ask you this, does the Lifetime Customer Value come into play when there is a challenge? Are you looking that up before making a judgment call?
Second, this prompts the online comment. Whether it is a Google review, Facebook, or on Yelp!, they need to push out their negative opinion “warning” others about you.
And lastly, they talk to their inner circle. Their co-workers, their friends, colleagues, people in networking groups, and just about anyone that will listen. You probably won’t see or hear these. People love talking about you behind your back.
And believe me, they do it.
An Ounce of Prevention is Worth a Pound of Cure
While shining up your reputation is not impossible to do, it takes a considerable amount of time and usually money to get back what you have lost.
A better method is to spend your effort in building a proactive positive reputation. You can do this by focusing on 5 things:
- Communicate well
- Keep your promises
- Insist on Quality
- Ask for feedback
- Social media content
Let’s dive into these and explore each one and how they can affect your businesses’ reputation.
Stephen Covey’s famous book “7 Habits of Highly Effective People” has a great place to start on this one. Habit five says, “Seek First to Understand, Then Be Understood.”
Are you sure you know exactly what is needed for the order? Before you launch into what you can do, how literate are you on your customer’s problems? Are you asking the right questions?
Try this. Ask detailed and specific questions to your customers early regarding what they need. Repeat back to them what you have heard. Your goal is to get an affirmation that you understand their challenge.
“That’s right”, means you get it. You are seeking clarity in your mission.
What’s important to them? Everything you do should be in alignment with their point of view and needs. It’s easy to be an “Order Taker”. Much more difficult to add layers of professionalism and discover what really will make the client happy. Often you won’t know that unless you dig around a little bit.
But that is really the basic starting point for building a stellar reputation.
All during your relationship with your customer, your shop needs to be on point and on top of things. Are you answering their questions completely and immediately? If there is a hiccup, are you handling it and informing your customer with a status update?
When there are problems avoiding contacting the client and burying your head in the sand isn’t going to make it go away. Yes, people notice how you operate. It’s usually the small things that tick people off.
If your customer ever says “Why didn’t you say something to me earlier?”, you have a huge problem on your hands with your processes.
Make it a point to have great communication, and review how you are communicating on a frequent basis. Right now, what could you do to improve this facet of your business?
Eliminate communication friction points.
Keep Your Promises
What promises are you making with your customers?
For starters, here are the easy ones:
- All orders will ship on time. Nothing can be late.
- All orders will be produced with craftsmanship. Poor quality is a broken promise.
- All orders will be exactly what the customer bought. How are you ensuring that?
- All orders will not have any hidden garment surprises. Nobody wants stains, holes, color, or fit problems.
Whether you produce orders for direct customers or contract, these are the basic tenets that you agree to with every order you take. You know this.
So why do so many shops struggle with the concept of keeping promises?
Orders are shipped late constantly. How often does that happen in your shop? You know there are ways to fix that, right? Keeping to a schedule is not that hard if you have the right processes, procedures, training, and rules in place. This is basic production leadership.
What about craftsmanship? Do you have a quality control program in place in your shop? Are you regularly shipping misregistered, off-center, crooked, or other errors? You aren’t fooling anyone by sneaking them into the pile. People notice.
All orders are exactly what the customer bought. When they want 100 shirts and you ship them 88, what do you think they are going to say? If this was your order, what would you say?
Hidden surprises. We’ve all been there. When the order inventory arrives with dye lot problems and the mediums don’t match the rest of the order…do you say something? What do you think is going to happen when the customer calls you later and complains?
Your promise to your customer is that you are going to produce their order to match the agreement you made with them when you accepted it. This is a basic rule of thumb to manage. Stray from this at your peril.
You know this is true because you have heard plenty of tales that start with “My last guy couldn’t ______________.” If you don’t want to be included in that type of story from an ex-customer, straighten up and fly right.
Insist on Quality
Ford Motor Company used to have a motto, “Quality is job one”. I’ve always liked that phrase.
But I don’t mean only production quality. Production quality is obvious, but not the only thing to remember here.
You also have quality in other facets of your business too. Can you spell their name properly? When you send an estimate, quote, or an invoice is the math correct? Is the order boxed up cleanly and neatly? There are thousands of things with every order that needs quality attention.
Basically is everything the best, most professional way of doing it?
Nobody has time for amateur hour. We live in the information age, and if don’t think you can be instantly replaced with a three or four-word Google search, you are crazy.
If you don’t know the industry best practice for every step in your shop, it is your absolute professional responsibility to not only learn it but master it. This may not be easy or even cheap. You may have to talk to others or take a class. You are responsible for bringing in the best new ideas to your shop on an ongoing and consistent basis.
Quality means using the right tools and consumables correctly. It means understanding that you not only needed processes in place, but you have to ensure that they are being used. The level of quality you have in your shop is proportional to the level of professional training you provide to your staff.
Here’s something that is sure to make you uncomfortable…if you have quality problems chances are you may have leadership or accountability problems too. They often go hand in hand.
What are you doing every minute of every day to drive quality into your work? Do yourself a favor and ask that to your employees on a one on one basis.
Ask for Feedback
Feedback is crucial to making sure you are on the right path. How do you know if you answered their question, or are doing a great job?
When was the last time you did this? Speaking of which, I should do this too! Take this survey here!
Feedback is important because it can help fill in the blanks. What’s important? Where are the bottlenecks? What did we do right? What did we do wrong?
And here’s the kicker: “Why are you doing business with us?”
You need to know the answers to these questions. Why? Because understanding what your customers are thinking can help influence the direction you need to take your business.
Social Media Content
People do judge a book by the cover. And, like it or not, how you position your brand on social media has a lot to do with how your business is being judged.
Your website matters.
So does your Facebook feed, or what you post on Instagram, LinkedIn or Twitter. The videos that you create and share matter. Customer testimonials have a lot to do with your reputation too.
It all adds up to how potential or current customers view you. How rosy do you think that lens might be?
Let’s think about your reputation here. What do you think that your social media tools say about your shop to someone that doesn’t know you?
(insert need for feedback survey here)
Many shops that I talk to are always “too busy” to find the time to revamp their online efforts. Their website is the same crappy one they threw together a few years ago, and their social media profile images are eggs. The last post was from August 23, 2015.
The reason why social media is so difficult for most businesses is that they don’t have any overarching strategy on who their best customers are. It’s hard to pick a lane when you describe “everybody” as your customer.
That’s like answering “Food” to the question, “What is your favorite meal?”
How you position yourself online determines how the world views your business. Not by exactly what you are posting, but their reaction to it
Which do you think works better, a post describing features and benefits or one showing actual customers using the product and enjoying it?
Reputation: A Final Word
To sum up, let me ask you a question. How often does any leadership conversation happen regarding the reputation or image of your company? This may be disguised as “brand building” or another way of describing it such as “street cred”.
As you probably know, the most commonly used sales cycle can be expressed with Know, Like, Trust, Buy. Your reputation hits the first three things in that four-word sales cycle.
I want to add a fifth word. Here’s how it should read: Know, Like, Trust, Buy, Repeat.
The word Repeat is in there because if you are doing a great job promoting the five things I listed above people will be coming back for more.
That is something your competition can’t touch.
“Leadership is not about you. It is about investing in the growth of others.” – Ken Blanchard
“You can’t build a reputation on what you are going to do.” – Henry Ford
“As a negotiator, you should strive for a reputation of being fair. Your reputation proceeds you. Let it proceed you in a way that paves success.” – Christopher Voss
Thanks for the insight Marshall. A problem with being around along time is eventually something gets missed, it’s inevitable. The boom it’s on social media for the world to see.
Another issue we’ve had is the customer is donkey and no one in their right mind wants to do work for them. Problem is you only found this out after the fact!
I’m not trying to be a downer these things effect our reputation.
Thanks for sharing Tim. When there is a problem that biggest challenge to overcome is how businesses react to it. The best way is to own up to it and fix it immediately. I’ve seen (and experienced) so many businesses that instantly get defensive. A simple question to the customer like, “how would you like this resolved?” can go a long way. As far as having a “donkey” customer…that’s part of trying to be in alignment with who you are working with and your on-boarding at the beginning of the relationship. Get all of the expectations out and on the table by asking good questions and explaining how you work.