As the New York Times framed it last fall, “After Samsung Electronics halted production of its high-end smartphone, the Galaxy Note 7, it posted a statement on its website telling owners of the phone to power it down immediately and contact the outlet they bought it from to obtain a refund or an exchange…But for people to see those words, they had to click a link at the top of Samsung’s home page with the not-so-urgent label ‘Updated Consumer Guidance for the Galaxy Note 7.’…the instructions had not been posted to Samsung’s Facebook page or the company’s Twitter account…For some who work in crisis management, it was a baffling and overly passive way for the South Korean electronics giant to deal with a prominent problem that has worsened in the last month. ‘That ought to be more visible – this is pretty serious,’ Andrew Gilman, the chief executive of the crisis communications firm CommCore Consulting Group, said of the warning on Samsung’s home page. The brand has ‘to show they care and are concerned’ through consistent communication on their home page, Twitter, Facebook and other social channels, he said.”
Since Samsung has enjoyed a stellar reputation in many areas over many years, the company likely will continue healthy growth and higher revenues over the long haul. However, if this had been a less-prestigious or smaller company, this one misstep could have proven fatal. Such is the fate that befalls many smaller companies without the resources or reputation to draw upon in a crisis.
That makes it even more important for the product manufacturing community to “be clean, come clean, stay clean.” To be clean, a manufacturer must be transparent to its customers. To come clean, a manufacturer must immediately address major issues with complete candor and gravitas. Then, the company must stay clean to demonstrate its commitment to fix problems and air any “dirty laundry.”
Obviously, this by itself won’t make a product manufacturer successful. But, it sure can make one unsuccessful in a hurry.
As we move forward in the New Year, here are some salient tips for building and maintaining trust with your marketplace:
Say only what you can prove. Don’t make dubious or outright false claims. Cereal labels that trumpet “heart health” and other questionable health claims have gotten into trouble. So has Donald Trump. Unless it’s ironclad, don’t say it – despite what marketing “gurus” tell you to do. In today’s world, even a small white lie can turn quickly into the black billowing smoke of a social media wildfire fueled by a post gone viral.
‘Fess up. Everyone and every company everywhere make mistakes. When your company errs in some way that impacts customers, communicate about it in a proactive way – before your customers do. By exposing a problem to the light of day (and taking necessary steps to correct it ASAP), you can actually gain brownie points with customers for trustworthiness.
Value present customers more than prospects. Telecom companies are notorious for introductory specials that often leave present customers scratching their heads. Where’s the justice in the new, not-as-yet loyal customer paying half what a longtime loyal customer does to get in the door? Make sure to offer as much or more value to existing customers versus prospects to help maintain trust.
Check in about perceptions. As company workforces, revenues and customer counts grow, ability to stay in touch effectively with everyone generally diminishes. This loss of contact can lead to being out of touch with customer sentiments and beliefs. That’s why it’s important to check in regularly with your customers about how much they trust you, where they most trust you, and where trust may need to improve. You may discover that product trust is sky-high but that customer service reps are diminishing that trust by coming across as disingenuous or untrustworthy. Or, the opposite could be occurring-there’s a lack of trust with a product, but reps are going a long way to offset the problem. Once armed with this intel, you can make appropriate changes to improve the situation.
Suggestion: Instead of doing a standard survey, develop a “trust assessment” (and call it that). Create 5-10 questions around trust-related issues. I know I would be much more likely to answer an assessment solely devoted to trust matters than the surveys that EVERYONE seems to be relying upon.
Trust is a valuable commodity that should be carefully nurtured, maintained and grown. Modern lightning-speed communications are increasingly calling out companies that breach trust, damaging reputations and financial standing almost in the blink of an eye. Avoid being in that unenviable position.
Mark Lusky is a marketing communications professional who has worked with Lightning Labels, an all-digital custom label printer in Denver, CO, USA, since 2008. Find Lightning Labels on Facebook for special offers and label printing news.