Is your reputation just a tweet away from disaster?

Woman on cell phone. Shows 2 out of 5 star review.

This week, our CEO, Melissa Davis, chooses a few brands to illustrate the importance of living by your company values. It only takes a tweet for something to go wrong if your values aren’t embedded throughout the organisation.

How values are ‘lived’ within a company can hugely impact a brand’s reputation.

There’s a famous quote from Warren Buffett which talks about reputations taking years to build and minutes to destroy.

Social media wasn’t on the scene then, so perhaps now it would be speeded up to seconds not minutes.

This week, I watched a few well-known businesses fall foul of ‘customer service fail’ tweets – and also, however, one brand which jetted (you’ll get the reference in a second, if you haven’t already) into the brand win territory as well.

But let’s start with the bad. Or should I say the ‘unfortunate’.

Ho dear

Why unfortunate? Well, because that’s the unbelievable way in which UK holiday brand Hoseasons chose to refer to one customer’s loss of his father.

The death meant his mother could no longer take her Hoseasons break with her husband. When she asked for a refund, she was told his death was ‘unfortunate’ but she didn’t qualify for her money back.

Harsh. Unfeeling. Cold. All words we could use for that statement from a business which apparently prides itself on its ‘first class customer service’. First crass seems more appropriate on this occasion.

Some 7,500 retweets and 45,000 likes later, her son George was able to update everyone that, happily, Hoseasons had apologised profusely and offered a full refund.

‘A good result but it shouldn’t take a moan on social media to make it happen…’ he concluded.

Virgin on the ridiculous

George wasn’t alone however this week in taking to Twitter to air a customer grievance. Enter stage left Sara Pascoe and her gripe with Virgin Active.

She got very active on her feed to flag how the gym business hadn’t responded to her messages trying to pause her membership when she was pregnant. Sadly for her, they didn’t respond and swiftly passed her details to a debt collection agency for the ‘missing’ £300.

Sadly for Virgin, their debt team didn’t get active on Twitter before they acted. The Sara Pascoe in question is the comedian Sara Pascoe who can count – or probably can’t to be fair – on some 363,000 followers.

Some of them then got in touch to share their stories of similar treatment, dragging David Lloyd gyms into the debate, turning one debt collection letter into a brand disaster for Virgin Active and some of its most well known competitors. Like Hoseasons, Virgin Active caved in and called off the dogs.

But it was too late. The damage was done and they could yet have their own slot in Sara’s routine on her forthcoming tour (tickets still available apparently).

Brand begins at home

So what can the legal sector learn from these consumer brand failings? The point here is an important one for any business, in any sector. The damage started when someone in the business didn’t live the brand. ‘First class customer service’ sounds great in marketing meetings and on websites – but it only sounds great to the customer if that’s what they experience at every single touch point.

Your colleagues, your partners, the teams who answer the phone, the emails, the live chats and those who greet people as they arrive – they all have to be on board. They have to understand what your brand is and their role in delivering it all day, every day.

Brand and how it impacts the customer journey is something which, like many things, is still relatively new to many law firms. The legal sector is traditionally a late adopter. But the experience of Hoseasons and Virgin Active won’t be confined to their sectors – customers, clients or whatever we like to call them are increasingly aware of their ability to share their displeasure at what they perceive as poor service.

The customer is always right, remember. And if they’re not happy, then they have an increasing choice of where to share that, not just on social media but on review sites like Trustpilot or Feefo and comparison sites.
And here’s the rub. Other customers look at those review sites and will increasingly judge your business by others’ experiences.

Be honest. Would you fancy booking a Hoseasons holiday this week after reading that? And would you be confident that Virgin Active would pause your membership if you needed them without sending in the bailiffs?

Brand matters. So your teams and your colleagues need to understand what your business stands for, how it treats its customers and how they live up to it. So if you haven’t visited your brand values recently perhaps it’s time you had a look at them. If you don’t know where to start then email our purpose team, led by former Unilever Brand Equity and Purpose Director, James Hayhurst, who can talk you through the process.

The good one I promised…

…Game, set and match to Ryanair

It’s not been all bad news for brands. Say what you like about Ryanair, and many people do, they absolutely nailed it this week, serving an ace against multiple Grand Slam winner, Novak Djokovic.

His interview with the BBC featured the line that he wasn’t anti-vax but didn’t want a vaccination himself. A somewhat contradictory position which allowed the Ryanair tweet team flew straight in to score a winner.

Not content with that, as some high profile, some would say right-of-centre, reporters attacked them for it, the Ryanair team returned everything, with interest.

Now, that may not make you want to ring up Michael O’Leary and book on his next flight. Ryanair has its own fair share of customer service challenges.

However, in brand terms, it was game, set and match. The team at Ryanair know their brand and they live it – a disruptor, brash, confident in being cheap and happy not to behave as many other, more traditional airlines would have done.

For their audience – and this is a brand that definitely knows its audience – it was their own Grand Slam.

Every brand is different but the one thing that any brand can’t afford is everyone delivering their brand in a different way. And that’s why getting everyone on board and making sure they know how to deliver customer service is so important.

We can help you clarify your brand purpose if you have any doubts. Get in touch with our team today.

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