In this age of on demand access to info and people happily airing their views, it has never been more important for brands to get on with their consumers. Failure to do so can lead to a rapid backlash online. Just ask Dell.
Jeff Randall, business journalist for the Daily Telegraph, discussed this week how brands are keen to turn customers into Ã¢â‚¬Ëœfans of the brandÃ¢â‚¬â„¢, but there is always the risk that the relationship can turn sour if the loyalty is betrayed.
P & G spend billions every year trying to build relationships with their marketplace. Just securing the one off sale isnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t enough. They want to have an ongoing love affair and fill your shelves with their brands.
Businesses might equate love with revenue, but as Randall points out: love canÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t bring you profits, only trust.
Randall gives the example of when a UK supermarket chainÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s CEO was deluged with texts and emails from angry customers who felt standards were slipping. They werenÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t bombarding him because they hated the supermarket – but because they cared.
The supermarket was an integral part of their everyday lives. They didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t want to see the time and money they had invested in the relationship tarnished by a drop in service. The supermarket chain has subsequently responded to these complaints; profits have never looked healthier.
When businesses get it wrong it is the way that they respond that can be the difference between PR disaster and redemption. People appreciate it when their complaints and problems are listened to. They are equally livid when they feel they have been robbed.
UK banks are unapologetically hated. Their web of small print and hidden bank charges gives the impression that profit comes before fairness. When it was discovered that you could reclaim some of these charges the stampede of people, rushing to download forms and court notices, was so deafening that it reached the national headlines.
The enthusiasm with which people demanded their refunds was fuelled by their sense of unfair treatment, just as much as it was for financial gain.
If businesses want to be loved and trusted then they have to learn to treat their customers with fairness. In our world of connected minds, businesses can no longer afford to simply ignore peopleÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s complaints and angry phone calls.
Angry people often carry axes to grind, and if agitated enough they can club together and form themselves into an army. Their combined assault of negative comments and feedback can become so loud that it can reach the ears of the traditional media. Then the faÃƒÂ§ade of a businessÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ caring image can really be in trouble.
In a previous post I discussed how smart businesses are using magazines to build loyalty with their customers. By providing information of value, rather than pages of sales messages, they are able to project a helpful, customer focused image and an attractive business to have a relationship with.
So the moral of the tale is to have substance to what you say, communicate as clearly as you can and donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t let people down. If you do, be generous and you will be forgiven. After all, a customer should be for life, not just for Christmas.