Why brand reputation starts with effective listening
Thanks to the internet, consumers are now living in a world of almost infinite choice. While this is overwhelmingly a positive situation, it does mean that they are bombarded by hundreds of messages from brands on a daily basis through a widening range of digital channels.
Being able to find and choose the products and services that best fit their needs is consequently more difficult, particularly given that multiple brands often seem to offer the same products at similar prices. Consumers therefore now look beyond product attributes to focus on customer experience and corporate reputation, asking questions such as:
- Do I know this brand, and if not, has it got a good reputation with people that I trust?
- Does it deliver the experience that I’m looking for?
- Is it well-respected and does it live up to its stated values?
Essentially this means brands need to earn (and retain) the trust of consumers if they want to keep them as customers. Over three-quarters (79%) of those surveyed by Eptica said that they’d switch brand if trust broke down – with 49% leaving immediately.
Poor reputation impacts trust, which in turn damages credibility and reputation. For example, take a mobile phone operator with a poor reputation for managing customer relationships. If a customer receives a scam email supposedly from the operator saying there is a problem with billing and asking them to enter their payment card details again, they are more likely to click on the link. Customers believe the worst of the brand, opening themselves up to fraud – and in turn further diminishing the reputation of the company.
Given this vital need to build trust, how can brands ensure that they are actively improving their reputation and the experience they offer? Essentially it is about following a four-stage process:
Trust starts by understanding customers and what they think about your brand. And you can only achieve this by listening to them constantly. While the majority of brands aim to do this through Voice of the Customer (VoC) programs, many of these rely on collecting feedback via surveys. This data has a number of downsides:
- It is through a channel controlled by the company, which decides who is sent a survey and when they approached, making it open to manipulation
- It captures feedback from a single channel or interaction, meaning it fails to give a holistic picture
- By its very nature, it isn’t comprehensive – it does not cover the entire customer base
- Often analysis takes time, meaning issues that undermine trust can snowball before they are noticed or addressed
Instead, brands need to widen their listening processes to cover more channels and particularly aim to capture what customers are saying and feeling in day-to-day interactions. For example, analyzing emails and social media messages provides the opportunity to better learn what customers want from your brand, going beyond the simple satisfaction metrics that many VoC programs provide.
2. Automate insight
Given the growth of digital channels, listening to customers effectively means analyzing an enormous (and growing) volume of data. Customers now contact brands nearly half a billion times a month, across multiple channels. Much of the key information that can be used to understand what customers want is contained within text fields, both in qualitative VoC surveys and in the multiple digital interactions that consumers have with brands. Finding useful insight can feel like looking for a needle in a haystack.
AI, and in particular text analytics, provides the opportunity to unlock this insight. Algorithms can analyze huge amounts of data, from multiple sources, and can be trained to look for and understand the emotion behind statements. This enables brands to automate the insight process at scale, delivering real-time listening that truly reflects what customers are looking for.
3. Share in real-time
Improving customer experience is the responsibility of everyone within the company. And this means that customer insight needs to be shared quickly with the right departments to drive changes, build trust and safeguard reputations. Yet while 79% of companies surveyed by Eptica said that they shared insight with marketing departments, just 38% communicated it to e-commerce operations. To get real value from customer insight these departmental silos need to be broken down and information made accessible across the company in real-time.
4. Act – close the loop and continually improve
Listening to customers effectively provides the opportunity to boost customer experience in two ways. Firstly, brands can identify the individual issues and pain points that a specific customer is facing, and provide a solution quickly enough to retain their business and turn them from a detractor to a promoter. Secondly, it enables brands to spot trends in real-time and make improvements that positively impact all of their customers, as well as acting as an early warning system to flag issues that can then be fixed before they escalate. Successful customer experience requires constant improvement – closing the loop on both these levels helps underpin this.
At a time of growing choice, it is no longer enough for brands to concentrate solely on the quality and pricing of their products and services. They need to ensure that they are equally focused on reputation and building trust – and that starts with listening effectively to the customers.