What is reputation? As defined by the Oxford English dictionary:- “The beliefs or opinions that are generally held about someone or something“
It is generally accepted that a good reputation will have been earnt over significant time and with considerable effort. It is an intangible asset that should be nurtured and protected. Good reputation would have been earnt through personal care, integrity, investment in colleagues, changing technologies and good old-fashioned hard work. A good reputation is integral to a successful business. The two go hand in hand.
However, with the current pace of universal change, unless one keeps up with the needs and wants of the modern customer, then a good reputation can very easily wane; a customer’s perception is reality.
We can think of many brands of our time, whose excellent reputation took a beating simply because they did not keep up with the times; M&S, BHS, Woolworths, W H Smith, House of Fraser, Debenhams, Comet, HMV, Thomas Cook, Maplin, Blockbuster, Barratts, Comet, Phones4u, the list is endless.
There are significantly fewer examples of brands who have managed to salvage their current reputation by adopting a new approach and embracing technology; Jessops, Max Spielmann and of course the ubiquitous Amazon.
Now whilst the values that we hold do not change through life it is generally accepted that our beliefs do. Consequently, a good reputation today could be a tarnished reputation tomorrow.
A business may have the most attractive branch, and the most well trained colleagues, but if the customer cannot communicate with the business in their desired fashion then the customer will vote with their feet. They will transact with a business that communicates with them at a time and in a way that they choose.
I can think of numerous occasions surfing websites looking for holidays and because the search function was not to my taste, in a millisecond I have switched to a different website.
I am talking about modern technologies of course where customers expect information and communication at their fingertips and on their terms. Ofcom reported that for the first time since such data was collected, we are making less outbound telephone calls on our mobile phones and there has also been a marked increase quarter on quarter from 12% of users to 41%, in the use of instant messaging. It is likely that this will remain on an upward trajectory.
Let’s face it, although it can be hard to swallow, there is a growing population of customers that just do not want to talk to us. They definitely want to communicate but in a way and at a time that suits them and often it is not in the verbal fashion. Modern technology has invented instant messaging, chat bots, chat rooms. Applications such as Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp are business as usual out there in the big wide world.
So why doesn’t every estate agent have secure instant messaging? It might be because the agent is just slow to the party. It could be from a place of general denial, a disbelief that chat options have a place in the business. An agent said to me last week “we have built our reputation on talking to our customers“. This is an admirable ethos but let’s face it, some customers just do not want to talk. Surely we owe it to them to give them the choice and ability to communicate with them on their terms, rather than what we have decided for them?
So in order to future proof one’s reputation, not only should one have the full range of traditional communication methods but one should look to the future too; and it is not just communication but the ability to share and consume key information that mitigates the burden of unnecessary communication and removes panic.
I am a big advocate of the customer facing high street branch network. A great telephone service with either call forwarding or call answering so that calls do not get missed is absolutely essential. A ‘reminder text’ service definitely has a place in the business and in my experience has proven to deliver a marked improvement on viewing no show rates.
However, now there is also a place for chat options such as secure instant messaging. The ability for customers to receive automated and manual updates about their case file in the form of notifications, if they should choose, is proving to be a very popular addition to communication preferences.
If the reading audience has not considered this option in their toolkit then you could be at risk of not future proofing your valuable reputation. Now is the time to research the opportunities out there.
With thanks to Becky Howes, mio Account Manager