rotten apple with ants eating it (all it takes is one bad apple ...)
PHOTO: Maria Teneva

As companies strive to provide excellent customer experiences, some are fighting more of an uphill battle than others. Creating and delivering CX is a big enough challenge as it is. But for brands who have already been tarnished with a bad reputation, the challenges are even greater. How best to right the ship? Below are a few suggestions.

Have a Bad CX Reputation? Own the Issue

“Improving a brand's reputation is one of the hardest jobs in marketing and PR,” said Jonathan Chan, head of marketing at Insane Growth. “By far the worst mistake any company can make when dealing with a poor reputation is trying to silence, or ‘scrub,’ any negative mentions of their brand because it only causes people to get even more angry and frustrated with the brand.”

Instead of trying to hide the negatives, a company needs to publicly own up to previous mistakes and communicate how it will improve in the future, Chan added.

He recommended reaching out to as many brand detractors as possible and attempting to repair those relationships. Some won’t return as customers, but even they can provide valuable insight on where the company erred, so the situation can be avoided in the future.

“This also helps because a major cause of a poor customer experience is when the customer doesn't feel like they're being heard by the company,” Chan said. “Taking proactive steps to communicate with your unhappiest customers, and even publishing content that speaks openly about what the brand has learned, can go a long way in improving a poor brand reputation.”

Related Article: Comcast (Yes, That Comcast) Knows a Thing or Two About Customer Experience

Publicize Customer Experience Changes

"We advise our clients that understanding you have a poor CX reputation is the first significant step to changing it. That includes listening to your customers — and engaging with them to encourage open and honest feedback, no matter how painful,” said Adam Fingerman, co-founder and chief experience officer at ArcTouch. "Don’t hide from it. And don’t get defensive.”

Then take action. From interacting on social media and customer forums to planned user testing, systematically capturing feedback and making it actionable will provide the fodder you need for real change, according to Fingerman.

“Changes to your product or service should be shared — e.g. blog posts from the product team or release notes — even incremental ones. When customers see that their input is making a difference, they’re more invested in your success. They may even convert from detractors to promoters. With that sentiment shift — which may be small at first — you’ve made your first real improvement to your reputation. Now, repeat it, continuously, and you’ll be on the path to meaningful growth and success.”

However, he stressed that a company needs to ensure that the CX has indeed improved and is something to be proud of before attempting to resolve your perception issues and the associated public relations fallout.

Related Article: How Good Customer Experience Can Turn Bad, in the Swipe of a Credit Card

Support Your Customer Service Team

“To change the perception that you provide poor CX, start at the root: customer interactions with support and success professionals,” said Jayaram Bhat, CEO of Squelch. “While research shows that up to 76% of customers prefer self-service options, complex issues are still best handled by humans. That’s why empowering your front-line agents is vital.”

He noted studies show word of mouth influences 50% to 90% of all purchases. Customers will readily tell others about poor experiences as well as exceptional ones, yet companies don’t stress providing an exceptional customer experience.

So he recommends ensuring that agents acknowledge the customer’s experience — really listen to how they feel, think, and talk about what’s happening, and work to resolve any issues as well as outline steps the company will take to do better going forward.

Related Article: Use Voice of Employee Insights to Propel Better Customer and Employee Experiences

Examine the Customer Journey

“The first step towards improving poor CX — or anything for that matter — is to measure it. The two most frequently used metrics are Net Promoter Score (NPS) and Customer Satisfaction (CSAT),” said Steve Offsey, vice president of marketing at Pointillist. “By quantifying CX within the context of customer journeys, you can more easily identify CX obstacles and calculate their impact, so you can prioritize and act upon them.”

John Nash, RedPoint Global chief marketing and strategy officer agreed: “The most effective way for brands to deliver better customer experiences is to personalize at every step of the customer journey. Data shows that 37% of consumers will no longer do business with a company if they fail to offer a personalized experience. So, personalize based on a deep understanding of each customer, which is now possible through connecting transactional, behavioral and preference data."

Companies with a reputation for providing a poor customer experience have traditionally looked to improve CX by focusing on individual touch points like their website, IVR system or call center. This typically leads to uneven results as customers may rate an individual interaction highly, yet be unhappy over the course of an entire journey, Nash said.

Better personalization through different touch points throughout the customer journey will help improve the customer’s perception of the company’s CX efforts, according to Nash.