Here’s a good maxim for a business to live by: don’t treat customers like idiots. Don’t try to baffle them with your industry terminology, hide behind lame explanations for why you can’t do something or fail to give them a method by which they can easily contact you.

It amazes, perplexes and angers me in equal measure that so many organisations appear not to give a damn about these things. It’s a shame when they give off those signals, because usually there are people behind the scenes whose job it is to care about this stuff, but they get stymied, particularly in large organisations, by other departments who don’t understand or care but are in a position to make an (often negative) impact.

Example after stark example has reared its head for me in recent weeks, even in organisations with good reputations for customer service. Often it comes down to a lack of information or conflicting information. This gets compounded when they’ve failed to train the staff in how the company really works and what products and services it actually offers.

Happily, much of the best, more personal service I’ve experienced in recent weeks (even in the face of the often fraught run up to Christmas) has been from smaller businesses who can’t afford not to care.

What this highlights though is the reputational risk of failing to identify and understand all of the ‘touch points’ of your organisation. There are a myriad of ways people can interact with a business and the best organisations examine those interactions in detail. Each is an opportunity to impress or disappoint. Even if you leave someone ambivalent about you after an encounter, you’ve missed a chance to make them an ambassador for you.

A conversation with a client or customer that might seem straightforward to you as someone inside the business could be a real let-down to a newcomer. If you can’t/don’t/won’t do something they’re asking is it a good idea to just equip your staff to say ‘no’? Or would you be wise to ensure they can explain clearly why it’s not possible right now but ensure you have a feedback mechanism to send the request back up the chain (and tell the customer you’re doing that too – maybe even get back to them with an update!). A simple tweak to the normal practice can send a person away feeling that they’ve made a difference, even if they didn’t get what they want.

Examining all of the ways you can improve each and every contact could pay dividends for your reputation and build an army of advocates. And having done it, don’t forget about it; go back and stress test each point on a routine basis.

If you get your phone interactions sorted out, make sure the same approach is applied to your social media, your website content and structure and even the language used by staff (and yourself…?) in emails. Your public image is not just about the news you share and the adverts you run – it’s about everything you do that your customers can see.

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