The one major organizational asset that’s often left out of any business discussion is “reputation,” or the company’s standing in the industry and within the communities it serves. No business can survive long-term when current and former clients, or prospects, publicly knock its products, services or people.
A core part of business growth comes through acquisition. From gaining new clients and increasing sales to onboarding employees and opening additional locations, each is a sign of greater achievement and, ultimately, true business success. When the organization has a poor reputation, the acquisition process for every one of those assets becomes more difficult, building larger hurdles that the management team will have to overcome to attain their objectives.
You can’t build a reputation on what you are going to do. -Henry Ford
That quote speaks to one of the most significant investments and IT company can make; its good name.
Unlike bad news, a negative reputation can be disastrous to an organization. People buy from those they like and trust, and when they have a reason to question your abilities, building trust becomes a bigger challenge. It is much easier to gain a good name in any industry than to try and repair one that’s been significantly damaged. A tarnished reputation may able to be mended with the right approach, but in the age of the internet, news postings and forums that discuss the issue may live on for years.
Memories last just as long as information on the web—in some cases, longer. If an incident occurs that bodes poorly for a company’s reputation, their clients and prospects will likely remember it for many years (and surely bring it up during contract negotiations).
No matter the issue, business owners can often minimize the damage caused by any lapse or failure with a sincere, effective response. That process may require a lot of time and effort, but when prevention fails, resolution becomes a top priority to protect the client relationship, as well as the organization’s reputation. A single, unforeseen incident will rarely tarnish the reputation of a reputable company; but the way the organization addresses the issue with clients and prospects will have a lasting effect.
Just take a look at how Blackberry executives dealt with a series of service outages; apologizing for the disruption without offering a clear path to how they’d prevent similar issues in the future. Without those details, customers often seek alternative suppliers who can guarantee better performance. The company’s innovation challenges are minor compared with Blackberry’s sinking reputation in the eyes of its business customers.
MSPs can’t follow the same approach and expect to their business to succeed (or survive). Service outages or major mistakes need to be addressed quickly, and the specific steps required to prevent future occurrences have to be effectively communicated to those affected (and the greater community if the issue is widespread or received greater attention). If an MSP can’t explain the issue and what they’ll do to avert similar problems in the future, an apology will likely have any effect. Sincerity and action plans are the only route to redemption.
It’s one thing to protect the company’s reputation after an incident, but MSPs understand the importance of a proactive approach. By building a respected name for themselves in the industry, with clients and the greater community, providers earn the right to ask for forgiveness if an issue arises. That’s not to say they need or expect problems, but may get some leeway if an unexpected failure occurs. Reputation is something every company develops over time, but building a good one requires tremendous and continual effort. Successful MSPs focus a number of resources on building a good name for their company, making it a core value woven into every segment of their organizational planning. To help forge a solid business reputation, businesses must:
- Make a commitment to customer service: outline the standard procedures for solving issues, as well as resolving discrepancies, within the organization. Put it in writing—and share the details regularly with clients and employees.
- Create (and convey) effective customer-oriented messaging: form a corporate image that reflects the true intentions and values of the organization. Avoid making unsupported claims or set loft expectations that are sure to disappoint those who sign up. The best course of action is always to under promise (conservatively) and over deliver (liberally).
- Monitor and communicate: participate in industry discussions and forums, and look for signs of discontent among current or former clients. Remain active in social media and survey customers and prospects on what they like about the organization and what areas could be improved.
- Resolve all issues in a timely manner: respond according to severity and ensure all problems are properly addressed to meet customer expectations (within reason). SLAs are a framework, but most successful MSPs benchmark their performance with the industry, and with customer satisfaction surveys. If a client site is impacted by an outage or major performance issue, a management team member should be immediately informed; working with the tech team and customer to make sure the situation is properly resolved.
- Win forgiveness (don’t just ask for it): respect is earned, not deserved. Successful MSPs go the extra mile to ensure their clients receive quality service, especially when outages or performance issues occur. If an issue leads to downtime or impacts a customers’ employee productivity, offer a discount to offset their costs and inconvenience, or provide them an additional service that would help their business, at no charge. Just don’t wait for them to ask…
A reputation for quality service is an asset every managed services provider would love to have, but it takes a lot more than hard work to build one.