Consumers today are spoilt for choice. However, a strong brand reputation can hold customer back from straying. Once hooked to Amazon, there are just a small fraction of shoppers who would prefer an alternative e-commerce portal simply owing to the comfort provided by the customer support and return shipping policies. Rising disposable incomes and changing lifestyles may alter a consumer’s purchase decisions, but once a loyal customer, the consumer, I have observed in most cases, becomes a brand evangelist.

So, what exactly does a brand such as Amazon do?

Reputation is not built overnight, but is constructed with every customer interaction and communication, even if it is with the same customer. A customer respects and values the reputation of a brand owing to the company’s ethicality in doing what’s right. And communication is the key. Be it via the IVR or a chatbot or even a human interaction, keeping the right channel for communication flowing, delivering on promises made, staying committed to delivering great customer experience, and being honest with consumers even in adverse situations can earn a brand a reputation of the highest order.

Let’s look at a few cases in Australia in less glamorous sectors to understand this better.

APIA is a leading insurance provider across health, home, vehicle, travel, etc. Their value proposition is to cater to people over 50 years of age. In an era where everything is on the mobile and IVRs do half the job, APIA has decided to mix the old and the new to offer a gamut of communication channels.

Most importantly, during my past interviews with APIA, I was given to understand that its call centre staff do not have a stipulated time frame to solve queries. Considering the older segment of customers that the company caters to, APIA’s staff are empowered to speak to them for as long as required and help solve their concerns. While this is a fantastic leverage offered to the customer support team, the team does its bit too by showcasing the company’s empathy towards its customers. Which is why every time a customer calls APIA, he or she is not greeted with a “What’s your customer ID or policy number”, but with a pleasant greeting of “How are you?”.

While it is important to have multiple communication channels to allow ease of interaction by various customers, little aspects such as lending a friendly ear, offering a personal greeting, providing minor refunds, getting in touch to just check if all’s well with the product or service, perks such as a loyalty freebie or offering tips and suggestions that can benefit the customer can go a long way in building the brand’s reputation. After all, which customer does not want to feel valued by a brand. And none to beat the Royal Automobile Clubs. “Our members are at the heart of everything we do and it is independent awards like this that provide the recognition and motivation for our team, to feel good about their role, and to keep striving to do even better,” says Ian Gillespie, RACQ Group CEO.  So while the clubs generate a sense of camaraderie among members, they also build trust between them and the brand by doing the right thing.

In 2018, Engaged Strategy conducted an independent benchmarking study across five key sectors in Australia – motor insurance, property insurance, health insurance, banking and superannuation. Among the various criteria of assessing customers’ Most Recommended Brands in its Intelligent Industry Analytics, this benchmarking study also drilled down to identify brands that customers believed had the greatest reputation within these five sectors. These brands are listed below:

You build your reputation when your customers’ interests are at the forefront of everything you say and do. When you lose sight of this is when you get into hot water. A current example are the brands implicated in the While I encourage you to read about how the Royal Commission findings are steering brands towards refocusing on customers and ethics in my previous post, I leave you to ponder if your customers believe that:

  • you have their best interest at heart?
  • you deliver on the promises that you make?
  • you are honest and ethical in your dealings?

And critically, are you asking them what they think so you know where you stand?