Reputation Building: A little goes a long way

I recently ordered a microwave oven for my office from Amazon. Since we were facing some challenges in the initial set up, we requested a technical demo. When the technician arrived, we started looking for a place near a plug point where he could set up the oven and do the needful. But, even before we could point him to a socket, he fished out a portable adapter from his bag, plugged in the machine and did the demo. He had made the process so easy – we didn’t even have to move the oven. This got me thinking about Amazon in a very different way. There is no doubt that the company is extremely customer-centric, however, their attention to smaller details like these have a greater impact. This reinforced my belief little things make a bigger impact in building corporate reputation.

Looking at other such examples, I noted three core areas that are important for reputation building – the foundation, empathy, and experience.

Having a strong foundation is the base of your reputation:

There is a lot more to reputation management and loyalty than media engagement, campaigns, and crisis management. The first of course is ensuring that the business is built on a strong, ethical foundation, without which very little can be done for reputation building. In 2015, the Volkswagen emissions crisis was so devastating that it caused large-scale recalls and led to the CEO stepping down. This was a grave, ethical blunder on a foundational level, and there was little that anyone could do to protect Volkswagen’s reputation. Having a strong base of ethics and governance is critical for loyalty led growth.

Empathy brings connect:

A couple of years back I came across a heart-warming story on Ritz Carlton. The motto of the hospitality sector is immaculate customer experience. However, some companies go much beyond this and make empathy core to their services and that acts as a differentiator. In this case, a young girl had left her doll behind at the Ritz Carlton. The hotel not only returned her doll but also sent her a scrapbook with photographs of the doll in different locations of the hotel as if it was enjoying its time there. We can imagine the joy this girl would have felt after reuniting with her doll and seeing the scrapbook. Also, in the future, I am sure that the family wouldn’t think twice about which hotel they would want to book for their next vacation. In fact, as a practice, the Ritz Carlton produces a scrapbook for any child who leaves a doll behind. Empathetic gestures like these indicate that the company looks at customer loyalty from a holistic perspective – not just as a campaign.

Experience build loyalty:

Very simply put, experience is what shapes a customer’s opinion about a brand. This could include ease of doing business, turnaround time, technical support or so on. Here Swiggy comes to my recall. At Bangalore airport people can order food from a host of airport outlets from their Swiggy App and by the time they step out of the airport after collecting their luggage, food is waiting for them. They can head to the city while enjoying their food. No queues, no waiting, no hassle! They offer similar services on Mumbai-Pune expressway too. This is again just a type of service-extension for Swiggy. From a reputation building perspective, however, it is helping Swiggy better its customer experience in ease and convenience. 

To conclude I am reminded of a textbook quote  – “the primary objective of any business endeavor is to make profits.” I believe, for sustained profits and growth, the company must have a loyal stakeholder base, which includes customers, employees, channel partners, vendors and others. This can happen only when the company invests in reputation building from a foundational level to long-term experience. Hence, reputation building needs to be looked at from a holistic perspective. It is built over time, with careful attention to detail across all verticals and focus areas of a business – there are no short-cuts!

Mitu Samar
Mitu Samar, runs a company called ‘Eminence’, that works with renowned brands in India to build, establish or protect their reputation. She serves as an Independent Director on the boards of Times group Companies. Before turning an entrepreneur, Mitu served as Director, Communication and Brand Management at CRISIL and also headed the marketing and communication role of S&P in South Asia. Her professional experience includes stints with companies like Aditya Birla Financial Services Group, ICICI Prudential MF & GE Shipping.

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