How Much is Your Reputation Worth?

Recently I wrote about how Delta Airlines and an employee at the St. Louis airport perfectly handled my dilemma in getting to a speaking engagement on time. There were some great lessons in that story, but there is another lesson that is just as powerful, if not more so.

My client expected me to show up. They promoted the event and had 200 people that were expecting me to present my customer service presentation. What kind of message would I be sending the client and the audience if I failed to show up – or at least make somewhat of a heroic effort to do so?

Basically, because of a mechanical problem on the plane, I was going to miss my connection to speech. Even with contingency planning with back-up flights, it looked I could possibly be a “no show.” The only solution was a private jet. That cost thousands of dollars, but, what is my reputation worth?

If I didn’t show up, would the client ever hire me again? Would they tell others in the industry about the speaker who didn’t show up? What about the audience members? Would they tell their colleagues? How would this impact my reputation?

In the future, there may be problems that are truly beyond my control that prevent me from getting to a speech on time. That said, the client will know that I will do my very best and exhaust all possibilities to be there.

It doesn’t have to cost thousands of dollars to save a reputation. Maybe it’s just a few dollars? I’m amazed at how many companies don’t think about the consequences of letting their customers down, especially when the situation can be saved by just providing better customer service.

Maybe a customer tried to return something to a store without a receipt and salesperson wouldn’t refund or exchange the item, even though the item was new and it was obvious that it came from that store. Or, maybe a manufacturer left something out of their customer’s order and refused to overnight the missing part.

In both of these examples, the company risks losing the customer, but there is even more at stake. As mentioned in the example with my client, people talk. Maybe the customer will tell their colleagues. Maybe the customer will go “social” and complain about the company on Twitter, Facebook or some other social media channel.

Would taking back or exchanging an unused item or spending an extra few dollars to overnight a part to a customer be worth keeping a complaint out of social media? I think so!

So, what’s your reputation worth? A potentially tainted reputation that can be saved by providing a little better customer service or spending a few dollars (or sometimes more than a few dollars) may be exactly what not only saves your reputation, but makes your reputation – a reputation that has your customers talking about how you and your company delivers amazing customer service.

Shep Hyken is a customer service expert, keynote speaker and New York Times bestselling business author. For more information, contact www.hyken.com. Follow on Twitter: @Hyken

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