​​Little Things Can and Will Hurt You

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​Those of you who follow me on Twitter and LinkedIn may have seen some of the terrible customer service experiences I suffered over the last month.

This post is not a rant about those companies. It is an opportuni​​​ty to reflect on the damage such experiences, each of which is a “little thing,” can cause to organizations — and what those organizations need to do.

What too many people fail to realize is that how an organization treats one customer these days can swiftly spread to the eyes and ears of thousands. The viral effect of social media can lead to significant damage to an organization’s reputation in moments — and it only takes the actions of a single individual to spark the brush fire.

Consider how you select a restaurant for a special meal or a contractor for work at your home. If you are not checking on reviews (such as at Yelp, Travel Advisor, Angie’s List, etc.) you are taking an unnecessary risk. Personally, I travel around the world and use these reviews extensively.

When negative reviews are posted, or I read stories of poor treatment of customers, I avoid those organizations. For example, check out these reviews on Yelp on Sears in Cupertino, Calif. and United Airlines in San Francisco. Contrast them with the positive things said about Jet Blue and Nordstrom in San Jose. Bloggers also have their say: http://searssucks.blogspot.com/. (By the way, I personally like United much more than Jet Blue — these are for illustrative purposes only.)

In fact, the contractors I have hired to work on my home have all been selected based on the excellent reviews they have received. The only trouble with getting a good review is having too much work — smile.

SAP is smart in many ways, including using a third party service to monitor what people say about the company, its services, and its people in social media.

SAP realizes that there is little as important as its reputation, and it needs to understand what customers (including individuals at customers) have to say — and then take action where needed.

So what should this mean to board members, executives, and risk and assurance professionals?

I suggest asking these questions:

  • Does the organization monitor its reputation? If so, how?
  • What are the trends? Who acts when there are reputation threats?
  • Are you satisfied with your reputation? If not, what are you doing about it? If yes, what are you doing to preserve or enhance it?
  • How do you monitor what people say about the business? Who replies, when, and how?
  • Are you willing and able to change when perceptions turn downward?

Don’t take the need to manage your reputation lightly. I recommend the work of Deon Binneman, a friend in South Africa who specializes in reputation management. This is a useful blog on the topic.

I welcome your comments.

​The opinions expressed by Internal Auditor's bloggers may differ from policies and official statements of The Institute of Internal Auditors and its committees and from opinions endorsed by the bloggers' employers or the editors of Internal Auditor. The magazine is pleased to provide you an opportunity to share your thoughts about these blog posts. Some comments may be reprinted elsewhere, online or offline.



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