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So You Got a Bad Customer Review …

reputation management_news

Public and readily accessible customer reviews are a fact of life for today’s business owners. Whether focused on a specific industry such as reviews at or covering a wide range of companies (i.e. Google Reviews, Yelp … etc.) there are plenty of online sites that want consumers to rate satisfaction with a recent purchase. The question for business owners and managers is what to do when they inevitably get negative comments.

Take Stock of the Situation

We may like to say that the customer is always right, but when criticized our natural inclination is to be defensive. We’ll make excuses, question the veracity of our detractors, or claim others are at fault (There are two sides to every story, after all!). Still, we should try to overcome our human impulses and:

  • Stay calm – Yep, they really said that, right there, for all the world to see. The unfairness of it all! Okay … stop. While your every instinct may be to fight back, instead clear your head and concentrate on fixing a problem. The issue isn’t necessarily a bad review. Also, if you’re wishing your customer had tried to be more understanding, maybe you could start the ball rolling by going first.
  • Investigate – Do what you can to understand what transpired to create the unhappy customer. Recalling the incident, or finding the employee who remembers what happened may depend on the level of detail in the reviewer’s account, but make a good faith effort to get the facts. Keep in mind that the in-house person who knows the most about the incident may have had the biggest role in making the customer unhappy. Don’t be accusatory with that staff member, but take pains to see the matter from the customer’s perspective.
  • Make Changes – Once you’re satisfied you have a handle on what transpired, ensure there will be no cause for similar reviews in the future. Did an employee do something wrong? Was a policy at fault? If so, address the deficiency and correct it. Was the problem unavoidable or was the customer in the wrong? Then explore measures to let upset customers in the future know you care about their feelings, even if you can’t make them completely happy.

React Positively

You’ve done what you can to uncover the facts and you have a plan for moving forward. Now it’s time to let others know you’ve acknowledged a problem and are working to set things right by:

  • Responding Online (at the review site) – Don’t just let a bad review sit there! Many customer satisfaction sites provide an opportunity for you to address a critical review. (This goes for social media criticisms as well.) Respectfully and graciously express your concern that a customer had a bad experience. If your investigation found that your business was at fault, own up to it, apologize and let people know how you plan to fix the problem. If the problem was out of your control, politely explain why. Don’t belabor your points.
  • Contacting the unhappy customer directly – If possible, contact the person who posted the negative review. Let them know you are disheartened that they had a bad experience. You may find them very reasonable as the heat of the moment has passed, They may even appreciate you reaching out to them. See if reasonable accommodation can be reached. Keep in mind: It’s not so important that they understand your position, but that they know you care about theirs.
  • Going public – Without rehashing a specific bad review, let customers (current, former and prospective) know you value their feedback whether it’s good or bad. Encourage their reviews on rating sites (suggest a few that you can easily monitor) and add the proviso that you’d always like the opportunity to address any concerns. When real problems are uncovered, let everyone know you’re fixing them. “Responsive” and “thoughtful” are very marketable qualities in a business.

Minimize the Impact

Though you do everything possible to set things right—and that irate reviewer is now your most enthusiastic advocate—a negative comment could virtually hang around forever. Here are three things you can do to mitigate the damage:

  • Overwhelm the bad reviews with good – As mentioned, you should encourage customers to review your business, and if you usually do a good job, your ratings will reflect that. People understand everyone occasionally has a bad day, and some customers are going to be unreasonable jerks, so the stray one-star rating won’t sink you. Just don’t manufacture glowing reviews—that’s unethical and there could be negative repercussions from the review site.
  • Work on Search Engine Results – Google the name of your business. What comes up at the top? If negative comments are prominent, embark on a plan to increase improve your Internet presence. The more “good news” you have out there, the less prominence any negative reviews will have.
  • Emphasize customer testimonials and case studies in your marketing – Apart from trusted word-of-mouth communication, verified testimonials and case studies are about the most effective form of advertising. Make them a component of your sales and marketing strategy on your website, in ads and commercials, brochures … everywhere! You want to people to see that happy customers are the norm, and a bad experience is an aberration.

Final thought: think of negative reviews as an opportunity. If you have a problem in how you’re serving customers, you want to know it. And if you aren’t really doing anything wrong, here’s your chance to practice your customer relations skills. Besides, anything that encourages us to look beyond our normal, everyday perspective will only help us grow and be better prepared for new challenges in the future.

The Pinstripe PR team are reputation management pros and can help mitigate negative comments. Contact us here to learn how we can help.

It’s Time for the East-West Shrine Game!

shrine game pr_news

If you know us at all, you know that one of our busiest times of year is “Shrine Game Time,” and it’s starting now! Tickets for the East-West Shrine Game go on sale Friday, December 1, and we have been gearing up for this game for months already.

The Shrine Game is the longest running college all-star football game in the United States, and this is its 93rd year! The game is driven by the desire to support Shriners Hospitals for Children in its mission to help children in need of expert medical care. More than 1 million children have benefited from Shriners Hospitals’ unique way of providing hope and healing, regardless of the families’ ability to pay for services.

Each year, we accompany the players and coaches to the Shriners Hospital Tampa so they can meet some of the patients, play with the kids, dance, sign footballs, play basketball, and in general have a ton of fun. This day shows them why the East-West Shrine Game is “More Than Just a Game.”

Click here for tickets to the January 20, 2018 game.

Client Ignorance about Your Business Isn’t the Client’s Failing

educate customer_news

Have you ever told a client about one of your products or services and heard this surprised reply: “I didn’t know you had that!”? You may have bitten your tongue to keep from pointing out that this particular offering is listed throughout your website, mentioned in every bit of marketing collateral and advertising you produce and also prominently proclaimed by a huge sign over your left shoulder, even as the two of you are speaking! Somehow, instead of whacking this person over the head and yelling, “Hello? McFly!” you thoughtfully go about closing a new sale.

But before jumping to conclusions, ask yourself why clients frequently don’t retain important bits of information about your business. We’re going to go out on a short, thick and very sturdy limb and say the problem likely originates from one of two places: 1) your clients aren’t all that motivated to learn about your company; and 2) information you would like them to have isn’t attracting their attention.

It’s human nature to not do things we don’t have to do. That’s why we don’t see bald men combing their heads, or why most don’t make their bed everyday if they live alone. We have better uses for our time, so if we aren’t strongly motivated to perform certain acts, we won’t. Therefore, it’s not surprising that random members of the public don’t normally commit the content of business websites to memory, or that some people would be unable to describe a company logo even if their lives depended on it.

“But,” you may say, “knowledge is power. My company satisfies important demands, and it’s wise to know how to access critical resources such as those we provide.” This may be true, but we all prioritize which information to acquire, especially in an age where we can Google an answer to any question in seconds. These days, it’s usually safe to feel a need before finding out where to fill it.

More importantly, you care more about your business than your customers—by a lot! Have you ever noticed that the person most bothered by dirty dishes is the one who’s quickest to wash them? (Unless there’s a lot of nagging involved, that is.) Public apathy operates under the same principle. Clients say, “If you really want me know something about your company, I’m going to leave it up to you to imprint that information on my mind. Good luck.”

This brings us to the second point. How does the information you want to convey manage to push through everything else that’s clamoring for your customers’ attention … much less actually stick around in their brains?

Well that’s what marketing is all about, isn’t it? You carefully identify your audiences, send precisely constructed communications that will attract their attention—through a medium that has the best chance to reach targets—and do it over and over and over again until they (finally) remember your message. And you’ve got to brand it all so your company won’t be confused with others sending similar information to the same people!

It’s a process with countless twist and turns, millions of variables, innumerable nuances and considerations, but never a single perfect solution. Still, we truly believe focused customer outreach and education will be fully worth your effort. (Helpful hint: Let your Pinstripe friends handle it for you!). It’s up to you to make the right impression on your clients—not them—but if things go right, they’ll be glad you did.

Could You Develop a Cult-like Following for Your Brand?

cult following band

Star Trek vs. science fiction. Green Bay Packers vs. the NFL. Macs vs. personal computers. In each pairing, the former is an example of the latter, yet fans of a specific “brand” may have little emotional attachment to the broad category. They may even be dismissive or hostile to other entities of the type. These brand enthusiasts know what they like and no substitution will do. They also expect to be customers for life.

Wouldn’t you like to have such partisans supporting your business; customers who will ignore your competitors’ promotions and who can be counted upon to defend your brand against all skeptics? It might be possible.

However, you’ll never attract intensely committed customers if you yourself don’t sincerely feel your offerings are special in some very important way. After all, you are the first evangelist for your business and if you’re not a believer, how can you expect to attract any followers?

Once you have the necessary mindset—and quality offerings—the necessary steps to developing a cult-like following will then require fostering an “us vs. them” mentality among your customers. If that sounds a little creepy, understand that you’re simply respecting your customers’ superior ability to understand and appreciate the exceptionality of your work. So, whether they realize or not, they are truly special. You’re only helping them accept their unique group identity. Here’s how you can start:

  • This may sound counter-intuitive, but you should create a slight barrier to someone becoming a customer. The obstacle shouldn’t be too hard to overcome, but significant enough to cause a little inconvenience or minor discomfort (such as registering, or paying a little more). It’s the same principle as hazing a prospective fraternity member. By requiring a special “commitment,” customers will be less inclined to walk away after they’ve “joined” an especially dedicated group. (Example: Chick-fil-A’s premium prices and being closed on Sundays.)
  • Within reason, develop a unique vernacular to associate with your products and services. This will serve three purposes: it will increase the distinctiveness of your company; it will create a “common language” among your customers and your business; in time, it will make competing products and services sound alien. (Example: The “Genius Bar” instead of “service desk” at the Apple Stores.)
  • Provide for direct customer engagement and communication, not only between you and your clients, but also among the customers themselves so that they can more easily function as the unique community you want them to be. Social media is a great place to start, and you may also want to establish dialogues on your website. (Example: Customer product ratings at Amazon.)
  • Reward customer loyalty with exclusive offers and opportunities to heighten their sense of belonging to a special group, as well as providing an ongoing incentive for remaining a customer. You might establish levels of “achievement” for your customers—statuses such as “gold, silver … etc.—creating a competition among faithful members. (For many years, Phillip Morris encouraged Marlboro smokers to save and redeem Marlboro Miles for branded merchandise.)
  • Make your brand prominent, its imagery attractive and easily accessible. Think of it like a flag that your customers can wave with pride, or wearing a team jersey. As part of this effort, you might want to give your customers opportunities to possess things like clothing and other knick-knacks emblazoned with your logo. (Harley Davison does this very well!)
  • Seek feedback and creative input from your customers. People who use your products or services will have the best insights as to how to make them better. Plus, such involvement will help transform a typical client-business relationship into a feeling of ownership on the part of your customers. (While more of a monopoly than a cult, Microsoft demonstrated this when it promoted features of Windows 7 as coming from customer suggestions.)

As you see, it requires extra effort to convert typical customers into walking, talking (and buying!) brand advocates. And your value proposition may not be one that easily lends itself to cult-like devotion (example: super convenient store hours). But if you get the feeling that your business may be one that naturally attracts a distinct market—one that’s open to a personal connection with a trusted brand—you may find a lot of profit in cultivating an intensely loyal customer base.

Five Pitfalls to Avoid when Naming a Product or a Service

naming products branding From time to time, even small-to-midsize business owners may get the opportunity to name a new product or service. It could be a resalable white-label offering from a vendor, or something developed entirely in-house. Regardless of origins, entrepreneurs should invest considerable care in coming up with a worthy moniker, otherwise the new offering may never get a fair reception from potential consumers. There are a number of errors marketers sometimes make when naming the things they want to sell. Here are five whoppers to avoid, as demonstrated by companies that were big enough to know better:

Enamored of a concept. Consider a couple of naming failures from the haircare product manufacturer, Clairol, in the early 80s. First came, ‘Look of Buttermilk’ shampoo. Quite understandably, consumers didn’t know what buttermilk hair should look like, and weren’t willing to find out. Not to be deterred, three years later Clairol gave us ‘Touch of Yogurt’ shampoo with equally disastrous results. Fortunately, the company abandoned the sensory-appeal concept before potentially presenting the buying public with the ‘Smell of Cheese.’

Key takeaway – We’ve all been guilty of coming up with creative ideas that we love like children—expecting others to love them as well. Unfortunately, sometimes the baby is ugly, and when it comes to our creative concepts we may have to listen and accept the bitter truth.

Poorly represents the product – If you had told someone, “I just ordered Qwikster,” would he or she have clue what you meant? Probably not. Nor would it have helped had you said, “Netflix Qwikster,” especially since that name referred to the much, much slower DVD-by-mail movie-rental service rather than the company’s streaming video.

Key takeaway – While people expect a little exaggeration in marketing, they won’t tolerate outright lying, so be sure to avoid misleading or misrepresentative names.

Tiresomely ‘clever’ – Have you ever known someone who has a favorite joke, quip or pun … and they never miss an opportunity to throw it into a conversation? In reality, the half-life on “being clever” is pretty short. Consider, for example, Ralston-Purina’s Freakies cereal (1972 – 76). The commercials were chuckle-worthy (once), but would you want to admit actually eating the cereal … and how many times could you have stood hearing your kid sing the theme song at breakfast?

Ginger's favorite joke

Ginger’s favorite joke

Key takeaway – You want to give your offerings a name that will last a lifetime. So unless silliness is part of your brand identity, don’t sacrifice a descriptive or allusive title in favor of a novelty name that your customers can’t take seriously.

Ego-driven – A brand is about a company, but a product or service should be about promising to satisfy the consumer. Therefore, it’s generally best not to name it after the business owner or family member, as that comes across as a bit egotistical and provides no clue as to the product’s value proposition. For our example, look at (probably) the most famous product failure of all time: The Edsel. Named after Henry Ford’s son, this automobile had a lot of problems—starting with a high price and not particularly well-made—but such shortcomings have never been a problem for Italian sports cars. So instead, ask yourself, who would want to drive an Edsel?

Key takeaway –Names that are meaningful to you may carry no significance at all to your customers, and they may even be a bit put off ordering the ‘Bobby Jr. Special’ when they are with their own little Michael.

Clueless (What were they thinking!?!) – Back around 2001, Bosch Siemens Hausgeraete, a subsidiary of global conglomerate Siemens AG, filed applications with the US Patent & Trademark Office to use the name, Zyklon, across a range of home products, including gas ovens. If that name rings a bell, perhaps you recognize Zyklon B as the poison gas used on Holocaust victims in Nazi concentration camps. Making matters worse, Siemens is widely alleged to have taken advantage of slave labor supplied by the evil German regime during WWII. Siemens said they wanted the name in conjunction with their line of vacuum cleaners which uses cyclonic technology. (Zyklon is German for cyclone.) Honest mistake or not, the company wisely gave up the idea.

Key takeaway – Step outside your inner circle—whether that’s the people you work with or friends and family—and consult thoughtful, knowledgeable people at large about your potential naming ideas. Or at least do a Google search! Note that in terms of product quality, the aforementioned products weren’t especially terrible. And if the product is good enough, it may even survive a bad name. (For example, Nad’s for Men—a hair removal cream—has been around quite a while.) But why bring your new product or service into this world saddled with an inherent disadvantage? Remember, a rose by any other name may indeed smell as sweet. But if it’s called a farkenglart, chances are that no one will go near it to find out.

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