Jacky Leonard's blog

Reputation by Association

Categories:  Business Coaching, Delivering Authentic Customer Experiences

A reputation once broken may possibly be repaired, but the world will always keep their eyes on the spot where the crack was. 

Bishop Joseph Hall

 About a month or so prior to the last MOT on my Volvo, I noticed a large crack across the bottom of the windscreen.  Driving has become an obstacle course of pothole avoidance, so no doubt I managed to inadvertently hit a few. 

I called my insurance broker and was directed to their recommended supplier, who informed me I would have at least a 2 week wait for a replacement to be fitted.  I asked if there was any way of speeding up the process (MOT pending) and was willing to travel to one of their bases, rather than them come out to me.  No luck, so I called my broker, this time to complain about the lengthy wait.  My last experience of a windscreen replacement was efficient....done on the day it broke, without fuss, so my expectations were that this would be sorted within the week.  They were apologetic but could basically do nothing to speed up the process, so I waited.

The allotted day arrived and as I was working away I briefed my house/dog sitter about the appointment and had arranged a MOT with my local garage the day after the repair.  All sorted…or so I thought, until I received a call from the Windscreen Technician, who told me he was at my house but had the wrong windscreen.  Not wanting to shoot the messenger, I asked him what would happen next.  He said he’d notify the office, but it was likely I’d have to wait another couple of weeks and rang off leaving a frustrated and unhappy customer.

In fairness, the company called me back promptly to reschedule and I was offered a shorter wait time of 8 days if I travelled to Tewksbury, unfortunately not possible this time.  Given my MOT would now be overdue by the time the replacement was rescheduled, all I could do was park the car off road and wait.

To add insult to injury, I had just received an insurance renewal for the vehicle, so rang my broker again and was put through to the manager. I explained I was hoping to sell the vehicle, but a month wait for the windscreen repair was putting that on hold. I also said I was thinking of moving my insurances elsewhere.  After listening, thanking me for being calm and offering an apology for the situation, he explained they were only the broker. He then offered to reduce my renewal fee.  Whilst this was a kind gesture, it was worth very little as I intended to sell the car as soon as it had a MOT.

The brokers response was reasonable, the problem was, rightly or not, I was now linking them with my bad experience, with good reason. They recommended I use this windscreen repair company, so they were connected to this inadequate service by association.  I can’t believe my case is an isolated incident.  I still think a 2 week wait for a new windscreen is unreasonable, especially as I initially offered to drive somewhere to have it fitted before the MOT ran out.

Sadly, when you are connected with an organisation who doesn’t share you service standards, when they get it wrong, you'll invariably get tarred with the same brush and your reputation will get soiled.  Once that happens, you’ll be left clearing up their mess.

So, my question is…why would you continue to work with a company that makes you look bad?  Here are some things to consider regarding your current associations, alliances and business relationships:

·   How healthy are your business alliances?

Look at each relationship and rate their service delivery.  Are they meeting your and your customer’s expectations?  How many complaints have you received in relation to the service they’re providing for you?

·   Do you share similar customer service values and standards?

Inconsistencies are a big cause for complaint.  A misalignment of values can create a painful relationship.  You may find it difficult to agree on the fundamentals and could end up clashing on how to approach service delivery and resolve complaints. 

 ·   Do they value your customer in the same way?

Are they as customer focused or friendly as you?  Do they regularly go the extra mile to exceed the customer’s expectations?  Remember you’re being judged by the service they deliver.

 ·   What provisions do you have in place to deal with suppliers, or associates if their services fall below your standards?

How do you deal with complaints about them?  Do you have a reporting system, minimal service standards and penalty clauses, if they fail to meet expectations?

Business alliances are important.  Customers are seeking reliable, easy options and will often prefer to access services from one supplier they trust.  It’s unlikely you’ll be able to deliver everything they want directly, so outsourcing is an acceptable option. 

Do your homework to get the right fit and your reputation will remain intact or could even be enhanced by association.