Lately I've been thinking about the power of feedback. About how perception is reality, and how just a tiny bit of bad publicity can wreck a reputation.
First - feedback. Not the direct ''I think this of your product/service'' kind of feedback, but more the ''I heard this about that business'' kind of feedback. In my experience few businesses actively ask their clients for feedback (unless they are looking for warm fuzzy quotes to go on their website). And when they do receive it, usually unsolicited, and more often than not at the negative end of the spectrum, they can easily come up with a counter argument for everything said - of course the customer was unhappy, the brief wasn't clear. Of course we went over budget, the scope changed. Of course we were unable to complete on time, there was extra unallowed for work involved. Of course she left the shop unhappy, she was miserable when she came in and was probably already having a bad day. Problem is, whatever the reason for a customers misery - as the provider of a product or service, you will always be considered the one accountable for the experience.
Perception is reality - sure is. The customer that THINKS you are a slow responder will be very difficult to convince otherwise. The customer that FEELS you understand their business will remain loyal even if in fact you don't particularly value them as a client when the lights are off. The person that sees you in a messy office, or cruddy old car, will always have a certain view of you, no matter how efficient or innovative you actually are.
And as for bad publicity...well actually whether a rumour is true or not, once something bad is said about you, your business is going to have a huge job convincing anyone to the contrary. One barely bad experience from one small customer is just as damaging as making a huge stuff up on your most important client. Everyone makes mistakes, and its important to own up to them, but it is imperative to do the very best to maintain the absolute best reputation you can for your business. Acknowledge mistakes, fix them immediately (even if they are not actually your fault), apologise gracefully, and do better, much better, next time.
The customer is always right, right?