Brand management is one of the most important parts of marketing. It can take a long time and a lot of work to create a brand image that people like and trust, but in an instant, all that work can be completely undone. There are certain situations businesses have to deal with that, if not handled properly, can severely damage the brand’s image. Here are a few common situations and how you should respond.
Problem #1: Having poor customer support
If you look up any public polls or surveys that list companies with the worst ratings, one of the biggest reasons is due to poor customer support. If someone calls you with a problem they’re having with your brand’s products or service, you will make a bad situation worse by making it difficult for them to get help from you. 
Bad support is a good way of burning a bridge not just with that customer, but with their friends and family, too. After that, there’s more damage to worry about if they vocalize their discontent on social media.
To respond to this situation, you need to overhaul and clean up every line of communication between you and your customers:
- Make it easy for your customers to find your phone numbers and/or email addresses for support.
- Create a functional process flow to handle customers through your support channels.
- Make sure your customer support team adheres to that process.
The longer customers wait to get the help they want, the more annoyed they’ll be. They should be able to contact you quickly and easily. Most importantly, they should receive a useful response that resolves their problem. Auto-response emails and phone messages are simply not good enough in situations where your real customers are involved.
Problem #2: Failing to live up to your brand image
If you build your brand image around certain promises or guarantees for your customers, you had darn well better deliver on those promises and guarantees every single time. If you say you have the cheapest products, you’d better have the cheapest products. If you offer the quickest service, your service had better be very quick. If you have a satisfaction, money-back guarantee, then you need to take your customers’ dissatisfaction seriously and mitigate their concerns or issue a refund. Nothing can ruin a brand’s image like being inconsistent in living up to its own standards and promises.
If your company’s brand is starting to take a hit due to this, you need to take immediate steps. Get all hands on deck and start generating as much positive brand awareness as you can. The best way to do this is by delivering on the promises you make.
In the short term, that means doing what you can to raise your brand’s reputation, and in the long term, it might be shifting your brand’s image to something more realistic. For instance, if your business is not able to offer the cheapest products, change your marketing to start offering the friendliest service instead.
Problem #3: Getting negative attention from an employee
It is an unfortunate reality that how your employees behave, even when they’re off the clock, can reflect back on your brand. If they’re caught on the news, in a newspaper, or online behaving in an unethical manner—or even just in poor taste—your brand can get negative publicity from it. That’s why so many businesses include clauses in the employment contract regarding “off-duty conduct.”
From a brand image perspective, what should you do in this situation? First, be open and transparent to the public so they don’t think you’re covering anything up. Apologize to anyone affected by your employee’s actions, both publicly and in private. Second, look into how you are legally allowed to handle the employee based on that specific situation.
Finally, you need to be seen responding against the negative behavior in question. For example, if the employee went on a racist rant online, you can donate or form a partnership with an anti-racism organization and/or hold special seminars and training to improve tolerance in your company.
Problem #4: Offering a poor website experience
In today’s world, you cannot afford to have a bad website. The design can’t look old and dated; the navigation can’t be poorly structured so customers can’t find what they’re looking for; and the functionality can’t be compromised so they’re unable to perform important actions, such as completing a lead form on your site, completing an online purchase, or simply entering the buying cycle.
Even if your business is running smoothly otherwise, having a bad website that creates a poor user experience can really hurt your brand’s image. It can set a bad first impression if your users’ first interaction with your business is through a dysfunctional website.
The first thing you need to do is fix your website, of course. Upgrade the design or fix your theme and template, rearrange the navigation (site architecture) so it makes sense for your end-user, and fix any bugs or broken pages so that your visitors don’t get any site errors telling them your website pages cannot be found (404).
The next thing is investing in search engine optimization (SEO), then promoting the heck out of it. Create special promotions for the re-launch, start digital paid ad campaigns intended to drive new traffic to the new website, and retarget traffic from your old site back to the new site so they can see the difference.
Problem #5: Receiving a bad customer review
All of the above situations often lead to a customer leaving a bad review for your business online—on Yelp, Google, TripAdvisor, and other websites where customers review businesses. The worst thing you can do is ignore a bad review.
If reviews pile up and you don’t respond properly, your customers will assume you don’t care about them or their business, causing other people who look up your reviews to form a bad impression of your brand.
Make sure your business has an account on every major review website that your business gets reviewed on, and monitor them regularly.
When you see a bad review, take the information in the review and find out what happened before responding to it. Sometimes, the customer could be lying or omitting the truth, and you can point that out to tell your side of the story. Other times, your business legitimately failed the customer, but you can respond in a way that offers an apology and makes the situation right for them.