Gill Corkindale recently wrote a compelling article titled “Does Your Company’s Reputation Really Matter?” What if your service or product was a monopoly? Would that fact change the answer?
The article picks on how Eurostar has handled their recent service interruptions. Eurostar provides a service that meets consumer needs since it is as fast as flying and is just as reasonably priced. That the service has delays is 1) understandable and 2) acceptable. If those delays were unacceptable no one would take the train, Eurostar would go bankrupt and another company would swoop in to leverage the rail system’s assets.
Returning to the main question… if in the end, nothing is going to change does reputation management matter? If your company has a sustainable monopoly, then why bother with reputation management? Taking the question a step further, if the monopoly is sustainable and protected, why spend time or money on customer service? After all what choice do your customers have?
The answer is that customer service is a necessity, and not an option. That fact is as true in Eurostar’s example as any other. By successfully managing its reputation (the public relations side of customer service) Eurostar has an opportunity to win business from their airline competitors, expand market share, and create a sustainable advantage. Eurostar doesn’t have to be the “best” they must only be “better”. Failing to address service impacts profitability in the short term, opens doors to your existing competitors through word-of-mouth, and is a gold-plated invitation to new competitors.
The pivot point and reality is that, since no company has a sustainable monopoly, customer service (or reputation management as Ms. Corkindale refers to it) is a critical aspect of all businesses. Unless Eurostar figures this out quickly, and acts accordingly, they may soon be kissing their customers goodbye.