There are a lot of mistakes companies or individuals can make. Most of them are forgivable. Take the Social Media blunder that the American Red Cross had to deal with this month – not a very pleasant situation, but you still know that the Red Cross is a strong organization.
There are some things, though, that a company just can’t seem to overcome, or if they do, it takes a REALLY long time. There are two mistakes in particular that spell absolute doom for a company or brand’s reputation.
1. Make a promise and then break it
Trust is a sort of mushy word, so marketers and Social Media folk stay away from it a lot of the time. However, if you think about it, trust is one of the keys that influence us in terms of who we buy from, who we work with, and who we listen to. All you have to do to see proof of how much damage this mistake can cause is to look at Toyota. Toyota made a business out of promising that they were the safest, most reliable car on the roads. The only thing that was as important was the Toyota customer. The rash of horrible accidents that occurred because of the brake pad malfunction broke promise number one. Finding out that Toyota kind of knew about that and didn’t say anything broke promise number two.
Will Toyota ever be able to gain that trust back? They’re working hard at it, but certainly for the families and friends affected by those accidents, it will take many years and a whole lot of effort to win back that relationship.
Not all broken promises result in death and injury, thank goodness, but they can leave an awfully bitter taste in peoples’ mouths. Whether you promise a product by a certain time or whether you promise to do something for someone in the online world, a broken word is comparable to a broken back for your company or brand.
2. Set expectations and don’t deliver
Setting expectations is a bit different from making promises, although in the end it could be a matter of semantics. When you make a promise, you literally say, “I promise that this is so.” or “I promise I will do this.” Setting expectations can be a bit more convoluted. You can drop a lot of hints, for example. You can have verbal conversations that don’t get taken down into the written word. A lot of expectations are set based on how people understand their relationship with you. If they trust you (there’s that word again) they are likely to think that the expectation you are setting is as good as a promise.
If you do not deliver on your expectations, the feeling you create in your customer or even your friend can be equivalent to the feeling a broken promise creates. People do not like to feel like they have been jerked around. People do not like to feel stupid. If your actions create those sentiments in people, your company or brand will suffer for it, and it again will take a long time and a lot of effort to claw back up that hill.
There are two sad things about these two deadly mistakes. The first is that they are grossly common. The second is that they are so easily preventable. It would have been easy for Toyota to say, as soon as they identified the brake pad problem, that something was going on that needed to be fixed. It would have been easy for BP to be more forthcoming about information regarding the Gulf oil spill, right?
In the online world, these mistakes are especially easy to fall into. You’re not shaking hands with people. You’re not looking people in the eye, and it’s really, really easy to type things without thinking about what they really mean. For example, if you type that you are going to review someone’s blog and then you never do, that might not even appear as a blip on your radar. For the person you told, however, that could be a point against you. If you make a bigger promise or set a bigger expectation and don’t follow through, the ramifications can get exponentially more serious.
To prevent these scenarios, try to do the following:
1. Think before you type. How is the other person likely to view this promise or set expectation?
2. Ask yourself if you can actually deliver on what you are promising. You are far better off to say, “Gosh, I just can’t give that the time it deserves.”
3. Pull the band-aid off quickly, but with care. If you promise something and then realize you can’t do it, tell the person right away. “I know I promised to do xyz, but something came up and I’m just swamped. I’m really sorry about that.”
Three easy steps that can save you, your brand, your customers, and your community a lot of heart ache.
What do you think?
Are there mistakes that are more deadly than these? How can those mistakes be prevented? I’d love to hear your thoughts!