Not unexpectedly, Apple Pay continues to fail to live up to its hype. In the Walgreen’s today, I was waving my phone over the terminal expecting something to happen. The clerk was waiting for me to pay. After a few more futile swipes and taps, she said, “Oh, that doesn’t work. You need to swipe.”
I mumbled, “it never seems to work for me.”
She replied, “I just work here.”
And that is the problem. No one seems to know how to make my iPhone connect to the cash register. I’m sure someone in Cupertino does, but the folks behind the counter at the Walgreen’s have no idea. They are not in the business of troubleshooting the payment terminal. They just want to collect what is due to them. And they certainly don’t care how this reflects on Apple Inc.
Businesses and companies make promises and anytime they fail to keep a promise they take a reputation hit. People only trust you when you keep your promises. Many new Apple Watch users are bound to find they can’t make payments because of broken or wonky terminals. They are not going to be favorable to the experience despite their past loyalty. Eventually, this will affect Apple Inc.’s reputation.
So, how do you maintain your reputation when you don’t control the customer experience?
The short answer: You can’t.
Why? Because reputation is something attributed by others to your brand or work.
Just as people believe in a politician and give them power to lead, people award a sterling reputation to a brand they believe in. Or they turn on you and slice you up when you fail to deliver.
Reputation is earned and requires constant feeding. You can maintain a reputation and you can grow one. But in the end, you are at the mercy of those who look through their powerful lenses and attribute a reputation on you.
If you don’t control your reputation is there anything to do other than sit and stew?
- Tell the Truth — A sterling reputation begins with telling the truth and admitting when things are imperfect. Inaction in the face of a problem immediately tarnishes a reputation. Admitting there is a problem shows sensitivity. When a customer suffers through a poor experience, the loss of satisfaction and brand loyalty is a substantial hit. Ignoring the problem, or announcing everything is perfect, further erodes your reputation.
- Listen — Opinion research tells you what is going on. Despite the corporate rosiness about Apple Pay, the company is aware of problems. Listen beyond your sphere of immediate influence. Go beyond the obvious fandoms. Get into the trenches and see if you have a reputation problem. A small chink in the armour might turn into a stress fracture. You want to learn how your customers are feeling.
- Remain Calm — Because your reputation is a reflection of your character and culture, you must earn it. Do good things, respond to problems, and honestly look for ways to improve. Pounce on errors and correct them. Ensure your entire company reflects and acts according to your best practices. When your business is under attack, take a deep breathe and avoid panic. Be reasonable and never angry. If you have a good story to tell, and you are doing all you can to show your character, in the end, it will turn out for the best.
Protecting a reputation when you have little control over the experience is fairly typical. Because you earn a reputation, you can only control how you behave. Those in the know recognize I have relied heavily on Arthur W. Page for this advice. He said, “All business in a democratic country begins with public permission and exists by public approval.”
Protecting a positive reputation is only achieved if you earn it.