How to Lose Your Reputation in One Day

A positive reputation can take years to build. That same reputation can be lost in one day.

For thirty years, I’ve advised business leaders and organizations that no amount of my public relations services can overcome bad customer service. Sadly, that advice became more real to me over the last week.

An Internet services company I have loved and referred dozens of organizations to, has been put on my “never use again” list. It took exactly one day to go from hero to zero with me and my client that they screwed.

Below is the story with names and some details removed. Why do this anonymously? I’m in the business of helping companies, not hurting them. Perhaps this company will turn itself around or make this situation right. I am not holding my breath for either. But I won’t add to the damage. As a business leader, just use this case study to be better.

Here’s the story. Three years ago, my largest client needed an Internet hosting company to host a blog for a major program. This program has grown so exponentially, it’s presence is now on CBS television. Their blog grew alongside them — until last week. The blog site just . . . disappeared. We called the hosting company, which announced it had decommissioned the server it’d been hosted on, and the blog failed to get moved to the new server. Here’s the kicker: they had no backup. You read that right. This company had no back-up of a site it hosted for three years. The site was gone. For forever.

Know what else? This blog, which was hosted elsewhere prior to moving it to this-company-that-shall-not-be-named, had years of history. All told, six years of blog posts, images and more have been lost.

Know how they responded to our angst over this? “We’re sorry. There’s nothing we can do. Here’s your several hundred dollar hosting fee you spent over the years. Goodbye.”

Our repeated requests to talk to managers and to get a better explanation than ‘oh well’ went unanswered. My client, which has an international presence and is associated with major, household brands, is now in the position of recreating the blogsite. Do you think this company will pay for the time and effort to make this happen? Nope. Not one cent has been offered, even when we asked. In fact, they refuse to talk to us. Pure radio silence.

So, there you have it. One mistake, a failure to manage your business well (what hosting company doesn’t have backups?), and a pitiful customer service response put this company not just in the doghouse but in the “worst experience ever” category.

Don’t let this be you. No public relations in the world can turn around blatant disregard and care of clients and their assets.

(Oh, and ensure back ups. You’d think that lesson would have been learned long ago.)

The Most Overlooked Part of a Powerful Message

Nouns. I lead with the punch line.

Far too many companies and organizations lead with the benefits, the adjectives, and the scintillating catch phrases, forgetting to do one simple thing: tell your audience who you are and what you do using simple-to-understand nouns.

How many times have you read: We bring unparalleled results to your most thorny problems instead of We can fix your computer?

Unless your brand is Apple or Dell or Google, no one can actually hear what you are saying (or read what you are writing) if they don’t hear a noun.

Your organization is an airline, a computer technology company, a retail store, a nonprofit association that represents lawn mower manufacturers or something entirely different. But, it is something. Say it. And, say it early.