Your Reputation is an Outcome of Your Culture

The ROI of a great brand reputation can be 100 times or more. It impacts market value and is a powerful driver of shareholder returns. Reputation can create new business, validate referrals, help you recruit and retain great employees, and also improve search rankings, customer satisfaction and brand perception.

Your reputation is both internal and external. It starts with your core ideas and ends with how you execute on those ideas for your employees and your customers. Two companies selling the exact same products will inspire vastly different loyalties from their customers and employees based on this execution. 

This week, I counted the number of shoes in my house. We have over 150 pairs of shoes.  I estimate that our household purchases more than 50 pairs a year. When there are five children, a grandchild, and a son-in-law all living under your roof, you have a lot of shoes. The kids are into soccer, tennis, golf, and Tae Kwon Do. More shoes. Where do we buy our shoes? Marshall’s, Nordstrom Rack, Amazon, and Target. It’s a commodity business, right? You buy them anywhere and everywhere. There are literally thousands of retail shoe stores and hundreds more online. But there is only one Zappos. Zappos sells the same Nikes I purchased at Macy’s. They have those same slip-on checkered Vans that my kids love.

How then did Zappos, a seller of shoes, build a $900 million online shoe store? Culture! It is an extremely complicated mission. They made a decision to “Deliver WOW” experiences for customers and employees. And they live it, through the good and the bad. 

When Zappos outsourced shipping, they had outsourced a core piece of the “Deliver WOW” promise, so it didn’t work. They fixed it. Their leadership models WOW. They train WOW. They execute on WOW. As Tony says, “Two Sides of the Same Coin.” They have created a billion-dollar shoe store by WOWing customers, employees, and partners. These customers return to the scene of the WOW. That is why 75 percent of Zappos business is repeat customers, month over month. That kind of loyalty is valuable—Amazon thought this it was worth 10 million shares.

“WOW” is a small word, but it sets a big expectation. It means that they go above and beyond for their customers, co-workers, partners, vendors, and investors. Zappos takes their focus on WOW to the next level by publishing the annual Zappos Culture Book. Every employee gets to describe the company’s culture in their own words, and it is published as written.

 Zappos focuses internally on the WOW. It is how they recruit, train, and retain great staff and ultimately define the company’s brand. They built a billion-dollar mail order shoe store by focusing on their WOW.

Too often, instead of focusing on culture, we are forced to look at culture and brand through a reputation filter. It starts with external headache—like bad reviews on Google or Yelp hurting the business. Of course, companies want happy customers writing reviews to cancel out the few unhappy customers’ reviews. And while you should react to this problem for short term gains, you also may need to address issues that may be at the root of the problem— what are your promises to your employees and customers? How are you executing on those promises?

At SocialSurvey, we are marketers building technology together. We work hard to design a great product and service partnership for our customers, as well as a fantastic work experience for our employees. We are a growing tribe and working hard to protect our culture in every decision we make.

No company is perfect. But a customer and employee strategy starts with culture. This is the core promise you make to your customers and employees. Think about the promise you make to your employees, your internal promise? Do you know it? Do you live it? Do your employees know it? Are they experiencing it?

Here is an example of a possible Internal promise and its potential impact on a company’s culture:

“We will create a fun work experience with continuous opportunities for personal growth and career development.” 

If this was your internal promise, how would you execute on it? What outcomes would it help create?  

First, the bigger your company is, the more likely you would need a full-time resource focusing on it. This promise could include weekly happy hours, afternoon activities like volleyball games, and family-style movie nights. You would need to commit to investing in personal development and promoting from within. You would need a budget for advanced education and trade show attendance for staff. As it evolves within your organization, you would add an LMS and Video content. You could create your own culture book. 

By executing on this promise, you would see a big lift on your internal and external reputation. Recruiting would benefit accordingly, and you would see a measurable improvement in retention rates. This would create a level of employee engagement which would lead directly to happier customers and improved products and services. Your internal promise would have some pretty fantastic external benefits.

As an example of external promise, let’s use SocialSurvey’s. We have two: 

“We are marketers building technology together” and  “Create WOW”

The first, “We are marketers building technology together” has led us to develop a Partner Advisory Board and an annual marketing and culture event, The Create Wow Summit. Nearly half of our customers come together each year and celebrate their successes and help us ideate the future of our platform. Our development process always starts and ends with our customer’s voice.

Our “Create WOW” promise is our internal and external promise. Wowing our customers requires a one-to-one relationship, which occurs through our white glove Customer Success Team. It demands that we continue to add to the platform and deliver more value than promised.

It comes with a continual improvement standard. We constantly check and challenge our features, adoption and execution and have developed a gap analysis to make sure customers are getting every benefit possible.

Often we have a customer that is extremely happy and a big promoter of SocialSurvey, but we are unhappy with our execution. We usually want more for our customers than they themselves are ready to deploy.

These promises have a big impact on our business. They have led to a massive tribe-building exercise. Our team knows our customers by name. The executives often text me personally when they need something. Our external promise has internal benefits. Because of our internal and external promises, we are able to keep great employees, recruit new team members, and retain customers (tribe members).

The CX 2.0 Audit is coming soon! In the meantime, consider the Experience Economy and why customers now require social proof.