Today, let’s approach a broader topic, but equally important for online businesses, small or large. It’s about the most valuable asset of any business, in my opinion.
An asset that builds over a long time and can be lost so easily. I’m talking about credibility. In practice, monopoly businesses offering essential products or services tend to take this asset lightly and get away with it for a while. For every other enterprise, credibility is precious.
I’m sure some will consider people as the foundation of any business, others might say it’s the leadership. And they wouldn’t be wrong, because you can’t build credibility without great leadership and highly motivated employees. But credibility crises can hit even these companies.
A business can suffer major decline or even face bankruptcy when it’s no longer credible, reliable, safe in the eyes of its investors, clients and customers. Sometimes credibility issues start from small things (and sometimes from deep and serious problems), but once the credibility is questioned, it snowballs and can turn out really damaging for the company.
A few good practices that are sometimes taken lightly:
– Dismissing real problems to concentrate on new developments is bad. When credibility is questioned, focus goes back to all the previously ignored issues, with a multiplied force.
– Transparency and apologies can go a long way with clients and customers, when unexpected problems arise, but not if the issues aren’t addressed and resolved as soon as possible.
– Transition periods should be announced, short and their disruptive effects minimized.
As customers of any business, we need to make sure they operate using practices like the ones above. On the other hand, if a company has given us no reason to question its credibility in the past, it might be best not to react impulsively when they run into trouble. If the gap between statements and reality deepens however, that’s a bad sign and we’d be better off looking for alternatives.
One thing should be clear: a reliable or evergreen product is neither reliable nor evergreen until a credibility crisis is resolved.
Let’s take the example of a company on the eve of implementing revolutionary concepts. Every revolution starts by challenging the status quo, by replacing highly accepted models and practices with something new and unproven. And people fear change, that’s why customers need to be prepared to embrace the change when it comes, or their first thoughts will be to reject it and hang on to the familiar.
A credibility crisis can be avoided or its effects diminished if the company facing it has a long history of listening to the feedback and concerns of its clients and customers, rather than deciding for them and issuing press releases (or sending notification emails). But how many companies really listen?