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How to recover from a bad reputation and rebuild your brand…

Did you know that over half of homeowners of recent new builds in England said they’d experienced major problems with their new homes? These included issues with construction, unfinished fittings and faults with utilities[1]? This was a shocking finding to come out of a recent report by Shelter, a housing charity, entitled ‘New Civic Housebuilding.’

The construction companies aren’t totally at fault. Their best efforts to quickly meet incredibly high government demands have left them now scrambling to fix substandard work. However, that’s not going to cut it for homeowners with wonky windows and warped walls.

Facing the music

What do you do if you’re the business facing so many unhappy customers?

Some companies, such as Persimmon, choose not to directly address the controversy. Following uproar about the standard of its premium new builds, the construction company was worryingly silent in response.

Other, such as Bovis Homes, choose to face up to their mistakes directly. In January this year, it publicly apologised for its poor standard of properties’ which left new homeowners with snags such as unfurnished kitchens.

In response to the poor standards of the new builds, angry customers had set up social media ‘Bovis Victims’ groups such as https://www.facebook.com/groups/BovisVictimsGroup to pressure the company to do the right thing.

Bovis Homes needed to respond quickly, so it released a statement which acknowledged the substandard homes and apologised to affected customers.

“We recognise that our customer service has to improve and we are absolutely committed to getting this right and are taking actions to put in place robust procedures and practices to rectify issues such as these and prevent them from occurring again.”

Crafting the perfect apology  

By using language such as ‘recognise’, ‘absolutely committed’, ‘taking actions’, ‘rectify issues’ and ‘prevent’, Bovis Homes can begin to regain its lost trust and mend its reputation with customers. Admitting to mistakes and providing customers with an explanation on how situations will be resolved is the first step towards successfully neutralising bad news and repositioning the brand.

The perfect customer apology letter or statement should ultimately aim to retain customers and present the opportunity to build customer loyalty.

When writing an apology, it’s important to consider the reasons for, author and timing of the apology. If you don’t get this right then it can just add further insult to injury.

Perfectapology.com claims any written business apology or indeed verbal apology should follow this structure:

  • Acknowledge the damage/hurt done
  • Recognise your company’s involvement
  • Issue a statement of regret
  • Ask for forgiveness
  • Promise the reader/listener that it will not happen again.

This structure makes it clear that you’re not going to make any excuses and use language which implies you think the issue ‘wasn’t your fault’.

Whether the apology is delivered through a press release, personalised letter, social media post, email, or even verbally, the basic principles are the same and sincerity is critical. Although an apology is often required for ethical reasons, there are also rational strategic reasons to apologise to protect your brand and reputation. Therefore, it’s vital it’s done well to successfully ‘reposition’ a brand.

Make a comeback with content

To come back from severe setbacks which have led to disappointed and appalled customers, it’s vital companies (and not just construction companies) find ways to rebuild trust with customers and the community more broadly. One way to do this is a carefully considered content strategy which uses engaging and informative content to show transparency and authenticity, helping to return the company to a position of loyalty and trust.

Once a company has built up its trust again amongst customers, it can begin to actively invite online reviews and include customer testimonials on its website or any brochures. This shows a willingness to be accountable and a commitment to improving standards. It could also release regular blog posts about recent successful projects and keep interacting positively with customers on social media sites. These are all ways in which a company, such as Bovis Homes, could rebuild customer confidence and help its brand recover from damage caused by previous mistakes.

More from Claire, and Stratton Craig …

[1] https://www.theguardian.com/business/2017/mar/02/over-half-of-new-build-homes-in-england-have-major-faults

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