Date posted: 17/08/2017 6 min read

Five mistakes that can ruin a firm's brand

Firms spend a lot of money building their brand but brand can be undermined or undone from within. Here are five common mistakes to avoid.

In Brief

  • Word always gets out if firms treat creditors, candidates or employees badly.
  • Have people of cheery disposition on the frontline dealing with customers and clients.
  • Be available, approachable and customer centric.

1. Not paying bills on time

A disconnect between marketing and accounts payable is not uncommon, especially in big companies when it comes to paying contractors.

It may be the finance team think they are doing a wonderful job in optimising cash flow by delaying payments, but nothing infuriates suppliers more, and turns them off the company faster. 

When suppliers are treated badly they tell a lot of other people, many of whom will be potential customers of the firm. This problem can be accentuated where the firm clearly has plenty of money and/or contract payment terms have been agreed but not met. 

Even worse is when, on inquiry, creditors are brushed off with comments like it’s scheduled for payment without giving a date); we are waiting for sign off; we need you to invoice a separate entity; you have missed the cut-off;” or even complete silence.

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Make sure you review creditors aging regularly and pre warn accounts in time when any special or large payments are due so that they can plan for them. Set and monitor accounts payable aging metrics. 

2. Cranky and overworked receptionists or frontline staff

Sometimes, and for very good reasons, the receptionist is referred to as the “director of first impressions”. 

A common mistake is to have a cranky person with no people skills, and no knowledge of the organisation, staff the reception desk, and make guests feel uncomfortable from the outset. 

Receptionists can be overworked with additional duties – with piles of papers or unattended deliveries stacked up around them – and clearly consider the appearance of a visitor, who could be a potential large new customer, nothing but a major imposition on their time.

The frontline is a place for “Marry Poppins” type people of cheery disposition. Put your very best people person on the front desk and telephone. Make sure they are not overworked, know the organisation structure, and present well. Give them access to the best tea, coffee and nibbles for guests. 

Temps are not always good on reception or on the switchboard, as they do not know the organisation.

3. Being unavailable or unreachable

Some organisations omit profiles of key management, emails, telephone numbers, and even physical addresses from their public face. Certain executives even give instructions that they do not want to take calls from customers.

Being cut off from the real world of customer feedback will not help a firm improve the way it does business.

Like unpaid creditors, unhappy recruits tell a lot of people bad things about the company.

Make sure you are available and accessible. Spend regular time on the frontline, be that serving customers, listening into call centre conversations, or staffing booths at trade shows or conventions.

Most important of all, make sure you return calls.

4. Treating employment candidates badly

Similar to finance, there can be a real disconnect between stated mission or values around how people will be treated, and the recruitment team. The oldest HR joke in the world is about the difference between jobs as advertised and the reality. 

Employment listing site SEEK says that it is common for companies to massively over specify job requirements, with the effect of scaring off many (quality) female candidates.

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Candidates often complain of not even receiving acknowledgment of their applications, or advice when the position has been filled and they have been unsuccessful. Or they may be forced to spend a long period of time providing detailed information and references before even getting to the first interview. Even worse they may be asked for age and other personal details under the cloak of “ensuring we get a balance of candidates”. 

Like unpaid creditors, unhappy recruits tell a lot of people bad things about the company.

With modern recruitment technology packages including email systems, candidate tracking, and resume reading capabilities, there is no excuse for the above faults. In fact quite the opposite, the recruitment process should be a shining testament for the organisation. 

5. Treating staff badly

Team members sometimes complain that organisations, and the management that control them, do not live the company’s values. Or they do so only when it suits them. Even worse they berate others for not doing so.

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No matter how secure employment contract confidentiality clauses are, the word  gets out, be it good or bad, about how an organisation treats its employees Here’s some advice from businessman Richard Branson:

“Train people well enough so they can leave, treat them well enough so they don't want to,” and “If you look after your staff, they'll look after your customers. It's that simple.”