(Originally published June 3, 2013 with Credit Union Times)
As a matter of fact, the strength of any credit union's effort to manage its reputation is only as strong as its weakest link. All it takes is one person's fumble and the public perception of your credit union could be severely damaged for days and months on end. And, that fumble is not just limited to getting caught with your hands in the cookie jar. It could be as simple as not responding to a customer inquiry, something tweeted out of emotion or not properly addressing a member who has been wronged by an unfortunate billing error.
Managing the corporate reputation can be a tough assignment because people are more apt to share stories of mistreatment and dissatisfaction. Somehow, telling others to avoid an organization that has wronged them seems to temper the human psyche. It makes one feel better, as if justice has been dealt for the wrong that was committed.
One thing is for certain; always remember that the smallest of grievances can scar your good name just as easily as a headline misdeed. If left unchecked, sooner or later you can count on them to come back and bite you.
Finally, to ultimately be effective, reputation management has to be a continuous and ongoing process. Everyone on the credit union’s team is on stage, not just for the shift but 24/7, so it’s important that everyone be constantly reminded about their role and the influence they exert on the success of the organization. It’s a responsibility we all share—not just to the credit union—but to one another as professionals, as reputation ambassadors, and as people helping people.
Here are my 5 simple rules for safeguarding the reputation of your credit union. Feel free to add your rules to the list as well.
1) Always acknowledge and respond politely and professionally to others.
It's the littlest of things that can make the biggest negative impression. Respond in a timely manner to your e-mails and phone calls. When someone e-mails you a simple question, don't choose to avoid them by simply not responding to their inquiry. Choosing to ignore or not acknowledge a person is a sure way to sow seeds of frustration and disrespect deep within their perception of you.
2) Keep your word.
If you say you're going to do something, do it. There is no better way to undermine your credibility and detract from your authority than by not keeping your word or breaking a promise.
3) Behave as if you’re always on stage.
Whether at the office, behind the wheel or at the grocery store, behave as if you're always on stage. Like it or not, you're a public figure because you are associated with an organization serving the public. They may not know your name but more often they will remember your face from working the teller line at the credit union.
4) Be prudent in what you post in the social media.
Do you really want to post that political comment? What about Facebook and all the photos of you with a cocktail in hand at all those Happy Hours? They may present you as the life of the party but they can also make you out to be a big lush as well, more focused on partying and drinking rather than on your responsibilities. Really, do I want to trust my money with you?
5) Be present to the other person.
Make people feel important by giving them your utmost time and attention. Look at them in the eye when you are shaking their hand and being introduced, not over their shoulder at the next person whose hand you'll shake. When attending a meeting, engage those with whom you are meeting. Don't be texting or paying more attention to your e-mail and Twitter feeds.
Now, be sure to share these Five Simple Rules with others. Remember, it’s a responsibility we all share.